One Year Since Lockdown: Where are We?

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A new year usually meant a new beginning, a time of refreshing in which we leave behind the year that had gone before and look forward to the days ahead. Whenever a new year would roll around, I would take out my planner and list down all the things I want to do that year – travel, attend concerts, figure out what I want to be. For the past few years of my life, it had always been this way.

This year was different.

When the year began, instead of excitement or hopefulness, I felt an overwhelming sense of dread. I felt as if I was standing at the edge of a building and was about to fall over, with no safety net to catch me. The thought that I was going to waste another year to the pandemic was always at the top of my head, and reading about the continuous rise in the number of cases and not seeing a solid plan of action from the government, the apprehension just wouldn’t go away, and it looks like it wasn’t going away soon.

During the first few months, I found myself refusing to accept the new reality. I wanted to believe things were going to be better soon – that I just had to hold on until that happens and then life would start moving again. Time paused for me. All the plans I had for 2021 went down the drain. And by the time I realized that things wouldn’t be returning to how they were before as I had initially hoped, I had wasted so much time waiting.

I’ve been working from home since March last year, and while I’m grateful, my heart breaks for my friends who had no choice but to continue working in the field. Working from home isn’t as appealing as it sounds either, I’ve discovered. There’s the challenge to be productive in a place that was normally meant for rest. I had even started missing the commute to my office that served as the clean line separating work from life. Add to this the restlessness I was constantly feeling because of the global health crisis.

When the government decided to ease lockdown regulations, I had to watch my dad go back to his workplace where he could potentially get infected. Since more people were going outside, trips to the grocery to buy food supplies had also become more terrifying.

In the last 12 months we saw family members losing their jobs, friends losing their loved ones and the hope in people’s eyes slowly dimming as the supposed three-month community quarantine dragged on to feel like one long lockdown. From our homes, we demanded the government to do something, but instead we got subpar contact tracing methods and a sick economy.

After a year of lockdown, you would expect that things would have gotten better. That after all those months of staying at home, wearing masks and following social distancing protocols, the number of COVID-19 cases would have decreased. Instead, the number of cases continues to rise, even breaking previous records.

Even with the news of a vaccine, the uneasiness remains. A vaccine is supposed to be a beacon of hope. That is, as long as it was from a trustworthy brand. With the government expressing its preference for a vaccine with a significantly lower efficacy rate and less competitive price point, who can blame Filipinos for being apprehensive about getting vaccinated?

It has been a little over a year now and by the looks of it, we’ll be here for a little while longer. Perhaps until enough Filipinos are vaccinated so we can develop herd immunity, which the Department of Health predicts will be achieved by 2023. That’s two years from now.

A pretty long time to be sitting around and far too much time to spend wallowing in the what ifs. I want to snap out of it. And for a time, I was ready – ready to finally pull myself out of the pit I had pushed myself into and start putting my life back together.

But one year after the first lockdown and yet, we’re still here. Still hiding from the virus in our homes, still living in fear. I see how other countries have been handling the pandemic better, and I wish to be there instead. I know we shouldn’t be giving up here, but it’s difficult when we’re trying our best, but our government isn’t.

I’ve started getting used to my makeshift WFH setup. It’s better now than a year ago, at least. But at the back of my mind, I can’t help but think that this isn’t for me. And so, I’m still on the edge of my toes, hovering over my seat, refusing to sit down. It’s tiring.

There’s eight more months to 2021 and I honestly don’t know what to feel. But I want to be hopeful. I want to believe we haven’t been abandoned. No one knows what the future holds. A miracle might happen, who knows? I want to be here when that happens.

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