One of the perks of anticipating the end of life is the way it makes you value things you once took for granted. First time you heard about COVID-19, you laughed it off, you assumed it was just another form of influenza that would have little effect on your life. In a remarkably short time, it was the only subject in town. You were caught by surprise. Your life suddenly and profoundly changed within the space of days.
You started off the year auspiciously. You had a wonderful family time in January. Your elder brother flew out of the country in February. He assured you, in confidence that you were also going to leave home soon. Your ex-girlfriend texted that she was finding it impossible to move on. Everything was moving smoothly until a few hours before your birthday in March.
Around 11PM, you received a notification on your phone. It was one of those ‘We regret to inform you that your application has been declined’ emails. You became overly distraught. You took your devastated self to sleep hoping that birthday messages from people would revitalize your energy to rise again. When you woke up, your phone which was super active and fully charged wouldn’t switch on due to some operating systems defaults. You couldn’t view, respond, nor reply to your friends. You went MIA on your big day. No communication, no explanations. Only left with the knowledge that bandwidths of good wishes were floating in the virtual spaces, but you couldn’t see them. That day, you felt as though you were at a living funeral receiving flowers you could no longer smell. You would spend the next five months, lockdown period without a phone.
March ending, the government announced the compulsory lockdown of every sector of life. Airports shutdown, religious gatherings postponed, schools shutdown. Your student friends had to come back home. You started receiving updates from NCDC, numbers kept going up like streams from a newly released hit song. As the numbers went up, so did your panic and anxiety.
Beginning of the lockdown, you were out with your friends exchanging your plight about how challenging, stretching, sobering and ultimately boring the lockdown was becoming. You all talked of an idea of a routine exercise every morning since there was no recorded case in your town yet. A friend suggested you rather get a football to play. Another friend volunteered to buy the ball. By the next week, a camaraderie football team was formed. You all agreed to call the team “Lockdown Heroes”.
Weeks passed, you invited your friends over to play FIFA19 on PS. You were all keen on forgetting the severity of the damages caused by the virus so you play tournaments. Your friends came every day to spend more than half a day at your place. Then June came and everything got tighter. Lockdown rules got stricter. Relatable economic hardship became visible and evident in your daily discourse as you named your FIFA tournaments numerically. Before you realized, you were on your “Lockdown: 21st Tournament”. Nobody cared about who won anymore. You just played to erode the anxiety that ate you up every day. Then one day, it was announced that the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari died of the virus. More paranoia was sent in the air. You began to be more careful about every contact you made. Began to be uncomfortable about even your friends’ visit. Or maybe you were just scared that this might be the beginning of the end of days. Especially after they registered 3 new cases of the virus in your state that same week.
Another day came, then another. One day, your only device of catching fun also caught a cold, gave up the ghost and crashed. Your PS overheated, even the console wore out and there was nobody to console you. That was when you felt the last straw. The loneliness. When you got pushed to the wall. When you realized there were no more options to compromise but to fight back. Fight back the boredom, anxiety and depression that enveloped you. You lost faith, then regained it. You tried to understand God’s ways more, His grace, His providence, His favour. And even His silence, especially in that turbulent time. Or maybe God wasn’t completely silent. Maybe he responded in tones of rainfall, morsels of food, in every single breath but you were too distracted by the rising number of cases to notice. Or maybe somehow, you found the eloquent silence comforting.
You lost the track of time hoping time doesn’t lose track of you. You resorted to finding new things to do. New legal things to do. New spiritual practices. Binging movies, timing yourself to finish a book every week. Now you can proudly say that African Writers Series has got nothing on you. You learned chess. You also wowed your friends when you hit premium on scrabble. Just appreciating the simple things of life. Now you have received the gift of time in which to slow down and contemplate. You are reminded that there is a time for everything in life. You seek for divine companionship to look at each day as a new opportunity to be more compassionate, hospitable and loving.
To those of us who lost loved ones this year, may the deceased find repose in the bosom of the divine. To those of us who are still grappling with the complexities of the times, we are not waiting on things to go back to normal but to reimagine how transformed we will be by the changes happening.
So much depends on digging deep into our souls to find the spark of hope and creativity. Such strategies only occur to us in times of adversity, when our usual glide through routine conformity is disrupted. And as we continue to overcome, just like some of us overcame, we are all Lockdown Heroes.