Driving down unfamiliar roads

2022 started with a cough.

Or rather, it started with a low-energy FaceTime call with my partner to say “Happy New Year,” drunk Snapchat videos of my friends, a cough and then a fever, chills and near-immobilizing body aches. 2022 started with the inaccessibility of testing near me and a brain fog that has still not left me, kindly rendering me 400 pages behind on my winter break pre-reading. A lovely start to my second term of first-year.

It is perhaps no surprise that I look towards term two with nothing short of a hell-fire-fuelled pessimistic glare. In term two, my friends and I will turn 19, though the last time we safely, maskless-ly celebrated a birthday was our sixteenths in 2019. In term two, I will finish my first year of university during a pandemic, just as I graduated from high school during a pandemic and got my driver's license during a pandemic. None of these milestones are too major, nothing to think about in the grand scheme of things, but the socially-distanced, rather anticlimactic conclusion to my teenagerdom leaves much to be desired. I am not entirely caught up in the dramatics of cancelled diploma ceremonies or postponed “N” exams, yet I find myself just a little beaten down, a sliver worn out.

If you’re looking for an inspiring piece of self-reflection, an optimistic ode to the good which we still have left, or yearning for a peppy display of rise-and-shine attitude, this is not where you’re going to find it.

Maybe, if the rain and the perpetual fog had not made fast friends with the altitude at which my house rests, I would feel differently. But, three weeks into term two, I have already fallen into an ease of merely getting by. My bed has become my permanent location, apart from bold adventures to the kitchen for boxed mac-n-cheese. In fact, I did something I have only done once before (besides my COVID-19 quarantine) — called into work, sick.

On the fourth day this week, in a moment of cabin-fever induced impulsivity, I showered, donned my nice sweatpants (the ones without the grease stains) and made a trip to the library in the hopes that a change of scenery would stir up some of the energy I am known to have. I studied for about four hours, checking off x, y and z on my to-do list, aligning my pens parallel to the edge of the desk, straightening them every hour or so, as is my wont. I felt myself relaxing. Maybe this year won't be so bad? A man then walked into the room, my tiny study cubicle, instantly removed his mask and began coughing. Besides the general uncomfortableness of a man 40 years older than me claiming the spot closest to me in an otherwise near-empty space, I could not help but feel upset at this invasion of my own, personal bubble. Yes, I had just had COVID-19. But no, I was not so inclined to risk any slim chance of getting it again. Packing up my bag, I soon left, retiring to my room once more.

I’m not fond of indulging in lengthy self-description, but I can say I’ve never been apathetic. If anything I am an involved, take-on-way-too-many-things, go-out-way-too-many-times kind of person. But as I neglect my various meetings, zone out for hours at a time on Zoom and shy away from invitations to see my friends, I cannot help but think of term two as something to just get through.

I’ve always been told these years — my young adult, coming-of-age-movie years — are “the best years of my life,” or my “years to remember,” but I certainly hope that isn’t true. 2020 and 2021 have been, save for a select few wonderful highs, largely forgettable years. Maybe I am just cursed with the memory of a goldfish. But maybe there is an anxiety inside me, subtly draping every experience — every dinner, every party, every handshake or high-five — in a sheet of translucent grey, dimming even the colours of what would otherwise be the very best memories I have. I will continue to mask-up, sanitize, get boosted (please, do get boosted) and I will not complain about it whatsoever, because I understand the importance of public safety measures — not only this, I am incredibly passionate about the subject. I just cannot help but acknowledge that maybe, the inability to see the smiles of my friends is in some way bad for me.

Dramatics aside, I hope to soon shake the tired passivity that has overtaken me as of late. In term two, I just hope to feel a bit more like myself again.

I find my days moving slow, but the events in my life moving fast, deadlines appearing out of a fog in a haphazard fashion. I slam on the brakes, I swerve, I weave in and out of traffic in hopes of getting ahead in some way, but there are roadblocks and I am suddenly stuck behind a train, and there’s an accident on the upcoming corner, and there are detour signs placed every other block.

I just hope things maybe feel a little less like driving down unfamiliar roads in a heavy fog at 100km/h.