There are many things I have taken for granted in 25 years of my life. My mother’s unconditional love, time spent with my father, my grandma’s deteriorating health, my boyfriend’s patience on me, hanging out with friends, underground water, fresh water sources, ozone layers, and many more that I lost count.
Never the one to find comfort in crowds, I thought I wouldn’t miss the sound of people chatting around with excitement, shouting at each other over rage and pain, or even random small talk you make when you try to be polite. Life is odd. Never thought I’d say this in my life, but I miss being around people: shoppers that pass by in the mall, vendors shouting and selling in wet markets, forceful embraces of my grandma, awkward one-arm hug that my boyfriend gives. I miss embraces. I miss humans, roaming around in the city. Never thought I have taken people in my life for granted. I truly miss them now.
Not too long ago, staying at home was something I did for pleasure and by choice. I rarely go out because crazy traffic, unavoidable air and noise pollution exhaust me. There were countless events that I said I’d go but did not show up. There were countless plans that I hoped to get cancelled. There were countless broken promises that I made with old friends for reunions. There were countless “I’ll come over this weekend, grandma”s that I ended up not going. I was basically an asshole. Come to think of it, I should have been a better friend and a better granddaughter.
These days, one hears “social distancing” and “self-isolation” in almost every conversation. We are being encouraged to practice social distancing on national television. I think long and hard about these terms because they provoke something inside of me. One insomniac night, I figured that I was already distant from all the socials way before the pandemic broke out.
With the technology dictating our lives, we are visibly distant from our loved ones. At dinner table, my mom and I’d be checking our phones the entire time. Riding shotgun, I’d be posting my Instagram stories while my boyfriend was driving. In a work meeting, I’d be doodling crappy little bunnies in my notebook at the back of the meeting room. I was almost always in my own head, away from most happenings around me.
My self-isolation gets even more intense when I go outside alone or travel alone. I always make sure I bring a book or have my phone fully charged and installed a game to play to keep myself occupied while waiting for the time to pass. One time, I remember that “downloading podcast episodes and tv shows on the phone” was one of many items in my checklist for packing for a week-long trip. Among my many solo trips, I made no new friends or small talks. I was just consuming all the digital feeds that I downloaded on my phone. I was living in my own little bubble. I was self-isolating at my own will, without anyone’s influence or instruction.
Looking back at those moments with my three weeks old quarantine spectacles, I just want to become a better person, less self-isolation and more human interaction when the global pandemic is over. I don’t desperately want to go out, but I miss having my close people around. Just before the Covid-19 related isolations and quarantines imposed, my friends and I postponed to meet up at least two times because we could not find a day that all four of us were free in our busy schedules. Now we are stuck in our houses, worrying about our loved ones and looking forward to the time we can actually meet up. We took our chances to meet in person for granted as we prioritized our mundane daily routines.
Trying to look on the bright side in a time like this is difficult. Every day is uncertain and everything is abnormal. Each day I wake up, I keep asking myself when things will go back to normal although deep down I know that it would take a couple of months at least. However, from my own experience, writing a list of things to do when Covid-19 is over keeps you from thinking all the worst case scenarios. So here’s my list of things I’d be doing when we can go out.
- Meet with as many friends as possible
- Visit my grandmother as frequently as possible
- Walk around street vendors and eavesdropping their conversations
- Try to make random conversations with strangers at a bus stop
- Give more compliments to people
- Capture the sceneries of busy Yangon in my eyes
- Breathe the liveliness of Yangon in and breathe out the self-isolation
Gosh… I can’t believe I’m saying this. I miss people and I miss going outside.