Every time someone I’m talking to brings up the coronavirus or the administration’s response to it, my throat tightens. I’m not sure why this happens— I think it’s because I have so many frustrating feelings about the whole thing, and yet it feels absolutely pointless to me to lay them all out, because rehashing the same concepts of our-system-is-broken-and-people-aren’t-getting-it does not change the reality that we are living in uncertain, perilous, anxious times. It seems like every person who thinks of themselves as a writer has been churning out quarantine content, and analogies for this communal feeling we all share abound. In my (unlikely to be original) words, it feels like we’re hanging from a pendulum, about to swing from one side to another, but we’re stuck mid-swing, holding our breath, not knowing if we’ll be let go and where we will end up. We could go to the other side, become something none of us recognize, or we could instead swing right back to where we were before, as if these months were but a blip to be forgotten. Where do we go from here? Who were we before this, and do we even want to return to being those people after?
In my case, that is, in the case of those young adults who had only just begun their working lives pre-Corona, this interruption has incited a gradual regression. A few months ago, I came back to California to quarantine with my family in my childhood home. I haven’t spent this much uninterrupted time at home since my high school summers, and I haven’t lived full-time at home in nearly 10 years. What I’m saying is, it’s been a long time. Being at home has meant it’s a break, or a holiday, or both, so I came back this time subconsciously expecting a relaxing, lovely time with the people I love most.
Of course, these are not normal times. I came back right as my siblings jumped into the chaos of final exams, and because I’m only used to being here when they’re completely free and idle and therefore amenable to my every whim, I was sorely caught off guard. It’s made me see them in a completely different light— the fact that they are now almost-adults, with real responsibilities, making significant decisions, and no longer a troupe of three round little tots that I can lead on made-up adventures. I have been mourning on a micro-level since.
I grew up on books where bands of children happen upon secret or mysterious things and become embroiled in intrigue. When my siblings were born, this became a prime opportunity for me to be a part of such capers myself. Everyday household items held secret opportunity. We lived life as if on a quest. I was constantly looking for games to invent, missions to lead them through. There was no better use of my time or energy than creating a world for my siblings where our antics were as real as the home we lived in. As they grew up, our games became less fantastical, but they still persisted. But now that I’m a working adult and even the twins are starting college soon, we’ve transitioned out of such things. And all this time at home has made me miss them.
It’s been so long since I’ve gotten to spend this much time in my parents’ house, being their child, being the oldest of four children, that as I’ve gotten comfortable here, settling back in this role, I’ve begun to uncover things about myself long forgotten. Although there may be some things that I miss about my life before lockdown (LBL), this time has really reconnected me with the child I was. There’s a lot about who I was that I miss, that I lost while growing up. I miss how content I could be at home, in our small yard, on the floor of my room. How every little task or idea used to feel like a project. How I could spend hours doing a single thing with very little additional stimuli and still feel occupied. How being with my family in our home was all I needed.
I keep reminding myself that this lockdown is not forever, but I keep reading things that warn us of how things cannot go back to how they were before. As the time drags on, I think about how things were, and there are things I don’t need back— my over-stimulated, hyperactive method of consuming media, the nagging feeling of not being able to be really present in conversations, at meetings, during events. I spent a lot of time pre-lockdown feeling distracted and unfocused. Being at home has allowed me to reaccess a headspace I haven’t occupied in a while. I’ve reconsidered my priorities, not only as an adult, but also as a person. So though I probably can’t convince my siblings to play out elaborate imaginary games anymore, I’d like some of that simple, pure commitment back. I’ve started to remember how all I really care about is making my loved ones happy. I’m relearning how to sit down with a single thing to do and derive satisfaction from its stillness. And when we’re released from this collective held breath, I’d like to try my best to stay this way.