There are probably a number of Coronavirus diaries floating around the internet. But right now, I need to share my personal lockdown experiences with those who have still hung around (and may stumble across my blog).
I call myself an American expat in London. That term, expat, is subjective, but I’m using it to describe myself.
I moved to London from the Bronx officially in November of 2018. Cut to 2020, the Coronavirus has landed.
International travel and typical interactions (running to the store for snacks without facing a line, or riding the tube without a care) are a thing of the past. Nothing is normal and everyone could be a carrier.
Well, that’s how things have been playing out in London. Until today, when Boris made the announcement that more common spaces and trips to other households would return to a new normal. It feels so arbitrary if I’m being honest. I want things to go back to normal but are things really safe? What can we really expect to happen and will I find myself back at the office in no time flat? Is it bad of me to say I enjoy working at home (mostly).
As an American in London during these times, I find it particularly interesting. Not only am I going through lockdown, further removed from friends and family in NYC, but I’m also witnessing the Black Lives Matter protests around George Floyd’s murder. It’s startling. It’s jarring. And I find myself questioning everything about race and what is and shouldn’t be – much more than I typically question race.
Conversations of race were a point of conversation at work for a few days during the pandemic but not so much anymore. I ask myself if I should be annoyed by this or hopeful that work is being done behind the scenes. I’d like to believe the latter but I never really know what’s happening.
Sometimes I don’t even know what people are thinking and I spiral into thoughts that second guess what I think is happening, and what should be happening, and what others say should be happening. It’s a vicious cycle.
But I digress, untangling some of my feelings about race is a separate blog. This is about being in lockdown in London.
What is it like? I imagine it’s similar to being in lockdown in NYC. People choose whether or not to wear masks out in public and gloves aren’t mandatory. People are told to line up outside of supermarkets, standing 2 meters apart, but not everyone follows those rules. They sometimes pretend they don’t see lines and have the audacity to try to skip ahead of people. Legit had a guy try to skip me after I waited roughly 30 minutes to get into Boots (a local chain pharmacy).
Others seem to blatantly disregard the rules, not trying to keep any distance on the sidewalks, or sit out in parks chatting with their friends in the sun. I saw people tanning outside my apartment in the small patch of grass near my cul de sac and friends having a communal rooftop gathering across the way. Was I jealous? Maybe. I was definitely annoyed that I have been following the rules while others just do what they please.
But at this point, it doesn’t matter anymore, as Boris made it so people could go outside for more than their one time a day exercise. They can also meet up with six people outside as long as they mind social distancing guidelines. And starting July 4th, all hell will break loose.
However this time to sit in and reflect in lockdown has felt so weird and nonexistent. I don’t know what to reflect on, what to look forward to and what hope I should have. I also haven’t had any time to reflect. I’ve been so busy at work that I’m too tired to assess what I’m feeling. And let’s face it, if you’re forced to be indoors, who wants to feel forced into confronting feelings of inadequacy (or whatever you have floating in your mind).
But don’t get me wrong, I still have hope. Hope to meet up with people. Hope to go back to NYC. Hope to travel to far away places again. But I’ve also felt stagnant. Lost without a real sense of what’s next but clinging to the idea that there is something ahead (and I do know that in my heart there’s something ahead).
I think a lot of people have been feeling that way in London (and around the world), stuck. Not sure of what to make of their futures and the future of their family. Some have felt that planning life is over while others have felt inspired to do, make, launch. I can’t put my finger on the London vibe but if I had to call it, I’d say nonchalance. Everyone here seems blase and just ready to have their lives restored. That quiet British way of saying, “World, we’re right and we’re fine because we’re British.”
I’ve also felt connected and disconnected. Everyone has been forced to interact online which is great for me. It’s like everyone in my family or friend group is living abroad. But at the same time, I feel like people in NYC are doing their own thing, separate from me. That’s ok but it’s weird how you can feel a little disconnected.
But that’s enough for now. Lockdown in London has been a lot. Things are changing however so I hope to see more positive things come from this.