My parents recently found an old video camera they used to film with when we were kids. They showed me a take from when my grandma visited us in Mexico 11 years ago. As we were all getting into the car, my dad asks my grandma “do you have your mask?”. Looking back at this video in 2020, that question seems fitting, relevant even. But this was 2009 and it was the AH1N1 influenza virus which was making headlines.
I was a kid back then, so my memories are somewhat tainted. I don’t remember wearing a mask, I certainly don’t remember the WHO declaring the first global pandemic since the 1968 Hong Kong flu, nor do I remember when we stopped talking about the swine flu. At 11 years old, my middle school was closed for two weeks, we were taught to sneeze in our elbows and everything was back to normal.
In a few months (or years), we will hear the word lockdown and immediately think back to this time, when it wasn’t for two weeks but for two months (and counting) that social life stopped. I am sure we will look back these moments and remember them clearly. Even kids’ memories will be marked by the weeks they couldn’t see their friends and teachers or visit their grandparents. Everything will not go back to normal, there will be pre- and a post-lockdown times.
I wonder what we will remember most about this lockdown. Weeks of practically house arrest? The press bombarding the internet with ominous headlines of a crumbling economy? Entertainment and socialising through a screen? The amount of “unprecedented” measures and relief packages? How we are experiencing history being made? The names of the politicians, the death tolls, the bankruptcies? I do wonder, because it is our perception of this period that makes up our collective consciousness. And how we’ll adapt to a new new normal.
What will be most vivid in our memories, in my opinion, is the physical restriction in our movement. The way the habits made possible by globalisation were simply overturned when the government advised against leaving the house and using public transport and socialising unless absolutely necessary. An abundance of time as a result.
A blur of lengthy days is what we were left with. We used to spend so much time commuting and going from one place to the other, it is disorientating to have nowhere to go. Though, like everything, we adapt and overcome. We sit on in our houses, fighting boredom, virtually attached to world outside, longing for more palpable connections.
The feeling of uncertainty will not be forgotten either. As a young graduate, the unknown is familiar. The difference is that the myriad of opportunities that existed before have a spatiotemporal limit. And such frustrations are only enhanced by the unanswered questions and the unpredictability of that light at the end of the tunnel that only seems to gets dimmer.
Graduates of this generation won’t go out and conquer the world, they will patiently wait it out. They will talk about how they spent the 2020 lockdown, similarly to how the previous generation talks about where they were on 9/11. I count on children, like me 11 years ago, to be oblivious to the debates about reopening schools and borders and to go on with their day-to-day unhindered.
I hope that, despite the inconvenience posed by the lockdown, this time will allow us to get to know ourselves better, to slow down and remember it is possible to see the world from a different angle.