A LETTER TO PRE-PANDEMIC ME
WHAT WILL YOUR MEMOIR SAY?
You’ll be in Israel when it happens: a panic attack will follow a longing for the motherland. The Byron Bay in you will, at first, subscribe to ideologies of conspiracy, skeptical of the vaccine, figuring you are more knowledgable of epidemics than virologists. Life will kick your God complex to the curb and replace it with a desire to belong—to be like the other girls—as if a syringe of community concern could replace your fragile ego.
You get the vaccine. But not before you are heart broken in a way that you never reasonably thought possible.
Symptoms of BROKEN HEART SYNDROME: severe chest pains.
How ironic. Your death certificate will say you were the girlfriend before he got engaged; an ominous shadow that leaves a stain whispering notion of something lacking. (But fear not, Hannah, you survive.) You drink margaritas at your wake. And then, like all train wrecks, you solidify purgatory by sleeping with your ex-best friend’s ex-boyfriend for six months. This would make great material if it wasn’t simply a momentarily embodiment of the devil—except that isn’t true, you deserve the pity party: “Babe, we’re like living through a fucking pandemic.”
As if my pandemic, sun-kissed and Centrelink supported, was anything compared to being crammed in a two-by-two apartment in Milan. Or a refugee camp. Or a skeleton mission in Lightning Ridge, where First Nations people, lore men and women of the Lucky Country, are still overlooked in policy reform and institutional referendums. How politically viral it could have been if we had ritualised operationalisation of Closing The Gap. Instead we used COVID-19 optics to rally moral order, and measure our dicks against freedom of choice. I’d tell you now to check your privilege.
And you do.
You become woke and commission it like currency in a Kardashian economy. Because you aren’t thin enough to be Kate and lack the finances to have a BBL, you decide to exercise intellectualism, as mum told you: “Get your ass up and fucking work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.” And then, you internalise it. A Mullimbimby-esque call to self-sovereignty that blurs the line between a diagnosed superiority complex and empowerment; work becomes Are you doing the work? I love Gen Z.
The glaring truth is that these next few years will break you.
You’ll trade Santorini for psych wards. Ayahuasca in a “you just had to be there” Brazilian community for 200 mg of Sertraline. You’ll spend Valentine’s Day alone for the first time in four years, sending your love to everyone but yourself; your grandfather heaven side; your grandmother earthside; your abuser, who needs love the most—sick fuck. You’ll get your entire stomach tattooed—‘fearless’ in Old Gothic font, how sui generis—as if each line of ink will somehow stitch you back together, or make you more attractive, edgier, more relevant.
As you fall out of the algorithm, your 4000 views being replaced with 109 likes, you join the Great Recession, your redundancy must feel similar to the single mother with two toddlers who lost her job. Mandated masks come off, and you notice almost everyone’s lips have grown 2ML over the winter, a different facade invisible to the untrained eye. You opt out of surgery for personal reasons, and aim for self-improvement. How sanctimonious; celery juice, hot yoga, manifestation. Feel the fear but do it anyway—your mantra moves six times, shedding your skin seven. Because the pandemic has taught us that cliches are law. ‘
As the light shows itself, you are left with only your accolades. An accrued 40 hours of Victims Compensation Counseling and a new ferociousness to live. For each mountain you have climbed over the last two years, you have learned what it is like to sit in nothing but rubble; a blood-stained PTSD episode, an abusive relationship, a depression bedroom that hums nothing but Desperate Housewives. In this viewing of late-stage capitalism, there are no winners in the grind-or-die mindset.
But, what will your memoir really say?
You begin to wonder when you started giving a fuck about everything but yourself. An anti-vaxxer tells you to, “Open your eyes!” (To allow grief is a thankless task.) You realise that the threat to your survival isn’t contaminated surfaces, but rather the fact you’ve transmuted into someone you don’t even recognise.
Somewhere within your five kilometre radius, you stop going to the world’s edge, and you begin to recenter it. Forgiving your father. Forgetting about warm beds you no longer occupy. Foreclosing self-perpetuated drama. You will find God in the simplicity of lust and the local fish and chip shop. The violence continues to be given and received. But, you learn to take your lessons standing up.
Keep going. You’re heading to a place called home.