I Found Love, After Being in a Hopeless Place

Words by: Jackie Zhou
Art by: Ilanda Tran

Let’s be real, nobody likes talking about lockdowns.

A religiously traumatic experience for many people, the COVID lockdowns were the silly little treat nobody asked for. There have been many side effects to this prolonged period of social isolation. If I were to list them, I think I would need more than this page alone.

But I think the biggest consequence, I am still recovering from today, is my loss of love.

My love for myself, my brain, my crafts, my projects, my creativity and the work my hands are capable of – everything was lost when my days began to blur into one. The best way I can describe it was that scene in Twilight when Bella was staring out of the window as the world passed her by. Except instead of it lasting about three minutes, it was over a year.

Now that life is ‘back to normal’, what do I have left of myself? The world moves on, but I never seemed to be able to, until I eventually did find love.

Reflecting on, and looking for, the love I found in life was a conscious effort, and one that took a lot of patience on the behalf of my friends and family. For so long, I was scared of creating things, writing and everything that made me who I was. It was an exhausting journey of re-learning how to come to terms with the feeling of creative stimulation, when I had built such a habit of simply passing time throughout lockdown for so long.

Alas, when my lovely partner took me to a pottery class for my birthday was when things started to turn around for me. After finding out my pottery teacher was also a queer POC, the warmth, love and community that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to this early on, changed things for the better. Getting my hands dirty on this night made me find joy and love in creation again. Feeling clay slip through my fingers and laughing about the mess we were making made something in my brain tick after so many months of it feeling rusty.

It turns out that a little hit of dopamine through creativity was all I needed to get my motivation back, and it was thanks to my partner and a couple of years of thinking about it. I then went to a punch needle class with my friend where we made fun designs and struggled against the gun (but laughed about it afterwards), made matching sterling silver rings with my partner, learned about Chinese calligraphy and made my own tote bag—a workshop that my sister got me as a birthday present.

All of these workshops were done with me in the minds of people that I loved, and it made me begin to feel whole again. This made me realise that there was so much love and support in the arts that I had missed before.

I think the lesson I learned through all of this is to remain patient with myself. I found little reason to live after the lockdowns, as everything that drove me to love and create was missing and died out after so many months of ‘Bella Swan-ing’ during my study at home. My relationship with my study has since been heavily impacted to the point where I rarely go in there anymore. I’d like to think that one day I can mend my relationship with that study — marrying my love of the arts with a space I once held so dearly.

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