Around a year ago when England was about to come out of its second COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, I remember thinking that the pandemic would probably go on for the first half of 2021, but by next December, it would basically be over and life would largely return to what it was before the coronavirus gripped the world. How wrong that was. As we face our second pandemic holiday season, I’ve given up on predicting when the pandemic will recede to the point it is manageable for all of us. In other words, where we can live with COVID-19 without it disrupting our daily lives, much like we now live with the flu after the 1918 flu pandemic over a century ago.
Recently, I was walking around London for none other reason than just to get out of my flat and I found myself marvelling at all the holiday shoppers traversing the streets. It certainly was not like that last year due to the second lockdown and the few weeks that existed before the Government instituted a third one in England. For a moment, it felt like any other holiday season, with stores bursting with customers as everyone tries to find gifts for their family and loved ones. It was like watching folks scurry up and down Fifth Avenue in New York a few days before Christmas. There’s something beautiful about it you can’t put into words.
However at the same time, it also feels like something is missing. I don’t know what it is, but whenever I try to articulate it, I find myself searching for words that describe a collective sense of loss. Of course, there’s that very real loss we’ve probably all experienced as people we might have known have passed away during the pandemic. There’s no escaping that.
But this loss that makes it feel like something is missing is much more abstract. Maybe it’s the energy that used to coarse through the city’s arteries before the pandemic. Maybe it’s a sense of purpose people used to have but have since fumbled. Folks are back on the streets, but not in the same way they used to be. There might be fewer people, but I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s feeling we don’t know when this is going to end, but we also have to keep going on with our lives. A sense of unflinching dread that the pandemic will keep us in its grip until it has decided it’s not interested anymore.
I’m sorry for the depressing post, but I’ve been trying to get this out into words for months and haven’t quite been able to do it. The holidays is the time of year when we all gather with family, friends, and loved ones to celebrate whatever it is we do. Yet it’s also a time to reflect on past, present, and future – and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do here. I’m hopeful that this holiday season will be better than last year’s. And maybe, just maybe, the next one will see the pandemic largely beaten. In the meantime, I’m here if you need me.