Words by: Victoria Baikie Art by: Mei Li Tan
A lot has changed over the past two years since COVID-19 hit Australia, including my grasp on time. The pandemic has shifted us into a whole new way of living, where open borders, limitless outdoor time, and not having to do Zoom catch-ups are now distant memories that we once took for granted. So much has changed that looking back, how we used to live is almost foreign.
Do you remember that feeling right before a concert was about to begin? That feeling of standing still, waiting so long for the show to start that your feet are killing you, and the line for the bar is almost not worth it? The feeling when, just as you’re about to give in and go home, the lights dim and your whole body is filled with excitement? The first chord plays, or the artist screams out the name of your city, which drives you wild and makes everything worth it… No? Can’t remember? Me either.
One odd thing that I miss from the pre-pandemic world is coming out of the cinemas. Yes, I miss the popcorn and the movies themselves. But I’m focusing on that feeling of leaving the cinema, where it’s still bright or suddenly dark outside. It throws you off-course like nothing else. You have been sitting in the dark for so long — how the hell is it so bright outside? It has been hours, what do you mean it’s only 4pm?
I always hated small talk, but what I now hate more is COVID-19 small talk. The majority of my conversations these days are consumed by the topic of the virus. It’s only ever about the daily case numbers, exposure sites, or Dandrews’ daily message to rule-breakers. Before COVID-19, asking “did you hear about the engagement party?” could have signalled some juicy gossip about a disastrous party that was not followed up by a wedding. Now, gossip has hit an all-time low, and that question would only ever be about a dreaded COVID-19 spreader event. And why do I need to know the name of the chief health minister of a state I never (and will never) live in? Take me back to talking about the weather, please.
What I miss most are the experiences I should have had during this time if it weren’t for COVID-19. While I have become closer with certain friends, there are some friends — in different social circles who I only see at certain events or times of the year, or who live interstate — who I have involuntarily drifted away from. The pandemic has left me feeling very distant from my wider social circle. In attempting to keep afloat during these treacherous times, I have found myself often forgetting about certain friends. Without the possibility of inviting all these people to a birthday party, planning camping trips, or whatever it was I used to do, these friendships have faded away. I feel robbed of friends I should still have, and memories I could have made.
Despite this, I still have hope that once this is all over, these friendships can be repaired and new memories can be made. If anything, this pandemic has rendered me more aware of who I want to be around and has urged me to appreciate the little things in life so much more. This is one gift COVID-19 has given me that I am grateful for, and hope to hold onto for years to come.