I was lying on my bed when I received a phone call from my friend.
“Hello, hello!” I said gently.
“What’s happening?” There was a dullness in her voice. Instantly, I could tell there was a pretence.
“Nothing, bored. What else?”
“Exactly, bro!” She replied. “I can’t wait to go out. This being at home is making me feel anxious.”
“I know, dude!” I replied, smiling, and looking at a meme while scrolling through my Instagram feed.
Ever since the nation-wide lockdown was implemented, I have had mixed feelings about it. The first time I heard about it in the news, I was kind of satisfied. As the number of COVID-19 cases was rising in the country, I could think of no better way of tackling the situation other than imposing the lockdown. When looking at how people were functioning before the implementation, I knew if it wasn’t imposed, people would have roamed recklessly on streets, putting their and others’ lives at risk.
Every person I talked to was feeling sad about this self-isolation. To put it in their words, they were feeling “depressed” because they couldn’t step out of the house or eat their favourite food. And I am not saying that I was not missing going out or I did not miss eating burgers; I was even supposed to go to Dubai in March to visit my best friend. For two years I was putting off the trip, but this year it was finally happening. My tickets were booked, all my clothes were nicely ironed, and I had all of my shoes and makeup listed out, but I had to cancel at the last moment because of the pandemic. Naturally, I was disappointed: I cursed, yelled, threw some tantrums, and even blamed my parents until I accepted that this whole situation is not in anyone’s control.
But then I also had times when I would feel anxious, and sometimes to the extent that it took a toll on my physical health. When I discussed it with one of my former colleagues, he said that he didn’t know staying at home would be so “difficult” for me. I knew staying at home had nothing to do with my prolonged stress. In fact, I don’t even remember a day in the past three months where I longed to go out (except for the times when I had a craving for burgers). So, why was I feeling so restless?
One night, I decided to confront all of my subconscious thoughts and write them down in my journal. I began to understand that I was petrified to hear about all the rising cases around the world. I was anxious to hear about the people—young people—struggling for their lives. I was distressed to read about small-small children losing their parents and all of those frontline workers risking their lives to keep us all safe. I was watching the crumbling economy and was hearing about all the families being affected by it.
I couldn’t stop thinking about my brother living miles away from his family. Every time I would put myself in his shoes, in a place far away from my family, where there were no people to surround myself with, I could feel my body physically trembling.
After identifying the real reason behind my anxiety, I started to feel a bit calmer and more at ease knowing that I am fortunate enough to be living with my parents during such perilous times. Every time I felt a little tension around my chest, I would instantly get up from my bed to go and lie in between my mom and dad. And when they would put their hand on my head and hold me, that is when I knew that this was all going to be fine.
We all will be fine.
Honestly, I was also finding it a little difficult to really understand when I heard people complaining about feeling stuck at home. I mean, I understand how suffocating it can get to be caged, surrounded by a few walls, but going out “just for the sake of going out” or “just because I am bored” was something I could not make my peace with.
I have a friend who called me one night to tell me that he and a couple of his friends were deciding to meet in this period of self-isolation. And when I asked why, he replied saying, “It has been almost a month, dude. I miss my friends, and you know, not a day had passed in the past where we didn’t meet each other.” I heard him talk, with disappointment building inside of me. But instead of telling him what my mind and heart were thinking, “Dude! Why be at home? Aren’t you living with your parents? Don’t risk their lives. Your friends will still be there.” I just said, “Well, if it is important. Just be safe though.”
Every time I wanted to tell my friends that I was enjoying this lockdown, I would voluntarily stop myself, thinking people would just make fun of me. In reality, I loved being stuck at home with my parents; I enjoyed spending time cooking with my dad, and trying to invent some new dish. I absolutely enjoyed my midafternoon naps and binge-watching TV shows. I loved sitting with my mom and gossiping relentlessly for hours. I loved playing card games with my dad and calling him out as a cheater every time I lost a match. I became regular with my home workouts, and I was loving them more because my dad was my workout buddy.
I loved it all to the point where I’m now feeling a little reluctant to get back to life. And once things start to ease down a little, I know in my heart that I will miss this—all of this. Most importantly, I will miss doing nothing.
When I analysed my feelings again to try and understand why I am feeling so comfortable and peaceful with this lockdown, I realised that there were two things:
>> I was no longer feeling bad for my productivity.
>> I no longer had to be answerable to anyone about my unproductivity.
Now, to clarify, I am not using this pandemic as a shield to hide away from my vulnerabilities. A few months back, I was brutally pestering myself to come up with a definitive plan for my future. After I completed my training, I had decided to come back to my parents to think of a new course of action for my future. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not come to a decision. I would see all my friends achieving great things. Some of them were pursuing their masters while some others were getting promoted, and I was just double-tapping on their pictures, which would just make me want to dwell in self-loathing and disgust.
I was in a rush to step out of my comfort zone, but time after time, I would find myself feeling stuck. To give me that inch of satisfaction, I would force myself to do anything productive in a day, and I would spend my nights—not sleeping but just twirling in my bed—deliberately reminding myself of all my incompetencies. I would shy away from answering my friends’ calls because I did not know what to tell them. I did not know what to share with them about my personal or professional growth. If they asked me about my career, I would say, “Oh! I am just doing some freelance writing.”
“Nice, how much are you earning?” They would ask, with a tone of suspicion.
I would falter a little and say, “Ummm, I have just started—you know, building my portfolio.” While in reality, I had zero clients, zero job offers, and absolutely no plans for my future.
But all of this changed in three months. The world is fighting a pandemic and the only important thing for everyone is to be safe and keep our loved ones safe. I saw people becoming more adaptable and open-minded. I mean, have we ever normalised taking time off? Have we ever told anyone that we are literally not doing anything, but just spending time with ourselves? Not too many people feel comfortable sharing this, right? Because we were somehow afraid that we will end up getting judged and no one will try to understand why we have taken this time for ourselves. As if we are either too “privileged” or this time to ourselves is just an excuse to waste our time because we have no passion or goals whatsoever.
But, during this pandemic, I saw people openly having a conversation about not feeling motivated or being unproductive. And, the best part was that nobody was taking sadistic pleasure in any of this; in fact, we were all feeling compassionate. I saw all those people who were engrossed in the glory of the hustle and bustle lifestyle coming back to life.
There were videos online of people pursuing their hobbies, videos of people learning some new activity; I saw photos of my friends spending time with their family and making some real absurd Tik-Tok videos. And I would laugh my ass off whenever I would see a video of a news reporter being interrupted by their children—I mean, weren’t those videos just adorable?
During the phase of self-isolation, I could feel myself being more calm and content with wherever I was. I could feel myself feeling more grateful for everything that I have earned so far. I also realised that there was no one rushing me, but it was just me who was forcing myself to work according to other people’s timeline. I was no longer going to be too hard on myself to have my future all sorted out, and I was learning to be more present.
Now, I no longer feel embarrassed to tell people that I am still not desperate to get out of the house despite being at home for the past three months. Now that I have come to terms with my explicit opinion on this lockdown, I no longer feel guilty about enjoying it. I no longer feel ashamed of telling people that I am scared, I am scared to step out of the house because I don’t want to contract the virus, and worst of all, I don’t want to bring the virus home and infect my parents.
Again one night, I was lying on my bed, scrolling through Instagram just when I received a DM from a friend. “How is Quarantine treating you?”
I read that message and with a smile on my face typed, “Honestly, I am loving this whole quarantine, and I think I have gotten used to this. Oh! By the way, did you know that I have a real knack for cleaning?”