Derelict/immaculate: A story about the illusion of meritocracy in a pandemic.

How many months have you spent at home now?

It felt like limbo at first. My schedule was about to become a yawning, couch-based loungeathon, something that, if I’m being completely honest, was almost a thrilling prospect. But it didn’t take long for it to become an empty boredom. A numbness in the back of the head that, under normal circumstances I fed with bad habits and loneliness. But eventually, through the hours spent gorging on fast food and Netflix, the feeling had begun to eat into me. I needed a routine. So I developed one.

How did I live without one before? Coming home from work every night was the beginning of my nightly self-medication ritual of doing as little as I possibly could. Life was some affliction that needed constant nursing. A life drip fed by antibiotics to help take the pain away. Medicine to make the mundane bearable. Preoccupations with loneliness, with dreaming of someone to sit next to as the television flickered across my dwelling. The junky YouTube habits that makes a misery out of the disenfranchised, the poor, the stupid. And what about the social media that pits us versus them? All this time to myself, with the time to think properly, clearly, with the space to let myself breathe a little makes the nihilism of our world impossible to ignore. Hasn’t all this time to ourselves helped point out just how sad it all is? The things we do to ourselves to make the grind that much more bearable?

Could I be the only one?

Can you imagine having to return to work after all this? After everything we know? How will we face our bosses and co-workers again in the same way? After all this. We’ve seen beyond the rat race now like the cracks in the wall that chipped away revealing the spaces in-between. Going back there is going to feel like we’re going backwards. We escaped the prison but the authorities were ready for us at the border. Waiting with their paddy wagons, hands gripping their batons. A sweat soaked sneer, high-fives and puffed out chests. They never got away they’ll say. We got ’em.

Well, folks. It was nice while it lasted, wasn’t it? What hobbies did you pick up? Did you learn an instrument? Did you start working out? Did you enjoy the sunset in the evening, guilt-free? Bedtime was the last thing on your mind. Did you enjoy alcohol on a work night, not too much, but just enough to make you smile? And after, did your sleepy thoughts wander aimlessly to the people you miss? Did it make you happy? Did you call your friends? You were excited, weren’t you? Yes – of course – tell me about your day. For once, I sincerely want to know. Did you get your morning routine just right, like I did? Wake up at 8, breakfast at half past, workout at 9? After a month of that, did you feel relaxed, positive… grateful?

Could this be healthier?

No, that can’t be.

Governments are invested in you. They poured everything into you, the human experiment. You were supposed to be the batteries. You’re the fuel that burns in the engine, slow incineration, everlasting immolation. You were supposed to power this machine forever. Forever. Forever.

Maybe it was always supposed to be this way, and we got a day in the sun by some unfortunate circumstances, the consequences of which we all have to live with. It’s just some accident that landed in our laps. We shouldn’t treasure that which is brief. This is fleeting. What happened is impossible and it may never happen again. Maybe the economy couldn’t possibly survive a future of all this, of us living healthier lives? Sure, capitalism is flawed, it’s not perfect, but the prosperity we enjoy today was impossible without it. There’s not a better system on earth right now. Isn’t that what they say, on TV?

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I’m not really smart enough to argue against that. Our privilege, comparatively, to the rest of earth is staring us in the face. It’s possible that capitalism has done that. But the privilege has a price. That being locked into a socially alienated system is making us totally miserable and depressed, has us at each other’s throats. It’s a possibility that the light between the walls is something different. It’s possible that the loneliness of capitalism was designed, on purpose, to draw out our differences more than our similarities. That all the disparate groups at the fore of social issues now are a result of capitalisms dreary mission to make you all feel completely alone. I’ve always wanted to know if there’s more to life than car insurance and impressing the boss. I know some of you do, too. Aren’t you all tired?

Some day this is all going to end.

Not everyone was as lucky as me – The virus has torn people apart, has killed our loved ones, has got us fired from jobs. Like a lot of people, I operate from a position of relative privilege. Regardless, we got to bide our time, we caught up with our loved ones, we got healthier and better. Why can’t everyone have that opportunity? We educated ourselves where before we were ignorant. Where we self-medicated with drugs and fast food, we now watch the injustices unfold with renewed anger. I look at people with a respect I forgot I had because I used to come home from work and just wanted to forget. I wanted to be nothing – a parasite scuttling across the ocean floor, a microscopic entity subsisting in the background of life. When I’d been through too much to care, capitalism was beside me to put me to bed at night. Forget about it for now it said. Nothing matters. But that’s just an empty platitude. It’s empty like the experience it wants you to have.

I’m not smart. I just know how I feel. And I feel healthier than ever, happier than ever, and angrier than ever. Angrier that we let our world get so corrupted and broken. I’m more motivated than ever to have a wonderful life that I may be able to pass on to others. To the people of this world that haven’t had the opportunity to do it for themselves. I owe these feelings to this moment, right here: lockdown 2020. Maybe it’s capitalism, maybe it was us. But we know now what we must do. I know you know this, too. So lets be healthier in the future. Not just for you, but for everyone.

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