I’m not going to sit here and type out 500 words about how you should be using your time to read more books again (you’re welcome). But I am going to share a story about a door.
I woke up on the 4th day of the global quarantine to a green-edged ‘close friends’ story of one of my friends crying while having breakfast. On my way to the kitchen to make my breakfast, I caught sight of the all-too-familiar dark wooden front door to my house and felt it, almost heard it, taunting me. It was waving the world beyond its confines under my nose, knowing that I couldn’t reach out and grab it; not yet anyway. That day, I blasted all the ’90s and ’00s bangers I could think of for hours on end, because I knew that if I didn’t create a distraction for myself right there and then, I would be shedding a few tears while having my avo toast too.
My history with depression makes me especially wary of negative feelings. I had lived inside them for so long that even months after the depression cloud had dissipated, I still found it hard to put a finger on my identity without the defining aspect of it being my sorrow.
So for days, whenever my dad sighed and spouted another heart-breaking statistic as he settled on the sofa for the evening, or my manager started the video call meeting with a prediction that this situation would last for months, I shamelessly deflected, zoned out, and at times even got up and left the room. I started living my days with my earphones permanently wedged in my ears. I re-discovered Shakira, The Black Eyed Peas, Ciara and, when things got really bad, One Direction. I lived inside playlists called Cream and Sunshine and endless queues of Jhené Aiko.
And then, one evening, an earbud fell out of my ear and, to my surprise, I heard my mum humming Sealed With a Kiss by Jason Donovan – her favourite ’80s song from a lifetime ago. I quietly looked it up on Youtube and hit play on my phone. Her eyes went instantly brighter, and I watched as she transformed into her 20-year-old self – a version of my mother I had never had the privilege of seeing until that moment in our dimly-lit kitchen. Her soul felt light. I hit next and it soared even higher as a Barbara Streisand hit came on.
From that moment on, I started paying a little more attention to the people I shared my isolation space with. I noticed that if I distractedly said hello to my sister as she walked through the door after her half-day at work, her face didn’t light up as brightly and she didn’t share as many office anecdotes as she did when I cheerfully acknowledging her arrival instead.
I watched my dad chuckle for a full hour as he let himself forget the news and Twitter and Trump and his group chats of doom with his high school and university mates, and instead lost himself in old Tom and Jerry cartoons – our favourite thing to do together when I was a kid.
And when I ran out of decades playlists and cheesy singles as methods of distraction, I found myself putting on my favourite Kings of Leon album, the one a version of myself I had long forgotten about used to play on repeat while studying for endless exams, and felt myself instantly coming alive. I was mesmerised at the feeling of joy washing over me, despite (or perhaps because of) it being my 7th day in total and utter confinement away from the world. It felt like seeing an old friend at a train station halfway across the world, reuniting in circumstances that could never have crossed either of our minds. It felt like a long, warm, overdue hug to myself.
The next morning, my front door stopped being a reminder of the world outside, and became a reminder of the safety within. A reminder of the home I had neglected for so long in exchange for the thrills of going out.
My mother was, yet again, proven right. This is what she had wanted me to stay at home for. This feeling was why she would be disappointed at the unfaltering answer of “yes” to the question “are you going out tonight?” She wasn’t trying to stop me from exploring the world. She was trying to make me see the beauty of the one within our home.