We Survived. Now We Survive Again.

Written by Gaden Sousa

Today I was meant to make a film. More accurately, this week, I was meant to make a film. It was to be the crowning achievement of my three years of higher education. I wasn’t the only one who was to make a film either. The whole cohort came together to tell stories—fourteen stories—all different and wonderful in their own specific way. Then stage four was announced in Victoria, and all our dreams of moving pictures were crushed, stolen by an extraordinary circumstance.  It has been a week now since stage four, and today—on the day I was meant to make my film—I have instead enjoyed the sun, cleaned my room, and read The Sandman; Dream in his realm of Dreaming. I wonder, what have you done, fellow lockdown friend? I hope you’ve enjoyed the sun too. 

It has been four months since I first wrote about living through COVID-19. When it happened, I turned to words to seek hope—to find out through writing if I even could hope. Thankfully, I found that I could. So, now without anything to film, without people to see, or places to go, I write again. I write knowing full well that hope can be dangerous. Sure, hope helps us see a better world, but if the world has other plans, it hurts. It hurts because hope leads us to believe things could be different, and now they’re not. Even though hope can be dangerous, it is sometimes all we can do.

It has been a devastating year for everyone. There isn’t a life, relationship, dream, or plan that hasn’t been touched by this virus. We all meant for this year to be different. We were meant to go overseas, go to parties, see bands live. Hell, I was meant to make a film. Many things were meant to happen, but now they haven’t, and they won’t. It hurts. I feel the pain of it; all of us cooped up in our homes. But at least we have homes to be cooped up in, right?

We tend to look at this year through a lens of lack. We look at what we are missing out on because we can’t go more than five kilometres from our homes. We’ve become so used to our houses and to our streets that we are numb to the pleasantries of everyday life; a roof, warm food, the sun. It is the curse of living in a Groundhog Day Scenario. But there is hope; that fragile thing fluttering out of the most unexpected places. Our familiarity with our surroundings means we often miss things. We forget about the book that’s fallen down behind the shelf that made us smile. Often, it’s only when we lie peacefully in the afternoon sun that we realise we walked right past a new street on our daily trek. Was the street always there? It must have been—waiting patiently to be discovered. And so, I offer you an exercise—one that might just bring hope gliding past your window. Whenever you’re reading this, I ask you to look around your lockdown lounge and try to see something new. Try not to focus on the lack of new in this place or on how tired you are of staring at the same four walls. Instead, draw your attention to something you perhaps haven’t considered properly: a postcard, a book, a street, or a nook. You might just feel your lips start to curl up.

I’m not saying don’t feel sorrow because that would be insensitive. Sorrow is necessary now. I know, that must sound contradictory from Mister Big Hope over here. What I mean is there is truth to feeling sorrow during this time. And what is true is always worthwhile and often necessary. Despite being painful, sorrow can be good in small doses as it reminds us what we are missing and that we should seek those things out. We were almost relieved of lockdown back in June, but then the numbers rose, and so did testing. So run along home we did, into a strange timeless world.

I’m not here to judge your sorrow, for these are hard times. I myself have raged against people telling me to be hopeful, to look on the bright side when so many people are dying. I do, however, want to remind you of something.  You are not alone in your disappointment, in your pain, and in your grieving over all the things not meant to be anymore. So, let sorrow come, openly and fully. Cry for a day or two—Lord knows I have.

Once your sorrow is felt and your tears have dried, check how others are going. Check in on friends, lovers, family, and siblings. Try to paint. Try to bake. Find some order. Write a book. Why not? Do everything or do nothing. Some days all you can do is wake up, breathe and stare at the big blue world outside your window.

We almost got out of this once, and we might go back into it again. But as long as we do it together, then I think we’ll be okay. I hope we’ll be okay. There it is, the dainty little ‘h’ word weaving its way in, like a baby bird we need to keep safe.

I was meant to make a film this week about how it’s never too late to tell someone you love them, and the importance and the power in friendships. I can’t make that film right now. So, I’m writing this instead to remind you that it isn’t too late; for friends, for connection, for love. So, go now and ring that old friend—you know, the one that used to make you laugh. Tell them they gave you joy—that they changed you and helped make you who you are. Or take a page out of Mr Rogers’s book: think of all the people that loved you into loving, go and thank them. Then, love some others into loving. The world needs that love, especially now. Just because we’re staying at home, it doesn’t mean that we’re alone. Because we aren’t.  

In the immortal words of Mr Fox, ‘They say our tree will never grow back, but one day, something will.’ He’s right, you know.

Gaden Sousa is in his third year of a Bachelor of Film, Television, and Animation. Though his progress on his graduate film has been placed on hold thanks to COVID-19, you can still find Gaden working hard on a new script or short story. That, or giving a talk to his friends about why Neil Gaiman is his favourite writer. Gaden enjoys Kung-Fu, movies, and reading in his big red reading chair bought in the last lockdown. 

Gaden’s work appears in the Euphoria, Power, and Atmosphere editions of WORDLY Magazine

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