I’ve always been one for sentimental dates. ‘This time last month, I did this’ or ‘on this date 10 years ago, this happened!’ – that kind of thing. Over the years, and especially around this time of year, I’ve viewed this behavioural ritual as a nostalgic catharsis that reminds us of the moments between point A and point B.
With the social media inclusion of Facebook reels and Instagram Archives, the internet has made it much easier for us to pull out these memories and invite others to look upon them with us. But, in 2020, a lot of us did very little as we watched the entire world change on its own accord. Personally, I had no interest in partaking in the reflections of the past years, in fear of how it would shape up to what I was doing now. For the past nine months, I’ve been caught between two places and two versions of myself – me before in London vs me now in Brisbane. For the number of times that I’ve relayed this tale, you would think that the skin over this singled little wound I carry inside myself would have gotten thicker and stronger. And yet, nine months later, the dull ache still persists.
In March 2020, I cut my visa short and returned to Australia after having lived in London for nearly two years. Whilst on a road trip in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, Australia had announced that their international borders would be closing and more than 50% of their flights would be grounded. Putting their call-out to Australian expats, everyone was advised to return home immediately. After numerous calls with my parents back in Brisbane, I packed up my entire life’s contents in five hours and made the flight journey from Belfast to Gatwick to Heathrow to Perth to Brisbane, all within less than 48 hours. When I finally arrived back in Brisbane, I had to self-isolate for 14 days, and once those 14 days were up, the city went into lockdown. I lost money from a four-week planned trip around Europe, I became unemployed and lost the opportunity of sponsorship, I said goodbye to my friends via calls from airport terminals and bid a fucking gut-wrenching farewell to my boyfriend. And I was one of the lucky cases.
There are still thousands of Australians stranded overseas, fleeing parts of the world and having to turn out their pockets for quarantine. People are mourning the loss of their loved ones, some are either furloughed or redundant, others are struggling to keep their businesses afloat, people’s mental health have taken drastic plunges, momentous occasions were cancelled, and many friends and family, across the entire global landscape, are separated from the one’s they love the most. Over the past nine months, I’ve had many conversations about the events of the world, either virtually over WhatsApp calls or socially distanced from the backyards of our homes. In one of these conversations, a friend of mine shared her thoughts with me on the matter, putting it quite aptly that maybe what we’re all universally feeling, is a sense of grief. The word grief comes from the Latin word gravare, which means to make heavy or weighty. Together, I believe we are collectively mourning the loss of our own misfortune and navigating how to deal with our own “heaviness” – whatever that may be. From health to social crises, protests to politics, and on and on it goes.
Like most things in life, there is always another side of the story. A silver lining, of sorts. As our lives slowed down, many of us turned the light on and came home to ourselves. We spent more time connecting and checking in, we found joy in abandoned hobbies and plugged into new stories and narratives. We made babies and eloped, and we promised ourselves to forgo making excuses for the things we really want to do. We learned what it meant to take things for granted, and understood the pressing need for freedom and safety. For every miserable story I read, watched or listened to this year, I found it could be equally matched with a story of great love and happiness too.
I once read somewhere that the hardest lesson we learn in life is this sad truth: not everything can be fixed. Some events of our world cannot be changed – not by the passage of time and not by our deepest wishes either, yet somehow, still, we carry on. I really don’t think this is a bleak thing. If anything, it proves the true resilience that the human heart possesses. Despite all we might have experienced, we still move forward in the hopes of a better tomorrow.
We will look back on this epoch of our lives, unimaginably changed, there is no doubt. But, I hope that we also can find peace within that reflection and solace within our thoughts. Please, to everyone who feels weighted with deep grief from the events of 2020 and with the unknowing of what 2021 will hold, lift your chin and look straight, and do what you do best – propel forth and continue.