“You want to do something fun?” I absently asked Susan over the phone as I aimlessly scrolled through Instagram.
We were in lockdown, yet again, and I was bored out of my mind. There was no end in sight with the pandemic. The goal post back to normalcy seemed to always be moving and I stopped believing the promises made by the media or the government.
My friend seemed happy though and I could not understand it. What was there to be so happy about? Does she not know the proper protocol during a pandemic – which is the right mix between despair and misery. At times, splashed with victimisation, false gratification or both on a good day.
Anyway, I digress. Back to my riveting conversation with Susan (well mostly my thoughts because I have no idea what she’s actually saying as you will soon see too).
After we exchanged the niceties (you know, the usual questions - how are you? How many cases today in your state? When are you getting vaccinated?) she launched into a story listing out all her accomplishments during lockdown but I didn’t hear most of what she said. I heard just enough to know what standard response would be applicable. I gave the occasional ‘hmm yeah’, ‘absolutely’ and ‘so inspiring’ but I was not present at all in the conversation. My thoughts just drifted, as the new norm seems to be. Concentration is an underrated skill.
I drifted to a world where I was free like a bird soaring the blue skies– basically a world pre the pandemic where I could breathe fresh air without looking like a bandit.
Susan was describing her 4th (or was it the 5th?) achievement at this point and she still didn’t realise it was a one-sided conversation, so I was safe.
My thoughts flitted to when I began living in this place. I moved here a few years ago on my own, post a horrible (are there any other kind?) breakup and I was filled with this curiosity and a sense of adventure to explore the world without any expectations from anyone except my own.
I walked everywhere, just exploring new things. In my head, I was carrying an imaginary walking stick like they do on heroic journeys in those epic movies that win so many awards. You know, the movies that inspire, and you make such tall promises to yourself to be better and that obviously only lasts for all of 2 days at best.
Again, I deviate. When I decided to shift continents, I knew no one and I was loving the independence after the sheltered life (sheltered by either the helicopter parenting; Asian culture for the win; or the possessive ex) that I used to lead. I could finally hear my own voice and every day was full of spontaneity and discovery. I made conversation with interesting people along my walks and was left feeling so satisfied with the exchange. That was the life. But then came along the unexpected pandemic.
Now, every day feels like ground hog day because I know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s like I’m living the same day repeatedly. All conversations are about which vaccine is the most effective (because suddenly we’re all scientists and we know what’s best), the number of daily cases or how people are achieving so much with all this down time – because isn’t that how the rat race works? An idle moment is a wasted moment. When you talk to your family and friends, you are measured against what you’ve accomplished because working from home is a breeze. You save on travel time so you definitely have more time to accomplish something more because nothing is open so you can’t go out and have fun (what does that word even mean in today’s day and age?). Basically, you are filled with a need to prove your worth to people who don’t pay any of your bills. Their validation is suddenly so important to prove that your worthy. Not sure when we will realise no matter what we do, someone will always think they can live our lives better than we do. We are constantly judged anyway. So why do we even participate in such intense people pleasing? Oh, and heaven forbid you choose to rest and enjoy yourself. You’re just wasting away your life. I ask again, what is fun anyway? Somewhere along the line the definition of fun really got skewed because it doesn’t hold the same meaning as pre pandemic days.
I used to have fun. I used to love fun. I used to be fun. I promised myself after the breakup with he-who-must-not-be-named (that’s a Harry Potter reference for all the muggles) that I will learn to enjoy my own company. Where did that go? I was doing so well when I moved continents but now, I am back to square one.
I find myself sitting on my couch, in my jammies, distracting myself my thoughts with social media that I don’t even find enjoyable anymore. Anyway, it’s filled with how people are effectively using their time indoors and just seeking a pat on their back from strangers.
I want to have fun again but now I am relying on others to have fun because I forgot what I did before. It feels like that was a lifetime ago. Usually we require the proper motivation, right?
Only this time, I had no excuse. There was no breakup I was getting over, no devastating excuse that I could use as motivation for change. So why did I so easily forget that having fun on my own was not only possible but I was living proof of it – was being the operative word. Why did it suddenly seem so hard?
Honestly, it just really feels like a task to have fun on my own because I stopped believing I was fun. When I think back, I can’t remember how I did it. I may be embellishing but it just seemed effortless. So, what went wrong? Where did I mess up? Was I just not efficient or emotionally independent? I was always such an over achiever so how did I fail so miserably?
I could feel the downward spiral getting worse with each passing second. I used to be a success story and now I’m just a lumpy part of the furniture. How did it get so bad? Here’s Susan listing her gazillion fun achievements during lockdown and the only fun achievement I unlocked was how I perfectly morphed with the couch I was sitting on. Pathetic.
Was the fun lifestyle an aberration that would never be repeated? I let out a really deep sigh which turned into a loud hacking cough and then I laughed. Well, it’s clear. Apart from discovering that I have an alternate career of being a comfortable couch, I also know how to play the victim so well. Janice, you still are an achiever I said to myself with a broad smile just not of things you can boast about.
While this existential crisis was entertaining in the most macabre way, I was reminded why all that motivation worked the first time I moved away. It was because I was present in what I was doing. I didn’t do amazing acrobatic feats or jump of skyscrapers. I just found enjoyment in the simple things I was doing – even if was just washing dishes. I pretended I was Cinderella and made the entire activity feel magical. Childlike, yes but so much fun - always honour that inner child. I can absolutely do this again. I was always enough, I just forgot that along the way.
I was awakened from my reverie by Susan asking me if I was still there.
I smiled and said “I am finally here”.