The penultimate. Thursday’s bed fellow. Officially my second last day of hotel quarantine when the end is officially in sight. Many people have asked me how I am feeling and remarking that I must be so excited about finishing and getting out. Quite honestly, however, this time has come with mixed emotions. While I know my experience may be unique, personally I have not found this time in quarantine too onerous. In fact, I almost enjoyed it? Scrap that, I am going to be honest, I have enjoyed it. If you threw in a 30 minute walk outside in fresh air, I almost feel like this time has been something like a retreat for my mind and body. As crazy as it sounds, it took being forcibly quarantined in a room for two weeks for me to slow down, rest, and reflect. Having lived as a migrant in Australia for close to 8 years now, I am very familiar with travelling the 32-48 hours back to Canada when there is a wedding, a new baby, or new occasion to return for. Upon my return to Australia, however, I often have either used up all my leave or I have fallen behind on work (or funds) and so am forced to hit the ground running. I am barely home out of the shower before I am answering emails, heading back to work, trying to catch up with people, and all the while not coping with the jetlag. For the first time in 8 years, I was alone to not only get over jet lag, but to mentally reset myself back into life in Australia. After the 9 months of overseas fieldwork, I actually think this was just the thing I never knew that I needed.
Being away for 9 months, much has happened and also not happened during that time. 2020 has been a weird and unpredictable year and we have all had to scramble to navigate the changes that it has brought. During lock-downs and workplace changes new perspectives on work-life balance appeared, as well as notions on how we treat each other and our planet. I remember watching a video posted by a poet Tom Foolery called ‘The Great Realization’ that approached the changes seen in humanity during the months of lock-down in a different way: This story starts before in a world I once would dwell/ It was a world of waste and wonder, of poverty and plenty/ Back before we understood why hindsights 2020 . In the end Tom talks about the changes brought in people’s behaviour as a result of the pandemic: But while we were all hidden, amidst the fear and all the while/ The people dusted off their instincts, they remembered how to smile...We’d grown so used to bad news, but some good news was in the making/ Old habits became extinct and they made way for the new/ And every simple act of kindness was now given its due. This was a year of big highs and big lows. The pandemic brought with it fear, loss, death, anxiety and great strain on our economies. Yet it was also a year when babies were born, when marriages happened, when families stayed inside and read to each other, baked bread, and recorded videos to help others laugh. Windows filled with rainbows and teddy bears, Lego movies were made, and we all came to realise what truly mattered in our lives- the wellbeing of our communities, our loved ones, neighbors and friends.
Looking around my little home for the past two weeks, I fully admit that I will miss some parts of the time spent here. I will miss having the space to myself to write, to think, to read, and sometimes to not do any of those things. This is the longest time I have ever spent physically by myself, yet I have had some wonderfully meaningful conversations with people and have laughed more times than I can count. I had long baths, I did yoga, I discovered new music, I reacquainted myself with the joys of sleep, and I drank copious cups of herbal tea. I have been fed exceptionally well and had to deal with minimal dishes. Of course I had my routine and my lists to keep me motivated and positive (I couldn’t break from habit that easily), but it did force me to think about why it took a 14 day mandatory quarantine for me to take this time to find such balance? I guess one answer to this could relate to notions that Tom talked about, in how our world was becoming so consumed by features of the modern world that we became lost in the business of it all. Our work life balance ‘broke’, we ‘drove around in circles, we’d forgotten how to run’. We are always thinking about what we should be doing, the papers we should be writing, the hours we should be working, that we forget about taking the time to just breath. To just be. I guess that’s why I didn’t mind this time. Why I feel complicated emotions about leaving. Why I am somewhat apprehensive about going back to a regular routine. And perhaps why everything in hindsights 2020.