Since the first minute everything shut down in March of 2020, one question has consumed my thoughts: “how long is this going to last?”
I think that question has been front and centre in a lot of our minds. The daily numbers, the staggered reopenings, the vaccine rollouts, we’ve been spending months and months desperately staring at social media, trying to numb the pain of uncertainty and worry, breathlessly begging for an answer to the question, “when?”
To be clear, I 100% support lockdowns and all other public health measures during a global emergency, it’s just unfortunate how frequently we had no choice but to lock down, especially here in Toronto. I had no interest in rushing back into my life until myself and my loved ones were fully vaccinated, but I was just so desperate to know when that would happen.
I wonder what would have been different about the last year-and-a-half, if someone had told me in March of 2020, “You will be two weeks past your second dose of the vaccine on July 7th”. Of course there never would have been any way to predict that.
The desperation was especially all-consuming during Ontario’s bewilderingly disorganized vaccine rollout, with social media volunteers filling the gap in any form of coherent communication from the government. In Ontario, even after we managed to get our first shot, there was no easy way of predicting when we might get our second.
So, the conversations with friends and family have circled around, “maybe by the fall”, “hopefully next year”, “as long as we’re able to get our second shots before…” and then, rather suddenly, the rollout sped up. We all started getting first and then second shots, we were suddenly able to plan, to dream, to see the end.
And now, we’re beginning to reemerge.
I can’t stop thinking about this episode of CBC’s PopChat from April of this year, In the episode, Torontonian Elamin Abdelmahmoud asks New Yorker Kevin Fallon about what it’s like to be in the after times. When the episode aired, Ontario was two weeks into its third or fourth stay-at-home order. Meanwhile, New York was in the midst of opening up. When Elamin asked Kevin what that was like, I listened desperately, clinging to every word and hope for the future. What Kevin said stuck with me:
“For fifteen months, the brightness that was inside of me was just turned off…What I’m really moved by in the last few weeks since being vaccinated is starting to see that light and that brightness start to dial up again… I hope it keeps getting brighter. As hard as it’s been to confront the incessant bleakness that’s been the emotional soundtrack to my life for the past year, it just really feels nice to feel like I’m shining a little bit again.”Kevin Fallon
Three months later and I’m still thinking about that quote. When I heard Kevin say that I was struck with so many emotions: empathy, envy, a bit of confusion. It made me realize that the light that’s inside me had gone out too, or at least dimmed significantly. That so much of what makes me, me – friends, restaurants, theatre, family dinners, travel, leaving the f*cking house – was just gone. And the light inside of me that is nourished by those people and those experiences had flickered and started to die.
I don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. We’re all worried about variants and waves and lockdowns in the future, and something about this reopening still feels so temporary (hopefully hopefully it’s not). But as we tiptoe out of our slumber and back into our lives, let us find and reignite the lights within ourselves and loved ones. Let us be gentle and open and compassionate, let us reemerge and return to ourselves.