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I’ve never really been a “Make lemonade” kind of guy. When I’m handed a lemon, I simply hand it back. I don’t even squeeze it into my half-empty glass to make it half-full. But after six months of horrors, fears and lockdowns, the new me is willing to try and find a redeeming message from out of the darkness. Otherwise, why even bother going on?
And so: while I was initially panicked to have so much more free time than usual, I eventually started using that time to do things I normally wouldn’t fit into my schedule. For one thing, I cleaned and spruced up parts of my apartment I hadn’t dealt with for years. (Did you ever realize how many crumbs can lodge themselves behind a couch cushion? Shocking.) Of course, the irony is that I can’t have company over these days to see how spotless things are. But a plus is that my movie club –which used to meet about every six weeks at my place – has moved to Zoom, where we’ve been able to do it twice a week, thanks to everyone’s availability and the convenience-making magic of the internet. Sharing good/bad films with friends has been an escapist joy, especially since we entertainingly text thumbs-up-or-down commentary to each other throughout the filmgoing experience.
In June, when New York City restaurants were allowed to reopen for outdoor dining, I started spending way more time having leisurely meals with cohorts without the urgency of having to cut things short to run to a play, movie or deadline. For once, there was nowhere else to go!
More significantly, friends have noted that I’ve become more human and caring as a result of the crisis. I’m not so career-driven right now because there is no career, LOL, and that’s forced me to play up my human connections, even at a time when those are awkward to make. When a friend lost his cellphone while we were bike riding together (yet apart), I gladly helped him retrace our steps and look for the thing. Where else did I have to be? When another friend was strangely incommunicado on a day that we had plans, I ran to his place and talked to the doorman and some tenants to try and find out if he was OK. I even helped arrange for cops to come over and do a wellness call. (Mercifully, it turned out nothing was wrong; he had just gone to sleep and passed out.) The old me would have probably just assumed the guy was fine and focused on the rigors of my own schedule – you know, me, me, me.
Meanwhile, I’ve also found myself talking to strangers a lot more – albeit masked and 6ft away. After the initial terror of interaction, the shared crisis has broken down our walls and forced us to reach out for lifelines. I don’t think it’s only the freeing of time that’s brought out more empathy in me. It’s also been the pain of losing people (an aunt, four friends and two icons), the weirdness of constantly being on guard, and the frustration with the zealots and Covid deniers. It all makes me feel like a warrior who needs to elevate matters and right some wrongs, not just seek personal success.
The claustrophobia of being home so much has also helped light a fire under my butt and forced me out into the street for protests. During the early days of the Aids crisis in the 1980s, I joined the activist group Act Up, which helped channel my grief, terror and rage. Well, this time, civil rights concerns, fueled by the Covid despair and cabin fever, propelled me to leave my apartment and fight for Black Lives Matter –though I’m always distanced from the crowd, as nervous as I am righteous. The dire realities in the air helped a lot of us go from armchair activists who thought an angry Facebook post was enough, to actually going out and chanting for change.
But maybe the main difference lately is that – with the economy crashing – I’ve been busier looking for writing work than actually doing any. In the process, I’ve taken on a semi-regular editing gig because nowadays you grab any job you can get. I hadn’t edited in decades, but that skill came right back to me. I’ve enjoyed tweaking other people’s words for greater effect. This could start a whole new career for me, which could be a very interesting twist of this particular lemon.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: I’m not a ‘make lemonade’ kind of guy. But the lockdown changed me | US news