It’s my birthday today, and it’s a working day for me in a world of a new normal. I wake up, and then I go for a run, down the empty roads in my neighbourhood lined with tall trees covered in green mosses. Sometimes I’ll see a dog or two being walked, their tails wagging and their noses sniffing the after-rain scent on the paved roads. This always makes me smile. By the time I get home again it’s usually around 8am, and I’ll make breakfast, usually some toast. Work commences, which comprises of hours and hours staring at a laptop screen and talking to someone I can’t see in a teleconference. There is an ongoing danger of just racking up the weight since all most of us would do is sit at home these days, and I can’t help but wonder if one of them has now turned into a cabbage.
My usual lunch at the office which doubles as a socialising session with friends have now turned into a solo activity of eating something simple I’ve cooked on the couch in front of the TV. For a mental break, I’ll watch a funny short sitcom, and laugh by myself. Then it’s back to work, until it’s time for my virtual yoga class which involves my laptop and me on my mat following live instructions from my yoga teacher. After that I’ll cook dinner again, read and get ready for bed. I like the fact that I eat healthier at home, and that there seem to be more time for me to execute a 10-step skin care regimen at night that doesn’t seem to improve my skin anyway.
But it’s the little things that I used to have that I miss. Like talking about current news with my colleagues at coffee breaks, impromptu dinner plans with friends right after work, the exhilaration of planning yet another hike somewhere, or smiling faces at yoga classes. Not to mention the adrenaline punch of travel, which was a huge part of my life, but for now it has to be put on a shelf. For me, these were the things that gave me the sense of connection. I rely on these connections to not make me feel unfulfilled. When you’re confined in your home alone and interactions are no longer easily accessible, sometimes you feel like you’re in a crowded world that is empty.
No matter how much of an introvert you are (which I am, and I certainly enjoy being on my own for the most part), what is happening today has certainly highlighted the importance of being part of a community. We’re not designed to be completely alone all the time. Confinement has forced me to look at myself and my life in a harsher light - what am I about, now that I have to strip away my packed schedules of travel, hobbies, and constant access to emotional dependencies of family and friends? On my own, somehow, suddenly, sounds like a threat rather than a liberation.
But I have turned yet another year older today, and if nothing else, the world in COVID has certainly taught me that I am one lucky human being. I can’t even oversell my quarantine misery even if I wanted to, compared to people losing their jobs, people having to work at home while juggling babies screaming and pooping, people literally thrown out of the streets for not being able to pay rent, or people not even being able to afford to put food on the table. The worst that has happened to me, in all honestly, was talking to the wall after not meeting a single human being for 2 weeks straight, and the constant paranoia that someone I love might catch the virus, especially those who are high-risk. Some days when it’s bad I get this anxiety of feeling confined and alone and “does that stray cat want to be my friend?” moments, but other than that, I have been spared indeed.
This alone gives me enough gratitude to be a year older with healthy lungs, a job, and people in my life that are constantly checking on me to make sure I wasn’t crying by the window. I can never be where I am today without people constantly lifting me up and pushing me forward. I never forget that, and in return I hope to become that person for other people, too. With each growing year, it has become apparent that my life is not just about me - it’s about my service to others, and I think about that as I’m being a friend, a sister, a daughter, a writer. Without that service, our lives will begin to feel very empty very quickly, no matter who we are in this world.
Thank you for your birthday wishes, and I hope you’re doing okay.