If inspired, check out: An Open Letter to Maskless “Rebels.” ~ Waylon
The past four months of my life have been a whirlwind of days and nights, some extremely productive and some without showers or getting off the couch.
Days, hours, and minutes started to blend seamlessly into one big string of “WTF is going on?” resulting in what feels like the quickest that time has ever passed. A four-month chunk of life that came and went in the blink of an eye, yet holds quite possibly the most valuable moments I will ever collect in my time here.
The first month was nothing but fear. As someone who was just beginning recovery from a real, life-altering bout of hypochondriasis, I wasn’t okay. My family came down with the virus, I watched close friends of mine lose loved ones, and I watched the world fall into a state of uncertainty and divided views as people I love and care about were showing up to work in overcrowded hospitals surrounded by infected patients.
I was crippled with anxiety and panic and what-ifs. No matter what positive experiences I was able to curate from this once I surrendered to what was out of my control, the fact remained that this was, and in some cases still is, reality. I don’t take this lightly or feel gratitude for what led us to this life-changing season, and would trade any of my positive or eye-opening experiences to bring back the lives that were lost to COVID-19.
With that being said, I feel strongly about sharing the confirmations to theories of life I’ve had long before stay-at-home orders were a thing.
It sounds so basic: “WhY Do We HaVe To WoRk, MoNeY sUcKs, I jUsT wAnNa LiVe My LiFe!” (Yes, I used the SpongeBob Squarepants meme sticky caps. This isn’t the New York Times, okay?) But for real, we’ve all said this, and I’m going to try my best to get this across without echoing a moot point that is mostly attributed to wanting to avoid responsibility and squeeze all the party juice out of life while we’re young.
I have tears streaming down my face as I begin this paragraph, as I begin discussing what has happened to my marriage while being quarantined with my husband for three out of the past four months.
I’m crying because today is his first day back to work and guess what? I’m going to f*cking miss him.
After a decade of knowing each other and eight months of marriage, I have gotten to know and fall in love with him so deeply in these 90 days that I struggle to comprehend the standard human schedule even more now than before. Waking up next to my best friend when our bodies were good and ready—no repetitive electronic chiming startling our bodies into stress before our day even began. Taking time to cook a hearty breakfast instead of skipping it to catch a train. Relaxing over a cup of coffee together before taking the dogs for a long walk around the neighborhood in the sunshine.
Talking. Talking. Talking.
Some days we worked out, some days we played video games, and some days we planted vegetables. I would find myself staring at him out of the bedroom window that overlooks our yard as he grilled and perfected his six-hour smoked ribs on the BBQ (something that brings him copious amounts of joy and something that he never has time to do) and getting butterflies in my stomach because I was overwhelmed with so much love and gratitude for him.
The best part and what I learned last night as he got into bed at 9 p.m. and set his 4 a.m. alarm was what I’ve taken for granted the most—the nights. Picking out a movie, starting a game of Rummy 500 (which usually ended with me getting my ass kicked and having a fit), just laughing and thoroughly enjoying each other’s company without the dreaded stomach pit guilt that comes with being an adult and not having anyone tell you to go to bed, but knowing you will pay the price when your alarm goes off in the morning. As I get older, I remind myself to hold onto moments and memories that I’m grateful for while I’m in them and I recall so many of these being ones where we’d be peacefully relaxed and snuggled on the couch with both of our dogs sleeping on us.
I knew these moments were fleeting and I made sure to snapshot them for my heart.
“Okay, but that’s what weekends are for,” you may say. I thought that too, in an attempt to make myself stop feeling such an empty, depressed pit in my stomach, but we all know the truth. Weekends become just as booked and scheduled as work weeks, only with leisure activities: barbecues, showers, parties, weddings, and birthdays. The beautiful celebrations in life that should bring us so much joy, but become overwhelming when we’re recovering from a 40-hour workweek, with an extra 10 tacked on for commuting. And even on an empty weekend, there’s only one work-free day with no next-morning alarm.
Does anyone else feel in the depths of their soul that this is not the way it’s supposed to be? To find a partner, start a family, and then go through an entire lifetime of catching up with them for a few hours in the evening before they go to bed, just to get up and spend the majority of their waking day with coworkers, teachers, or babysitters? And let’s talk about the irony of a babysitter in general. Think about it: you have to go to work so that you can afford to pay someone whose job it is to watch your kids all day, but you, yourself, cannot get paid for watching your kids all day.
What are we doing, humans? This is wrong—so wrong.
The amount of tension I felt lifted from my marriage once the residual stress of work, time constraints, exhaustion, and schedule pressures were removed and I was able to freely enjoy my husband in his most relaxed, carefree, and unrestricted state was magical. And I think the reason my eyes are leaky and my heart feels like it’s being shattered into a million pieces comes down to one strong realization: I most likely won’t get to experience this again until we are both in our 60s—only then we won’t have the energy we have now, the carefree youth.
This comes with a bizarre feeling of gratitude mixed with guilt that I just so happened to pop into the world in time to even experience this three months of being forced to stop and slow down as a newly married 30-year-old, along with the grim reality that life is uncertain and I’m not even promised the 30 years it’ll take to arrive at my retirement to experience it again.
I look at my friends who have been able to spend so much time getting to know their kids. Their children’s lives will be forever imprinted with the lessons, mannerisms, and moments that come with spending 24-hours a day, for months on end, with their parents. Memories, milestones, shaping personalities, and experiences that would never have been possible otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I know parents enjoy the alone time that comes with a non-COVID schedule, but my point is that there are precious gems of life that we are unlocking, and it took a worldwide pandemic to be allowed to find them.
I guess I don’t really know what the solution is. Some people enjoy their jobs, some people need time away from their spouses, some people find fulfillment in routine, and that is all okay. I don’t think we should turn Earth into a giant commune where we all lay around all day with no cares or responsibilities, but I do think that as a planet we should reevaluate our purpose and priorities.
We search for our soulmate just to spend a few tired hours a night with them. We have children just to work to pay other people to fill time with them. We are constantly being priced out of our neighborhoods and homes, forced to spend even less time with people who fill our souls, in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We aren’t always given a choice to how we want to live our lives, but thrown helplessly into a hamster wheel of societal norms and expectations. Computers are taking over jobs, though not to alleviate workers and allow for a more fruitful life; in fact, this change is causing the added stress of fighting to keep positions and worrying when the paychecks will stop.
And to be clear—because I can already hear the political radicals chiming in and assuming this entire body of text is a demand for “socialism” or just another millennial who would rather travel the world for Instagram content than lift a finger in the workplace—to those of you who are finding those thoughts circulating in your mind while reading my words, I offer my sincerest apologies that you have been conditioned so deeply that you believe your time on this Earth, the breath in your lungs, moments spent with family and loved ones, and opportunities for self-care and sanity are a luxury and privilege you earn rather than a basic human need and right.
I came to the following conclusion on my own as a teenager while at a cemetery for a funeral, and it changed my perspective forever. I have since learned that I wasn’t the first to have this thought and that similar text exists, but this is my personal account of the truth that entered my soul that day:
As I passed through the miles and miles of engraved stones, I found myself focusing only on the date of birth and the date of death. Eventually, after silently doing the math while walking by and trying to figure out the ages of hundreds of souls no longer with us, I realized I was paying absolutely no attention to the dash in the middle. Suddenly, I was flooded with emotion as I imagined all the times these people stressed about a job interview. A promotion. Bills. College. Grades. Disappointing their parents with their career choice, finding a babysitter, saving for a house, putting food on the table.
What was the ratio of these moments versus the amount of time these people spent with loved ones, exploring the earth, seeing and learning different cultures, feeling peace, euphoria, joy? And for what? A dash—a tiny, engraved dash that strangers glance at in passing without even noticing.
Normalize living. Prioritize purpose. Redefine success.