To date, I am unsure whether it was the rate at which everyone was sanitizing and wearing their masks in public or if it was the fact that we all made plans for the year and God laughed, which awakened me to the reality of COVID-19. When the ‘prophets of doom’ started calling it ‘the new normal’, I panicked and, if I recall properly, for a minute, my pulmonary vein refused to allow oxygen to move from the heart to the other parts of the body (If my Standard six memory has not ghosted me yet).
I had packed my psychological bags and said my goodbyes to family and close friends way back in February in readiness for my intended law school trip to Europe in April. Just to be clear, I had no accommodation, whatsoever, for any eventuality that would hinder me from traveling, not even an act of God. Sigh!
With the travel plans cancelled, the reality of a virus that knew no cure really set in quickly and settled in my mind. Hence, the earlier viral Tiktok clips challenging the status quo that went, (‘Do you know somebody who has Corona? Do you know somebody who knows somebody who has Corona? Do you know somebody who has a friend who knows somebody who has a cousin who has Corona?) soon lost their humorous and satirical sense. Marked with other societal issues such as police brutality, rape culture, and increasing rates of suicide, the pandemic season swiftly diverted humanity’s focus from the things they thought mattered to what truly mattered: life, human dignity, and health.
My family subtly formed a news-watching culture that saw us gather to watch the daily COVID-19 briefs by the Health Cabinet Secretary and even notice the change in shifts with the Chief Administrative Secretaries. Soon, we became experts at the pandemic vocabulary such that the words ‘PPEs’, ‘isolation’, ‘contact tracing’, ‘cessation of movement’, ‘M-95 masks’, and ‘frontline workers’ became a part of our in-house communication language. My mother would go to work having left a note saying, ‘Issuing an order of cessation of movement from this house. Enjoy your day of isolation until I am back.’
For a minute, almost everyone I met, online and offline, complained that 2020 had ruined humanity. However, it was not long before doom was turned into bloom by optimistic and prolific businesspersons, creatives, and the tech-savvy nation. The onset of COVID-19 saw creatives come up with comic memes that skyrocketed the internet and lightened the period of gloom that had reached its climax. Soon, novel mask designers and sanitizer hawkers mushroomed in my home area and I marvelled at the passionate people still thriving in these hard, unprecedented times.
Studious individuals were making decent profits from their innovative ideas and this sparked my interest in self-development. As a young person in her early twenties, with absolutely no title deed in her name or even say title to a bicycle, I could no longer afford to wake up at 11 a.m like the pensioners living off their former years of hard work and purpose.
My self-awareness journey began with so much passion and struggle in equal measure. I was almost always at war with my conscience. I had no one on my neck asking me to wake up and be productive, but my conscience soon became my crown of thorns: an accountability partner stinging my mind every morning at five o’clock. Even with sleep in my eyes, I would wrestle with the thought that God had given me a chance to re-focus and re-start while my body was contemplating to ruin me. I would pick up my phone, head out to exercise and pray that God would guide me to my purpose since while I thought I knew it, it had only become clearer that I was unable to fulfil it. Otherwise, how would one explain a student being unable to read, a Christian being unable to pray, and a writer being unable to write?
Dear reader, my self-awareness journey became one that tested my resilience and commitment to my short-term and long-term goals. One that saw me try a hand at every one of my childhood and teenage fantasies. One that saw me relentlessly sit through make-up tutorial videos on YouTube just enough times to confirm my fear that indeed make-up was not my calling. This journey took me through TikTok content creation escapades before I realized that I was not going to live off making funny videos anytime soon. At least, not with the two followers I had accrued after a reasonable period of consistency. It saw me confront those false ideologies I had embraced and heal the parts of my brain that had succumbed to social conventionalism. It saw me rediscover a new passion for writing and a new approach towards my legal career.
The more I stopped wrestling with my conscience in the mornings, the more I was led to true happiness and fulfillment. Soon, I pursued a virtual internship that took me out of my comfort zone and won back the joy that I had so freely let go of my mediocrity. It is then that I revamped my relationship with God and even found contentment in preaching His word. Saint Josemaria’s teaching on trust in prayer and seeking God to show us how to respond better to our call to service even in his confinement during the Spanish civil war (in which his focus would have been survival, but instead he directed his focus to God) really spoke to me. And I learnt that no matter who you are and where life takes you, it is within you to do what sets your soul on fire and to honour your human calling towards one another. Thus said, I wonder why anyone would dare survive while it is within them to thrive. The answer is in the word ‘self-awareness’.