After seeing an article in The Guardian called A letter to my post-lockdown self, my friend Vicky was inspired to gather friends together to write letters to our future selves. Below is a version of what I submitted to her a week later. All the submissions given to the project entitled This Time Next Summer can be found on facebook.
They say you shouldn’t look back.
But I know I will, and I believe I should.
For looking back I will remember the good, the bad and the grief. The missed opportunities. The choices and the consequences.
2020 made us all take stock.
Some friendships were cemented and others broken. And I discovered who is really there when the going gets tough and who is there in name only. Friendships were a challenge with physical distance and emotional exhaustion of everyday life tasks having to be carefully planned, thought out, prepared and solved.
As the regular routines of busy social schedule were pared down and we were forced indoors, our phones came out, and screen time soared. It was harder to ignore the racism and injustice. As we watched the faces of those doctors and nurses memorialised as COVID-19 took their lives, there was a clear trend of melanin. The ‘M’ in BAME was not the minority in the reporting of the frontline workers who were dying from this.
Why was that?
We watched a young man being hunted down while out jogging. And then we watched as a woman didn’t like being asked to follow the rules of a nature reserve area respond by weaponising her white skin and femininity against a Black man. We watched once again as police killed a person outnumbered begging for breath and his dead mother.
And a lot of us said “No more.”
And others said “But we aren’t like that”
People whose voices had been undervalued and suppressed finally got heard. Some of the more privileged kept quiet and took it in, realising that they had much to unlearn.
Other privileged people felt the threat of their power they and their ancestors had held for centuries being usurped.
For some this meant simply staying silent.
For others this meant showing their true colours.
I realised that some friends weren’t the people I thought they were.
Statues long ago erected as messages of power to the oppressed were unveiled for what they truly were. Some were pulled down and recoloured with messages of truth. People took to the streets and parks in solidarity. For some it was a message they had been trying to get across for decades. For others it was an awakening to looking at the single story they been told over and over until it was steeped in their consciousness to accept without question.
And people to to the streets ready for violence, crying that their platform was being taken away.
And we saw. We saw how the authorities of the land treated those who called for justice vs those who cried it was their birthright for being born with white skin.
I will remember those that listened. And I will remember those who did not.
I will remember not only my dying, but my friends’ dying. I had always assumed there would be another time, and now I know that’s not always true. You simply do not know when life could change forever.
The coffee with a friend you put off, the cinema trip you postponed or that thing you always planned to do ‘at some point’ – they have a different priority level on this side of the coin.
I was one of the lucky ones. I have come out of the other side.
But there are empty spaces that can never be refilled. Milestones dropped that we cannot go back in time to do. I will not easily forget the tears of grief, the frustration of separation and the knowledge that it can’t be brought together again.
I will hug my friends again.
The ones who are still here, at least.
I will enjoy the sound of waves crashing onto the shore, the feel of sand blowing into my face, the smell of salt in the air and the coolness of the water lapping around my feet.
I will feel the bounce of the forest floor, hear the swishing of the wind breezing through trees, the scent of mosses and leaves and listen to the birds calling to one another.
I will fight for the arts to be re-birthed again through the creation of music, film and the education of comedy to make us more self aware.
But most of all I will remember.
Remember a time when leaders didn’t pay attention to science. When children showed resilience and patience with the grown ups who didn’t know what to do. I will remember the tears and the gratitude.
And hope with all my heart that we don’t forget all we learned.