Hopelessness. A feeling or state of deep despair and the complete absence of hope. A word with an abundance of ’s’s and no answers. A shout into a void of emptiness. The smog-filled sky of a dusty city, unrelenting voices inside your head, newspaper headlines, and loud debates filled with empty rhetoric, a numbness that sinks deep into your bones. The fading away of a year spent locked up in your room. The empty look in the eyes of children glazing over at the harsh glow of online classes. My words too, evade me like they are following social distancing. Hopelessness, it seems is a meritoriously popular term of self-reference in the midst of a pandemic.
It began when they said, “stay at home, just a few more days and we will break the chain”. In March I listened with hope. I took up baking and the occasional Dalgona coffee. When they said this again in April I knew deep down that I am privileged. I have a home, parents, and all the comforts of basic healthcare. My heart ached at the plight of migrant workers so I pushed the tendrils of sadness to the back of my mind because what is my sadness compared to theirs? Incomparable to say the least.
They once again insisted in May, just a few more weeks. I felt empty. The whispers of melancholy had found a voice. They grew louder in June, a month of summer break, sweat and travel dragged out in a stifling and dark room. July arrived with rain that smelled like sanitizer and chemicals instead of earthy and fresh as it washed an already bleached and colorless city. August came and went. Bland and sterile. Feeling exactly like the months, weeks, and days that stretched impossibly bleak before it.
Now I sit in September feeling unbearably suffocated, lost, numb, and with no desire to do anything. A deep-rooted soul clenching sense of hopelessness. This paralyzing feeling of despair has lingered in my mind ever since 20th March 2020. My day has no beginning and no end, nothing to look forward to except an empty city in apocalypse appropriate gear on weekends only meant for groceries. The same white walls of my home have begun to feel like a prison. Irrational thoughts have clouded my judgment to the point where I nearly want the world to reopen regardless. I almost envy those who go out despite every news channel vehemently advising against it.
So, what does one do? Yell at the walls till they start talking back? Or join the gaggle of tinfoil wearing conspiracy theorists calling the pandemic a hoax? A fairly impossible choice I know. How do we stop feeling so hopeless? As a rather lost college student with a worrying absence of motivation in life, I do not claim to have some or any of the answers. All I can offer are things that have worked for me.
In my moments of tremendous weakness, I take a deep breath, acknowledge my privilege and dream, childish daydreams. I dream of ordinary days. Days when social distancing was a phrase so peculiar we put it in italics, and quarantine was only a strange word with an impossible spelling. Days where I was more worried about the stairs to my 8:30 lecture than my Wi-Fi connection. When I saw my friends without a hazy screen and delay in audio. The rush of the metro, the sound of an automated voice mispronouncing ‘Bhikaji Cama Place’ or the perfect air-conditioning inside. The wind in an auto and crumpled notes of twenty. Human touch. Connection. The lazy dogs of college and the sleepy afternoon lull in an AECC class. I think of things so ordinary and mundane. Plain, basic, and repetitive. When all the world's major headlines seemed like human biases and manmade problems, all solvable.
In the middle of these vastly unimaginative daydreams though, it does strike me that even in the throes of our spiral, you and I still woke up this morning. Still wrote that assignment and stayed at home even when our souls yearned for the outdoors. We still read the news and tracked the cases despite the frightening figures. We both still made it to the end of this article and if that isn’t evidence of the faint sparks of hope still lingering in the corners of our minds, I don’t know what is.
Pesky as it is, hope refuses to leave. It flickers like a candle in an empty cold room that refuses to be put out. Some have more hope than others. Some days are more hopeful than others. Remember that that too is okay. Hope in defiance of it all, over surviving, gives us reasons to live. It makes us human. Let it in.
Admittedly the notion does sound a lot like a badly written fairy tale. Possibly quite whimsical and clichéd but maybe, the very need of this apocalyptic hour, till then, till the world stops ending, take care of yourself. I know you will get through this, I know I will get through this. Just breathe (through a mask preferably).
So, until I smile at you again in a crowded metro, sleep next to you in a slow-moving class or scream with you at an electric college fest, hold on. Hold on to that hope that lead you this far, for in the face of it all, I still truly hope, I see you soon.