For we younger working class types there has been a cost to all of this isolation, and it has not recieved the recognition it needs. Perhaps because we are at low risk of the virus itself, perhaps because we are not “vulnerable” in a clinical or medical sense.
Staying at home, working from home, being at home, being alone, being alone but not alone, being trapped, being stuck. All of it was managable at the beginning, when it seemed temporary. All of it seemed tolerable when we felt like it would be weeks, not months.
This situation has been eating away at us.
But almost unnoticed, this situation has been eating away at us, slowly, quietly, taking tiny nibbles of our soulmeat, day after day after day. The life we once had is slipping away. We are all vulnerable, and everyone should see that now. I don’t mean vulnerable to the Covid microbe, but to the mental health erosion the nation’s defensive measures have triggered.
We are upon a downward trajectory, mentally speaking, starved of normal human interactions, with colleagues, friends, family and strangers. I’m not saying “end lockdown because of this”, I’m saying “acknowledge it, offer help, give guidance”. Just because we are not in medical high risk groups, doesn’t make us any less vulnerable as people.
We are surviving, physically. Surviving well, I think. But a part of us is slowly dying, fading into the past. The version of me that used to dress smart, commute to work, motivate myself and others, put energy and effort into everything I did; that man is fading fast, lost in a thick, unending fog of loneliness. The version of me who saw reasons to engage and to be presentable and to strive to be fit and healthy, to be a better colleague and achiever, that man is already gone. A husk of his existence remains, and that is all.
The distance is a mental killer, as much as the proximity is a physical killer.
There are others, I know there are others, who struggle with this so called lockdown, who find working from home to be a struggle in so many ways. For many of us the distance is a mental killer, as much as the proximity is a physical killer. We have survived, we are alive, but a part of us has died. Soon, I feel this will need to be acknolwedged, and mourned. We must face the prospect of letting go of who we were, of accepting that loss forever.
My workplace have already sent clear warnings that office life will NEVER be the way it was, we will NEVER return to our desks en mass, and work, and discuss, and laugh and gossip. At best there will be occasional meetings a few times per year. We will never have that grown up daily interaction like we used to.
And so here we stay. In our spare rooms, our kitchen tables, whatever tiny space we can get to plug in remotely to a long-gone reality, to take a slither of our former lives and convince ourselves it is enough.
Virus? Infection? No. I’m fine. Those people I know who got Covid, are over it, and are fine. But the isolation, the feeling of being trapped and distant from everyone, that’s something you cannot innoculate against. That’s something you’re either strong enough for, or you aren’t. There is no help. There is no help. There is no help.
Each day, a fragment of our former selves falls away.
This group to which I belong, the mid-life working class, not elderly and not young, totally overlooked in this crisis, assumed to be doing alright, not vulnerable, fairly strong and fit. Left to get on with it. At home. Alone. Trapped. We get through each day knowing how fortunate we are. And yet, each day, a fragment of our former selves falls away. Those fragments will never regrow. Those daily interactions with other humans, they were components of who we were.
Motivation is a hard thing to get back.
Motivation is a hard thing to get back once it’s gone. If one can no longer find reason to put on a shirt, how can one find reason to meet targets and deadlines, or inspire others? There is a deep disharmony in the working-from-home mindset, where one must ‘pretend’ to be in the office, and this pretense simply isn’t sustainable. Pot Noodles and Daytime TV beckon. Kids beckon. Wife beckons.
Rooftops and ravens.
Rooftops and ravens are the scene before me now; long gone is the quiet bustle of colleagues at desks. Those ravens, obvlivious and free, are something to be envied. As they peck and chatter and hop across tiles, their social interactions are far healthier than mine have been in months, or ever will be again.
To the authorities managing this crisis, and focusing on the most medically vulnerable, I say only this: We exist.
Stay safe everyone.