I entered 2020 with much excitement. I began working as a freelancer and had all the time in the world to do everything I wanted. I thought this would be the year things would finally fall into place for me.
On January 13, I accompanied a foreign reporter to an interview with the boss of an industrial estate known to employ thousands of Chinese workers. Several days after that, I started having a bad cough, which gradually worsened over the following three weeks. Often times, my chest felt constricted and my breath was short. I went to the doctor twice and got antibiotics that just didn’t work. And, in early February, I suddenly recovered. Out of the blue.
On March 2, Indonesia’s first two Covid-19 cases were announced. In mid-March, there was an unconfirmed rumor that the wife of the man I interviewed in January passed away, possibly due to the novel coronavirus. After I heard that, I couldn’t help thinking that could be me.
On April 7, the Health Ministry approved Jakarta’s request to impose large-scale social restrictions and, at the same time, I completed a writing project for a big job portal website, which turned out to be my last freelance work before going into a six-month drought of jobs. During the drought, I became familiar with the ghosting methods of prospective clients, with “I’ll call you” being the most frequent promise they made. Well, who would care about freelancers when businesses are shattered and the public health system is collapsing?
Long story short, the pandemic has forced me to learn to drop my ego and let go. I must accept that some things, or people, are simply not meant for me, no matter how hard I try to pursue them. Hence, I’m now trying to be more grateful for all the things I have and for the chance to still be alive today.
As stated by Indian author Arundhati Roy, the pandemic has created a rupture and “forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew”. The pandemic, she said, is a gateway between one world and the next, and it’s our choice whether to walk through it with “carcasses of our prejudice and hatred” or with “little luggage” to be ready to fight for the new world.
I opt for the little luggage.