Writing by Hannah Rothmann. Illustration by Isi Williams.
I left Edinburgh as spring was slowly seeping into the bones of the city, warming up the sandstone buildings and inviting blossoms to dust the trees. A quick flight home and then I was met by my parents and an uncertainty pressing on us about our lives over the next days, weeks and months. Our language began to change and ‘unprecedented’ was now in vogue. That word irks me. An excuse for bad decisions. Unprecedented.
Time passed, one month and then another. Next I was sitting my exams; on one side my mom on a conference call disputing with people, on the other a family friend stuck in the house, in the country and in time with us, faint sounds of the Game of Thrones full series coming through the walls and then my dad continually giving me caffeine and distraction. Our world had become small. Just four walls, four faces to look at and nowhere to go. Set places at the table, set discussions, set disputes, set times we ate, drank, slept. Regimented if only for the fact otherwise we would float through our boredom and the ‘unprecedented’ uncertainty. We had no complaints compared with others we knew. Life was good, if paused, and coronavirus seemed fair away. A daily news update away.
Sisters returned. Disruption and distraction. Summer was now upon us and the seasons had changed but not much else, four faces increased to more and slowly we could dip our toes into a semblance of what formerly had been the status quo. The world was, and still is, in turmoil protesting racism and entrenched systems ensuring inequality, division and pain. The pause for the world only exacerbated existing inequality but now there was movement towards what would hopefully be a better world for all. But the world is pretty shit and so are all of us in it.
September. University. A promise of normal. What did we get instead? A backlash against the young being ‘reckless’ and ‘endangering’ others but no-one thinking maybe we are all drowning, and this is the only way for some to stay afloat. The number of suicides I heard about became higher. Friends struggling. Young people dying. Mental unease creeping in. Unhappiness. Disillusionment. Despair. Fuck the system. The debate of health over freedom, freedom over health? Friendships tested and the continual threat of isolation. What does isolation mean? Watching TV. Not watching TV as then we watch too much dystopian and read too much dystopian and now are thinking and thinking and concerned. We cannot return to normal, but we cannot stay as we are so now what do we do?
Then the dark months came. November merging into December. Struggling through the days and becoming as sluggish as the sun in Edinburgh trying to give us a tiny boost of vitamin D.
Now. Now we will see what happens as we search for optimism. Look for the things that can bring happiness. Trees in autumn, fresh air, the crunch of frost under foot, winter lights, a hot water bottle and music in all of its forms. 8 months become 9. I could have made a human in this time but what have I actually achieved?