Hey, you little cool cats and kittens. Lol, if you haven’t watched Tiger King you’re missing out. Anyway, sup homies? It’s been a minute. I have to admit, my absence is not because I haven’t got a blog post typed up, ‘cause I do – I’ve got two more parts to that driving story almost ready to be shipped. My absence is due mostly to the fact that I’ve fallen into the hole of nothingness that is our new normal since the start of CV-19. And how do we deal with big black holes of despair? We write about em, lol, eventually! So how did we get here?
Even though I am in Japan, I feel like I’ve been in a lockdown parallel to all my friends and family back home in South Africa. Having left my prefecture (province) for a week or so back in March, I had to go into self-quarantine when I got back on the 4th of April for two weeks. This meant staying home and only going out for essentials. So I asked a friend to give me a lift to get those essentials because it’s hard doing two weeks worth of shopping on a bicycle yo.
That first two weeks was great. I enjoyed my solitude and getting a chance to kick up a few of my hobbies again like drawing and painting. I learnt a few delicious new recipes. I enjoyed listening to music during the day again. I also caught up on all my favourite shows. Unfortunately, at the end of the two weeks, my anxiety was growing about going back to school. As fun as it’s been staying home doing my own thing, the reality is home is also safe. I couldn’t help thinking of all the opportunistic infections I’ve suffered since I started working with children here in Japan. Was I just going back to school to die?
Luckily the Japanese government announced that schools would be closed again because of the increasing number of infections. Soon after this my colleagues and I got word from our board of education that we were off the hook, even though school would only close officially on the next Wednesday, we didn’t need to go in. Special leave till May 10th. I’m still grateful, not everyone in the country get’s this opportunity. Some teachers are still expected to show up for school even though no children are present.
So how did this blissful time of staying at home turn into a black hole? I had no idea, so I spent most of yesterday (the other day at this point, I’ve been meaning to hit publish here for more than a week now), in the half coma that is now my state of mind during the day, trying to figure it out. Maybe it’s the lack of exercise or the lack of external stimulus, or perhaps it’s the lack of an in-sight-ending for this CV-19 situation? Most nights I struggle to sleep and in turn, sleeping late makes me wake up weak and groggy with no will to wake up. When I eventually do wake up, it’s lunchtime. I make lunch, watch some series, do some painting, and on other days do some dancing. After this, it’s time for my daily call home. These usually last till it’s time to fight with the Sand Man again. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Forcing myself to sit down in front of my keyboard today (…or that first day…) made me realise that this feeling of being in the hole of despair isn’t new to me. Last year when my previous employer was going through a sell-down and an internal restructuring, most of us small fish were left without much to do day-to-day. This was mainly because no one could sign off on new projects because no one knew if they still had a job at the bank within the foreseeable future. That lack of direction, of purpose actually, that’s what destroyed us. With a work from home regime also newly and firmly in place (see Johannesburg M1 bridge closure debacle circa 2019), most people coming in once or twice a week for catch-up meetings, it became hard to find value in our work. Most of us would go in to spend time with our work friends.
Similarly, it’s become hard to find value in the day to day because yeah, I’m working on my art and my cooking and my dancing and expanding my music horizons but to what end? In this in-between time being “productive” and looking like you have your shit together can never truly mask the reality of the situation. We don’t know what normal is going to look like after this lockdown period. Maybe we go back to work, maybe we don’t. And if we do, does the work and fodder that we are putting together now really contribute to the new normal that’s coming?
In conclusion to my mad ramblings, during this anxious time, I still have one thing I try to keep constant, to create my own small semblance of certainty. My phone call home. Usually, we talk for an hour or two, with my digital self moving from room to room with everyone, just being with them there for that short time. Some days are harder than others because I get reminded of the fact that I’m so far away during a global pandemic, but on the good days, and most of them are, I get reminded that some things will never change, and I’d like to believe that it’s these things (like those long lunches with my work friends at my old job) that keep us sane as we try to forge forward into the new normal.