does everything feel kind of...off right now
the past 18 months have hit hard
Recently I saw this:
It’s the only thing I’ve seen in writing in a while that actually acknowledged the weird feelings I’ve been having lately.
I recently moved into a place of my own again. If you ever want to get into minimalism, here’s my suggestion: move twice during and after a pandemic -- at least once cross country if you can. You’ll want less and less every time you move.
But I was talking to a friend about this post, and she talked about who she was 18 months ago like a totally different person. That’s how I feel too. March 2020 Sulagna was someone totally different compared to who I am now. She was bubblier, a bit scatter-brained, something of a hoarder and a shopaholic. She jokingly read people’s cards and energies. She was compulsive and restless in a way that I still am, but I know how to channel that energy better. She barely painted, or only did so in bursts, before hiding her supplies again. She hadn’t watched 7 straight seasons of M*A*S*H, which alone would’ve been enough to change a person. (I’m about halfway through season 8 — feel free to share spoilers on this 40 year old show!)
But she hovers over me like a ghost. I react differently to things and I can tell how I would’ve reacted before. I laugh at jokes she wouldn’t have gotten, or I write letters she would’ve been too scared to send. I open up more easily, where she would’ve closed up like a particular species of flower does at dusk. Instead of reading cards, I enjoy staring straight into people’s souls and telling them their life!
I hated a lot of the culture pieces that came out during the pandemic — they made me furious, the way pieces would focus only on people WFH when there were so many different experiences of the pandemic. Even now, I feel a bitterness and anger at the shambling attempts of talking about our collective trauma. The instagram post above seems to be the only piece of honesty I’ve been able to find in a while.
How is that possible? Am I looking in the wrong places? I’ve been writing up pitches and cooking up schemes to talk to as many people as possible about their pandemic experiences, but I can’t believe I’m the only person who wants to commiserate.
There was a piece in the NYT about “pruning” one’s friendships. I barely glanced at the piece, and felt disinterested in the drama that followed. (For the record, all my favorite people have depression. I don’t know what it is, but they really are my best friends.) In any case, I was irritated because the writer seemed to omit what I figured would be the thesis of the piece: judge people based on how they acted during the pandemic, because that’s when they showed their true colors.
I know that sounds harsh. I know it seems unfair. Maybe I’ll feel differently years from now. But it’s like a bit of tar on my soul, stuck there permanently: I never want to forget how people acted during this time. I think it’s a perfect gauge for understanding who someone is, deep down. Heck, not just someone — companies, families, countries, whatever. Like, Vanessa Hudgens is walking around on my TV talking about her Nexplanon and all I can think of is Are you going to Coachella this year, Vanessa?
I feel like that’s just going to be a permanent thing for me, you know? Oh, sure, lots of people were ready to get mad when it turned out this pandemic was affecting everyone. But who was making jokes online about the pandemic when it first happened? I was freaking out because I have asthma and, you know, respiratory infections are no joke for me. Which of my friends put me in danger during the pandemic? It took me getting vaccinated, and being in some of the worst pain of my life after that second dose, for that betrayal to really hit me. Heck, what companies scoffed when it came time to give time off for Juneteenth?
I sound so angry here. I don’t know if I’m really that angry, every day, or that bitter. I feel like my old self would be shocked at my inability to give other people the benefit of the doubt...but my new self understands the grim reality of simply hoping people will act well when they show you their selfishness.
I don’t completely understand how to navigate this new jaded self, but at least it comes with a flipside: a sense of true love and belonging. My old self had insanely high expectations for herself, but now I see that I’m flawed, and my friends are flawed too. Those flaws can hurt other people, but at least they don’t put others in physical danger, or make light of others’ pain. And they’re never on purpose, really. I mean, damn, I was so hard on myself when I was just doing my best. And it turns out my best means cooking meals for my friends and hand-delivering them, posting my art and biking and trying everything new I could think of to keep going and sane and optimistic, and telling everyone I loved them as many times as I could. It meant trusting people and asking for help, something I didn’t even realize I was terrible at.
And actually, that makes me a lot more optimistic. I feel like I’m more myself, not another person. On some level, a lot of my Pollyanna-ish tendencies were just covering a crabby weirdo of a person. Somehow, that crabby weirdo is even more generous, even more loving, and even happier than that old Pollyanna. I guess it’s just a lot easier to be kind when you’re not putting all your energy into being nice.
Some less organized thoughts:
If you have a second and are interested in getting into art, or have opinions on artists, or like to buy art…would you mind taking this survey? I’m doing research into making an art channel or resource for other artists. Let’s get a community going!
Has anyone else seen M*A*S*H? If you’re struggling with the visceral confusion and pain of the trauma of the last year, can I recommend a sitcom set during the Korean War? They pack 11 seasons’ worth of fun and fear into 3 years, which sounds like how long the past 18 months have been.
Are you on TikTok? Tell the truth.
Here’s one I made, please clap.