We are not permanent;
We’re Temporary, Temporary
Same old story
-Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”
I made a major life change in August of 2019. I moved to Indiana, from my home state of Tennessee, to support my boyfriend, as he finished his engineering degree at Purdue University.
The original plan was for him to graduate in December 2020 and for us to move back to Tennessee ASAP. Both of our families are there. I have a son who decided not to move with me to Indiana. Everything I know is there, plus better job prospects for both of our careers. But, the best laid plans, of mice and men, often go awry.
We didn’t do any of this the right way, so we decided to do it the wrong way. Eventually, things came together. We found a place, at the last minute, in July (because July is such a good time to look for housing in a college town). We switched on our utilities and internet, registered our vehicles with the state (I personally had to go to the BMV at least 4 times), and updated our mailing addresses on everything we could think of. It was chaotic and messy, and this barely brushes the surface of it. Let’s just say, I’m dreading my next move.
As I settled into our new life in Indiana, I got used to having Meijer and Menards, hard liquor in CVS, and lots of factories and farms. It was different, but not unfamiliar. Some backroads made me feel like I was still in Tennessee, even though I was 6 hours away from home. I remember my dad saying that 6 hours wasn’t so bad. I agreed with him until I actually moved. It’s felt light years away on most days.
But as our boxes unpacked and things found their place long enough for dust to settle, I started to feel like maybe I was already home. We went through a lot of trouble for it to be a temporary residence.
It’s so easy to make plans before they actually happen, isn’t it?
I wanted it to be cut and dried–move to Indiana, Colby gets his degree, then we move back. But knowing there was a deadline from the beginning certainly took me out of the moment. I didn’t want to get comfortable or commit to anything long-term, like friendships, volunteer programs, or career goals.
Following a temp project and a month of crippling unemployment, I got a full-time job in November 2019. I really liked being in an office environment and not in a customer-facing position. My coworkers and boss were cool, and it was overall low stress. It was quite the reprieve after years in retail hell.
Unfortunately, I knew from the beginning that my time there had an expiration date. I even had an approximate date in mind. When my coworkers questioned me about it, I tried to stay vague, saying “we’ll see what happens”, and being non-committal. But it tugged at my heart. I wanted to stay; I like feeling like I belong.
I don’t want to get comfortable though because I know I’ve got to pick back up and do all of this again in the next year or so.
Welcome to my state of impermanence.
But I told myself I could still visit Indianapolis (45 minutes away) and Chicago (2 hours away). I could still do things and make my mark on the state, while it made its mark on me. I didn’t have to let the temporary weigh me down.
And then March 2020 happened.
When everything first locked down in March, I was panicked, like a lot of other people. To what extent would this virus ravage the entire planet? Would this be plague-like levels of decimation around the world? Would people close to me get sick and die? Would I get sick and die?
As Covid-19 progressed and things got worse, we realized the end might not be in sight. That coming out of lockdown and reopening wouldn’t leave the coronavirus behind. Our new normal–masks in public, reduced shopping hours, increased safety precautions, half-capacity restaurants–might be happening for a long time. That is, if the government doesn’t force us back into lockdown because of the alarming rate of new cases.
I’ll just be blunt: it’s freaking scary to live during a pandemic. We are indefinitely in the throes of chaos, waiting, having no idea what will happen or when. It’s scary. The unknown is always scary. As humans, we just don’t like it. It’s unsettling to not be able to know the future, much less control it. We might have some educated predictions or vague ideas, but nothing is certain right now.
That uncertainty is a burden to carry around all the time. Whether we are thinking about it or not, it’s always there, silently dictating our actions and feelings behind the scenes. I’ve felt low energy and low mood on days with absolutely no reason to feel like that. Listlessness and boredom seemingly out of thin air. Randomly feeling hopeless about my own goals; a sense of nihilism in pursuing anything I love. Of course, I’m prone to depression, so it’s easy to blame that, but I don’t have a lot of the other hallmarks of the disorder right now. I think I’ve overall been a good place mentally, it’s just this weight that seems to press down on me.
And it’s not just me. The pandemic is wreaking havoc on our mental health. It’s not good to carry around so much uncertainty and fear. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, and these are just early numbers. We feel helpless. We feel hopeless. We feel scared. None of us have a clue what to do. We’re just doing our best. I, for one, am big on distractions, staying connected via online and phone to people I care about, and just trying to take care of myself.
I was already living in the temporary because of my Indiana/Tennessee situation, but the pandemic just kicked it into a new gear. I am living my life in the ephemeral; it’s not just a passing state anymore. Isn’t that ironic? Temporary is supposed to mean for a short while, not permanent. But it feels like it’ll be the default, forever.
It won’t, of course. We won’t live exactly like this forever. Things will stabilize one day. Even if the virus sticks around, we will develop a vaccine. Maybe not soon, but one day. We will re-adapt to life after the pandemic. Maybe it won’t be the pre-pandemic life we knew, but we will adapt. Humans are good like that. We will find “normal” again, whatever that will mean when we get to it. I will also move back to Tennessee, settle down in a nice house, find a good job, and live in a state of permanence one day.
But right now, hanging out in the temporary feels icky.
I’m doing my best to focus on short-term goals and give myself moments of joy. I’m focusing on the “here and now”, even if the here and now isn’t a great place to be.
Honestly, there’s not much else I can do besides that.
I can only control my actions and behaviors. I can’t control the pandemic. I can’t make time move faster. I can’t predict my own future outside of Covid, much less factoring that in. So I am doing things in my own little world, staying connected to those outside of it, and staying the hell away from people.
I hope you’re doing the same, in your state of impermanence.
(Also, please wear your mask in public, or at the VERY LEAST, stay the hell away from people when you go out.)