Where were you when the earth stood still?
It’s a question I know will be asked years from now. When the memory of this time fades into sanitized text and statistical graphs, when the comparisons of whose country did it best drown out the individual stories of air-kissing your parents goodbye not knowing it was truly goodbye. When America’s need to appear the “best country on earth” disappears the stories of the most vulnerable, the tossed aside, the abandoned.
Where was I?
My first diary was named Kitty, after reading the Diary of Anne Frank. I likely had no business reading it as young as I did but it was the first time I’d seen someone simply write till the world made sense. Chaos I understood, escaping into your head even more. Writing made space, gave room for new thoughts. Without it my childhood was a cloudy mass of memories interspersed with clear moments of fight-or-flight. Writing made room. And so I wrote. I wrote till the world made sense. I wrote to remember. I wrote to mark my place.
Where was I?
I often joke that I get one boyfriend per chapter in my life. Each knows me as one person and if they ever got together to compare notes the only thing they’d agree on is someone must have my name misspelled. Nowhere was that more evident than with my last, who begged me to take a break. “The entire time I’ve known you, it feels like you’ve been struggling,” he said, exasperated at my plans to begin another degree program without a pause. “It’s always, ‘I’ve just gotta make it till next week’ with you. Don’t you want to remember what life was like when you weren’t doing ALL the things?”
I barely remember. Before my life was a whirlwind of hurry-up-and-wait, progress to setback, opportunity to rejection I was here. Writing, cooking, brunching, beaching and writing some more. My words were the last to go. I wrote of Winter and closed the book, accepting that my words would be waiting for me on the other side.
For a time, they were not.
Without the anchor of words the clouds returned and each day blurred into the other; history replaced with a blinking cursor as my thoughts, now scrambled with no filing system, ran out of room. I could not tell you what I did three months or three days ago. Next week was yesterday as the world made less sense. I pushed forward like I always do, as what does my story matter if it is the same tale each day? I am building towards the future for the first time in my life, the “living’ part can wait. I have a financial planner and the next “big budget goal”! I have a degree to finish and a new career to embark on. Creating new chapters takes sacrifice. The living can wait. I have a future to build.
These days the word “future” almost seems a cruel joke. There is no projection, there is only what I can do today to find pockets of sanity in a sea of uncertainty. There are moments of joy in this solitary house, in chats with friends and video calls with family and virtual parties on social media. But mostly there’s just me. There is me, in this quarantine, and my words.
Where was I?
When they ask where I was when the earth stood still, I do not want my story lost to the fog of anxiety. And so, I write. I write till my world makes sense. I write to feel. I write to not lose any more years of my life. I write for me. I write to give breath to the words my mouth cannot say. I write for the words that have never left my side. I write to mark my place.
Where was I when the earth stood still?
I was here.
I am back.