Cue the standard combination of ‘new normal’, ‘2020’, ‘covid-19’ keywords. May they fall from grace the second things are better.
The eyes of a 2020 graduate have lost hope, found clarity AND accepted the uncertainty with the gun of recession to their temple – all in under six months.
For me, the WFH phenomenon started when universities were shut in the second week of March. Initially, it meant staying with my friends and catching a break, but once the lockdown was announced, everything changed.
I was left with 4 pairs of clothes, no comb, a quarter of my stationery stash and the sorrow of rescinded job offers. Trying to chill in the living room metamorphosed into secondhand stress from seeing my friends slog along blurred timelines (#startuplife?) and leaving an incredible amount of mess in the house.
This arrangement gave way to panic attacks, unlike any I had witnessed so far. In June, even though I wasn’t ready for this, I decided to move back to Lucknow after 6 years of being away. Every single day without fail, between noon and 2 o’clock, the dread would kick in.
I am still unemployed. I am not working out or uploading certificates to LinkedIn. I spent the last decade partaking in the self-help discourse and I still can’t break out of problematic narratives about personal productivity. I am not going to be able to make Affogato work without my gear.
I am not doing enough. I AM NOT enough.
And yet, in my mind, this was the classic redemption arc.
Conquering one’s demons is a hard task, Saman. Job hunting has always been harrowing but considering the situation, with the pandemic and the world economy gone for a toss, you best believe this is going to be the hardest thing you’ve had to do up until now.
It’s never a binary, you know?
I was determined to make it work – one foot in front of the other, one hour at a time. For all I knew, I could have evolved into a Super Saiyan by the end of it. Instead, by the time June ended, I had an internship in hand.
The first tangible step into sustaining myself in a time like this had to mean something, right? A sign from the universe, a reaffirmation of my abilities. But I was mistaken.
This was just the beginning.
My brother is slated to get married in October so this is a shaadi ka ghar, which meant that if I had to work, I couldn’t participate in the preparations. Due to the lockdown imposed on weekends, everything had to be done during the week, and I was there for none of it.
That decade spent partaking in the productivity discourse meant I knew everything about habits and routines. I would wake up before anyone else to have some quiet time, meditate and not look at my phone before diving head first into work. I tried my absolute best at crafting some time for peace.
And yet I had none of it.
Nine hours of concentrated output, though initially a great ride, soon turned my days into a blur.Family saw less and less of me, and therapy became my saving grace. Most days, I would eat less than two meals in a day because taking breaks is frowned upon and there is no coordination or consensus about a uniform conduct for WFH.
Two months into this, I broke. No amount of avoiding screens, yelling affirmations and practicing yoga can fix a broken WFH protocol.
My back and tailbone stopped responding to the pain medication and I lost my period.
In an age where we must choose between exploitation and losing out on opportunities, I chose the former and suffered to depths I couldn’t imagine. Throw in the uproar of pending exams and a splash of an incoming wedding, and you get a cocktail so potent, it can give you the hangover of the century.
Once sleep left the chat, I knew something had to be done. Changing the culture of a place is a losing battle, and not wanting to compromise on my health any further, I put in my papers.
I recount this experience with a blazing hot cup of KC Roaster’s Marvahulla Estate at my side with a calendar marking the countdown to my proverbial freedom.
If Stoicism has taught me to anticipate the worst, and anxiety has taught me to trust my instincts, then freshly brewed coffee has taught me to recognize the significance and joy of the small things.
It’s alright to let go of some things. As long as I am powered by good coffee in my veins and the sustained trust in my eyes, I am capable. I am enough.
And after all, isn’t this just the beginning?
About the Author
Saman Fatima Nomani is a writer and educator by day, and an anime connoisseur by night. She takes her Pokemon, plans, ideas and coffee very seriously. She dreams and dances to J-Rock. In her natural habitat, you will never find her without a journal, gel pen, books and other comfort items.