My teeth grit as yet another lecturer signs off on an email with some so-called “words of encouragement”. “Now is the time to write that novel you have always wanted to write!!”, it says. My fingers clench at the keyboard as I contemplate my reply. Write a novel? The audacity, the sheer inconsideration of these imbeciles. Has no one told them that I am simply run out the door (not literally – #StayHomeSaveLives) with my social commitments?
My schedule is jam-packed with the many group calls that I have to take, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of Zoom meetings that I’ve committed to, and I have a whopping 23 unopened WhatsApp chats to reckon with (all from different aunts, and all sending *insert crying laughing emoji x7* memes – or “me-mes” as they call them). Supposedly, I have more time than ever but, truth be told, I’ve never been so busy.
I scoff and grumble at the email and add it to The List. Some other stomach-churning entries to The List include: “You can finally read Proust!”, “Take this time to learn a language!”, “I’m just passing on another banana bread recipe for you to try”.
Unbelievable. These people simply do not realise that (a) I have commited to Zooming my primary school friends who I haven’t seen in nine years but absolutely must speak to today, (b) that the secondary-school group chat is hopping off and I have 327 messages to catch up on and (c) that the friend I count on exclusively for post-lecture chats has been in touch to arrange a time for a call. French and banana bread will just have to wait. Proust too (indefinitely).
Supposedly, I have more time than ever but, truth be told, I’ve never been so busy
For someone fortunate enough to have not yet been touched by tragedy in these troubling times, I find that routine life has now taken on a semblance of that limbo period between Christmas and New Years – those six confounding days when life is merely something that fills the protracted gaps between meals, when each day just bleeds into the next and time seemingly melts away.
The inimitability of those hazy six days is the sense that the usual rules of life don’t apply (eating chocolate for breakfast and the like) – and the past few weeks, worrisome as they have been, have had something of that disorder about them. Everything and anything goes in such extraordinary circumstances.
My social life is not just abuzz with virtual activity but is populated by this smorgasbord of people that I wouldn’t usually speak to day-to-day, month-to-month, or year-to-year in some cases. In lockdown, receiving a message from someone who hasn’t been in touch for years is suddenly completely normal, and arranging a call with them and some other stray long-lost friends is deemed perfectly acceptable.
My social life is not just abuzz with virtual activity but is populated by this smorgasbord of people that I wouldn’t usually speak to day-to-day, month-to-month, or year-to-year in some cases
It’s worth pointing out that we have been able to do these multi-way video calls for some time – but reunions with childhood friends were considered colossal, fussy affairs. Co-ordinating everyone’s busy lives seemed an impossible task. But what about now? Our pre-corona selves seem like total tools, preoccupied with our own lives, the languages we were going to learn, the Proust we were definitely going to read, the banana bread we had to bake.
I’d certainly hope that this more charming side of social distancing keeps its hold over us. I have simply spent too much time figuring out the virtual background feature on Zoom to let it go and the re-established friendships are welcomed too.
“So what time today?”, a message pops up on my screen as I carefully construct a damning reply to my teacher’s email. “Does this afternoon suit? I have another Zoom call tonight!”, my friend says. I flick through my glutted planner and look for a slot between seminars and reunions. Yes, I think to myself, the novel can wait.