What NOW?

Uncertainty; new freedom, or new cage?

What NOW?
Photo by Kristaps Grundsteins on Unsplash

For the past few weeks, I worked on adapting to a new lifestyle, a lifestyle strictly influenced by the world’s reaction to the pandemic. I actively worked on my view of the world, while analyzing personal life decisions. I am not one to regret past choices, I move forward regardless of the circumstances. But this time, I had finally accepted my reality—my altered reality.

After the struggle to decipher what my future life could look like, after analyzing everything that brought me to my current spot, and after all the new work I’ve been practicing; my old life creeped into my e-mail stating that things were going to change—again. Things were going back to how they were—before I was laid off and unemployed. Naturally, I should feel a sense of relief, I should see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, no, I felt the opposite.

Quarantine dragged me out of a tunnel I didn’t know I was in. I came to find out that the life I was living failed to make me happy. Maybe it made my ego very proud, and healthy and strong. But to me—Isabel, that lifestyle was slowly dragging me further from true, organic happiness. Finally drifting away from my entitled self, away from my materialistic and superficial values, finally free from expectation. After hearing the news that things may slowly turn back to “normal”, my body went into a sort of shock, like getting sucked into an unwanted life, a past reality—like reliving a nightmare. An extremely unprecedented feeling.

So what happens now? Do I accept the change and wear those shoes again? Or, is it time to change destination and follow a new direction? Did isolation wake me up to what’s important? Maybe isolation defeated my former self only to reveal whatever was hiding inside.

It feels backwards, like a puzzle even. I feel lost the same way I felt when the state declared a global pandemic. I realize now that this drastic life adjustment helped me see, and feel, and widen my awareness to appreciate a different view.

Over the past few weeks I responded to a new calling. A calling that could maybe translate into a distraction. But I don’t feel distracted, I feel more focused than ever. Focused on my feelings and emotions and motivations. I feel awake, almost in a Buddhist way—a self-awareness way, I don’t know. I can still see the crossroad in my head.

Option 1: go back to your abandoned life and continue as you were.

Option 2: don’t go back and take your new self somewhere else.

Decisions, decisions. Door one, or door two. Each hold a world of opportunities, each hold a world of problems. Where do I go from here?

Even if things go “back to normal”, how normal will we come out of this, really? Throughout this pandemic, I’ve had conversations with myself that I never made time for—never had time for. I shared my space, food, and time with the roommates I used to see only on my workless hours of the week. Sometimes unable to recognize myself—myself who used to go to work Monday-Friday, eight hours a day; and now here’s the same girl who now writes, and draws and listens to music, and fills her head with new information, thoughts and ideas. A head full of curiosity, a head previously full of tasks on other people's schedules—I feel free!

And some days I get angry at everyone and anyone. Angry because I’m in a limbo between saying what I feel, telling everyone that they’re annoying me; or do nothing and wait for things to pass—wait for my mind to forget. I battle between what to express and what to contain because living with anyone 24/7 for this long feels incarcerating. Sharing is invasive. Making an effort is draining. And at the same time, it gets a lot easier because we all care a little less, less every day, days that go by and we walked no more than 300 steps.

We are tired, homesick and emotional. We miss the city.

I miss New York, even though I could barely afford anything, and my commute to work was never short of an hour; I miss the dirty streets; the rats; the homeless man; and the subway. I long for the lights at night and the busy streets, and Soho, and Central Park, and bar hopping in the East Village. I miss my city—the city I fought so hard to move to, that cost me everything to make a reality.

Quarantine has me bouncing from thought to thought and from emotion ‘A’ to emotion ‘B’ at all hours of the day. I have to sit myself down and try to meditate in hopes that my mind will slow down for at least a few “so-called” seconds. A few moments of peace and quiet, a brief pause so my brain can take a break from so much emotional turmoil. Trying to stop passive thoughts is exhausting.

The beginning of 2020 began as most New Year’s begin; set goals, self-motivate to achieve them, and carry on to those mental checks in hopes to reach the high stars we admire from earth. We knew that this year carried heavy, uneasy baggage from 2019, yet we remained excited to relive the 20s! The golden era, in NYC, with all the commodities we live with, and the steady life we’ve built for ourselves; the lifestyle we once wished for, a life style we nurture and work to fulfill.

I began this piece with a problem; a problem out of my control, out of my capacity to solve. Or so that’s what I thought—until a few days later when I realized how fortunate I was to have this specific problem—a problem where any outcome would impact my experience; because ‘problem a’ threatens my lifestyle the same way as ‘problem b’. “How?” (You might ask), because the problem is only that—a problem, it always will be; the only thing in our control is how we solve it. What lesson, what punishment, what decision—which direction? I could choose to stay or go, the only real question is; where to next?

Covid-19 is shedding light on a new way of living, adapting and socializing. It's up to us how we fill in the gaps, how we direct our thoughts, and which attitudes we choose to embody. It's not easy to dig out positivity during such uncertainty, but problems will never cease to come our way. All we can control is how we welcome these problems.

So, where to next?

Isabel Valencia Zuñiga
Isabel Valencia Zuñiga
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