I wrote a long time ago, in some other reality(It was March 2020), about how every day is unprecedented now. It’s still true, even though people have spent time and money to undo every last day of the global slowdown that we all have been enduring in 2020.
Today, for those who care, is day 137 of non-normal time in the world of coronavirus for us.
But it’s not actually all that unprecedented. Lately, I’ve been thinking of all the other times that I spent serious time indoors, away from others, doing little. It’s a pattern that tends to invade your life if you choose, as I do, to move internationally regularly. I didn’t have money, so I didn’t go out. I didn’t have a job and couldn’t apply for one if I was going to leave in less than two months. I was broke, tossed by one of the big economic shocks that my generation seems to always be finding around the next corner.
I’ve been thinking about the summer of my MA in London, the majority of which I was searching for any kind of job I could get, with little success. I did somewhere in the realm of 80 applications and got two interviews, one of which I bombed the worst I ever have in my life because I didn’t know how to speak about planning events in French and my skill in that language had been much overblown. Since no classes were being held anymore, I didn’t see anyone I’d taken the course with and I didn’t spend much time at all on campus.
I would go to ASDA with two shopping bags, wander around listening to Radiolab talk about CRISPR and mammoths, buy something to bake that fit into my tiny budget, and then head back to my room in our shared house, to sit with the door closed. I watched so many BBC history documentaries on iPlayer that I joke I received my second MA in BBC History. I spent ages on Pinterest, planning the garden that we tried to make in our back garden. Then bake the thing I bought and maybe sit in the garden for a little while.
Even after I got my job at Brewdog Camden, I could only work 20 hours per week due to visa restrictions. That meant that I had the exact opposite schedule to my now-husband, him working M-Th at regular office hours and me working a bar closing shift F-Sun. I never even met some of our roommates.
I’ve been thinking about the times that I waited on a visa in Louisville, CO. At least four times in the last ten years, I was waiting to move abroad and I needed to be in town to get the necessary documents. I sat in a room, usually but not always my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house, and wrote articles about bridal hairstyles for $10 an hour. I crocheted through The Handmaid’s Tale. I tried to review breweries but going alone isn’t very fun. I rode my bike to Downtown Louisville and back, spending a couple bucks on a coffee or a beer. What a Friday night. It wasn’t a few weeks. This is the invisible part of my international life. People think that you just get on a plane and BOOM, you have a life in China or Korea or London. In reality, you sit on your arse for six-eight weeks waiting for a piece of paper to be stamped by someone.
I’ve been thinking about the summer after I returned from study abroad, when I stupidly insisted on not moving back into my parents’ house (because in 2009, who the hell over 18 moved back in? What a shame if you had to live in your parents’ basement). I lived with strangers, one of whom left her cat in our apartment but never appeared herself. She was living with her boyfriend, but she left that cat with me. Stella. I remember the cat’s name, but not the names of either of my roommates.
I was once again searching for a job, but it was 2009 and the (supposedly) Great Recession was in full swing. I interviewed with 40 others at Southern Sun Brewery for a hostess job. I made the second interview, but they didn’t hire me. For most of May, all of June and July, and part of August, I sat in my basement room near the Law School and did Yoga. I ate rice and beans with Sriracha for many meals. I would buy a Chipotle burrito and save half of it in the fridge. Two meals. I would go days without speaking to anyone in person.
I’ve been thinking about the three weeks in Iceland after our Scout camp was closed, for an outbreak of norovirus. It was so quiet in the countryside and Russ and I were practically the only ones living on the camp itself. The Scouts who’d been helping with the summer and employed by the camp left, and only those who were there through Workaway remained most of the time. People came by to move things and check in, but largely we were alone. The other volunteers lived 500m away and weren’t interested in being outdoors much of the time (Netflix is apparently more of a draw than a pristine lake or wandering outdoors).
That time was particularly traumatic because it felt like a home of ours was being dismantled right in front of us. At least towards the end we got to see the Northern Lights and we could light a campfire every night if we wanted to. I know where I’d rather be quarantined!
We have everything we need and we should be happy. The air conditioning is working and it helps so much with our house being a tolerable temperature. We have each other. We don’t have a community, even though that’s what we moved here to have. We specifically chose this company because they talked up the community aspect. It’s not worked out that way, since the very beginning.
But today I bought myself some flowers. They look nice even in the blender that I put them in, since I don’t have any vases. Soon things will change, and all those previous quarantines prepared me to endure this one. The quiet days are perhaps necessary to make it so that we have the strength for the busiest ones.
Good luck out there. Keep going.