It’s been a rough year all around. I don’t think anyone has been unaffected, hasn’t lost some vital piece of their everyday life, like friends, sports, school or work due to this virus. And now that we’re almost a year in, it’s starting to get hard to remember what life was like before all this.
I’ve so often thought over the last few months, God, I can’t believe I used to go into a bar full of hundreds of strangers and breathe the same air, or I can’t believe we would all cram onto a dance floor and dance with friends and strangers for hours! It’s a world that seems so foreign, so rose-tinted now, that I feel once we’re all let loose, after the initial release, the romanticizing of the pub may die down a little. But regardless, we all miss our friends and travel and even our offices, which I’m sure plenty of us could never have imagined!
But that old world did exist and I've felt a little taunted by it the last while. Apps have been suggesting looking back on ‘memories’ and ‘this day last year’ posts on my phone for ages now, and I’ve actually been avoiding looking at these notifications. I think it was a protective measure in some ways. My approach to lockdown has been very much of the ‘keep your head down, work hard and wait for it to pass’ variety. If I’m working hard, I can forget I’m not seeing friends and family, I’m not missing out on important years and memory-making opportunities. In many ways, a lot of us are grieving this lost year, although some good things have come of it, it has to be admitted. But for a long time, it was painful to look back at the life I used to live, versus the working from home, barely venturing outside the door one I live now.
But one night after dinner, my family and I were talking about a family holiday we’d taken a few years ago and were debating as to the exact location of a restaurant. I’m often the designated photographer on the family holiday - a role I enjoy until I’m actually asked to be in the photos – so naturally I had a photo record of the town we stayed in, meals we ate, places we'd visited and could point out the restaurant in question by going back through my gallery. And this led to further discussion of characters, places, meals we’d had, adventures we’d gone on during the holiday – we like to go a little off the beaten track and go exploring while we’re there – and soon we were all huddled around my phone, exclaiming and laughing at old videos and pictures.
A clip of an insane sparkling, bedecked cocktail arriving to the table, weird-looking but delicious food with an unpronounceable name, a picture with that one quirky local who took a shine to you, the stunning accidental roadside discovery that you happen across while driving somewhere else. The sunburnt nose looking out from under a hat, the local ruins of an old church, a sea so impossibly blue, you can’t believe it actually exists somewhere still.
I was right that the photos would bring a lump to your throat, would remind you of what cannot be right now. But it also was such a boost to see all that you have done and all the places you have seen. For a brief half an hour, we sat awash in the glow of the phone and pretended it was Italian sunshine. We could smell the fresh, sizzling seafood in the air and hear the babble of tourists and different languages all muddling together at the beach. We were transported, escaping our reality if only for a little while, to somewhere in our minds that had never heard the word ‘Covid-19’, where the thought that we couldn’t get on a plane or plan a holiday didn’t even cross our minds. And it was pure bliss.
If lockdown is feeling endless and hopeless right now, ‘go on holiday’ through your old photos, if even just for a few minutes. The boost is unreal, and although it leaves behind a tinge of sadness, it reminds us that this didn’t always exist, and that life was different and it will be again.