Pop Culture lied to me. We used to joke about the rise of WWIII, and when it came and passed we laughed. We joked about alien invasions ending life, but that was a meme we passed around because the thought was ludicrous. We joked about the black plague. Sure it came and went like all the others, but in it’s shadow was a plague we didn’t expect. We joked as we always did laughing it away. But it stayed. An accident perpetuated by our cynicism and general naivety. It may be dramatic to say it felt like the end of the World, but during the early stages and up to current times, how could it not? We went from being such dismissive creatures, and thinking it could be resolved by the snap of fingers, to sheer and sudden panic. We started panic buying in bulk anything we thought was essential, leaving the stores bare, and many people to go without.
In the early weeks it started as just a small piece of current news that didn’t seem to be much of a problem to focus on. The World kept spinning with the only big concern being making sure people washed their hands and increasing our use of hand sanitizer. Jobs were as much of anyone’s routine like mine and 2020 was just a year that had an odd start with the laughable World War III threats and unfortunate fires that had devastated Australia. What could March possibly offer that could have been worse? I mean at the time March was halfway done and the only thing to worry about was a man had eaten a Bat, and people were getting sick. It didn’t even seem like a potential risk.
Then, Covid-19 progressed. So rapidly that in each passing day work shifts became slower and slower. Customers that would boom during weekends became as dull as the weekdays preceding them. Hand sanitizers that once sat near the computer search area of my workplace vanished never to be seen (so much for that second step after washing my hands). Grocery stores suddenly became barren bit by bit in more sections than others, and somehow we had the audacity to think this simple plague could be washed out within a week or two. Even as flights got cancelled and schools shut down not to reopen until the fall, the world seemed to feel smaller and smaller and less connected despite the technology that claimed to keep us closer. Stores like mine became the last things to close, and the fear for my own daily job began to grow as I walked past other stores that closed up before mine. They were littered with signs addressing the hopes of returning on given dates, but the dread inside of the unknown made me question otherwise…. that dreaded unknown.
How could we be so sure we’d return as if nothing happened? That panic and fear that slowly became a plague of its own, would it just disappear? We were so foolish then. Maybe that’s optimism?
It seems like we are losing hope as the days rolled by. The hope of things going back to the way they had been for so long, and back to the routine of trying to maintain our own individual lives. How could we have seen the need to save the collective? I lost my hope of a better tomorrow when my manager called me two days prior to our predetermined reopening date to give me news that we would be closed until further notice. Hope swung like a pendulum until that call happened. Then it faded all while I tried keeping a positive attitude on the current climate. Sadness crept in. As it all went on even my faith in a resolve took a hit. Self isolation officially started and, like the days after my final shift before that phone call, it just felt boring and dull and endless. Even if I had everything to keep myself entertained, I still felt like I had nothing. That feeling came in waves from knowing how to spend my day and casually joking about not having to wake up for work the next day, to almost refusing to let myself leave my bed and face the next day. I started allowing headlines of ‘it’ll get worse before it gets better’ to seep into my mood and affect my mental health. It seems fine to tell small lies that “I’m okay” now and then when you have a bad day or two because deep down you know there’s a better tomorrow to look forward to and a routine to bounce back on. But, when routine is taken and better tomorrow fading into better three months from now, “I’m okay” seems to become less fine of an answer to respond to when someone who loves and cares for you asks “How are you holding up?”
But during the last week of March something came. At least to me, maybe it came to others too who share this special thing with me. It’s quite hard to explain but it came like it always did. Like when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes. No matter how lost or alone, afraid or in question, there it was shining like a beacon of hope. I remembered how I used to feel as a child, when I first met that hopeful feeling; When my anxieties and depression seemed like such a trivial feeling to entertain. The feeling was teaching me then as it continues to now, almost speaking to me deep within my head: Keep the faith and keep the hope. The hope that one day, even as the World changes and grows beyond itself; “You will be okay. You will be stronger and wiser. You will be braver than you are now. So get up, do your part in this world, and continue the fight. Fear is in us all, but it’s the courageous hope that’ll always win if you allow it to stand by you.”
Written by Matthew Gibson