Writing by Hannah Taylor // photograph by 林偉偉
After two years of pandemic, I think it is fair to say that for many people, our mindsets have undergone a fundamental shift. Our outlooks and plans, our dreams, our connections with others and perceptions of self have all been influenced by the past twenty-four months of lockdowns, isolation, mental health struggles, and communication limited to various electronic devices. Even the eternal optimists, who admirably and enviously spent their lockdowns productively learning new skills, doing yoga and home workouts, and engaging in hobbies like sourdough bread-baking must surely be feeling at least a little bit dismayed by this point in time.
As someone who falls more towards the pessimistic end of the spectrum, I unsurprisingly share this feeling of disheartenment. It’s hard not to feel, as case numbers soar, like the 262 days spent in strict Melbourne lockdown were in vain. The Covid-zero notion is long dead, and covid feels closer to home than ever; in fact, I write this now from a covid-positive household (I should note quickly that I do not believe the lockdowns were in vain, they reduced the strain on our healthcare system and gave us time to get vaccinated). But regardless, as we enter the new year, the likelihood of contracting covid, or being a close contact and having to isolate, feels ever-increasing. And I can’t help being left with a sense of dubiety, and mild uneasiness.
Unlike the previous string of years, this year I felt absolutely no desire to write New Year’s resolutions. To my eyes, the next twelve months appear so clouded with uncertainty that forming expectations of any kind feels pointless. And I suppose I’ve formulated the idea, somewhere in my subconscious mind, that the more hope you pin on a specific outcome, the worse the letdown is when it doesn’t come to fruition. Judging from these words, I’m aware my outlook seems bleak. But surprisingly, that’s not how it feels. Maybe realist is a better adjective; if I were to characterise my view of the coming year as a landscape, I would describe it as stark, unembellished. Even though the past two years have been utterly draining, the thought that we may be entering a third year dictated by the pandemic doesn’t make me want to curl in a ball and cry. To be completely honest, I think if I were to experience some spontaneous emotional reaction, I’d be more likely to burst out laughing.
In some ways, I have a strange sense of being coolly unperturbed by the prospects that the coming year holds. Similarly, I have no strong feelings of regret, sadness, or lament when I reflect on the year that’s passed. That’s not to say I’m existing in some enlightened state of equanimity, the kind that one feels compelled to pompously share on the Internet. I’m just kind of expectation-less. Not disbelieving, not frustrated, not fragile – maybe it’s a sort of numbness; maybe it will catch up to me as the months tick by. But at the moment, I’m okay sitting with the uncertainty, the understanding that we’re travelling through unchartered territory, and there’s no clear exit path to follow.
So, for now, we wait. And I stare down the new year; and the future is indeterminate, unfixed; and I don’t mind.