- Countries Visited: 36
- Travel Wishlist: Palau
- Locked down in: Aarburg, Switzerland
“Let me start with an unpopular opinion: 2020 wasn’t that bad after all. It was one of the saddest years of my life, I grant, but at the same time the best in so many ways.”
Let me start with an unpopular opinion: 2020 wasn’t that bad after all. It was one of the saddest years of my life, I grant, but at the same time the best in so many ways. But let me start at the beginning of this tumultuous, exciting and unprecedented year – New Year’s Day!
I guess there is no right place or right moment to decide to part ways with your best friend who’s been by your side for the past twelve years. But somehow, me and my boyfriend Roy decided to break up right after midnight during our ski holiday in Austria, surrounded by fireworks and friends. Retrospectively I have no idea why we chose this moment to come to that important decision. We struggled a lot in 2019 with keeping our relationship alive and not to let it sink into habit and friendly co-existence and during our ski holiday we both reached the peak of denying the inevitable.
Thinking about it, I don’t know why, but in 2019 I somehow started asking myself who I was without Roy, how my life would be if I didn’t need to consider other people all the time and what vision of the future I had. For Roy it was always crystal clear: having kids and a house and he wanted to start building his view of the future as soon as possible and I felt taken for granted. I had other priorities, I was never keen on having kids or a house and I wasn’t ready to give up and change my entire life for a baby. So, I started putting myself first and consequentially Roy second – I changed, I became a person who’s no longer the one who loves more because I thought that was my problem and that it would eventually hurt me. And so, on New Year’s we found ourselves making the inevitable decision to part ways for 2020. Soon after arriving home I moved out and for the next two months I lived everywhere except somewhere I felt at home.
I missed my apartment, my cat, my best friend. 2020 sucked! My friends and family kept telling me to go out and meet new people and have fun but that’s really the last thing an introvert like me wants to do when they’re feeling blue. I consider myself an extroverted introvert: I love spending time with my friends and family but there’s only so much socializing I can endure, and I always needed time on my own. Meeting new people and small talk are my least favorite things to do, it exhausts me, and to be honest, other people exhaust me too. I feel uncomfortable and I’d rather spend my time with the people I care about than force a fake conversation about the weather with a stranger.
But then 2020 gave me an opportunity: my boss resigned, and they offered me his job and right before this pandemic was even an issue in Switzerland, I was given the responsibility for the whole division. Also, I finally got a new apartment. 2020 seemed to suck less. By the end of February, they asked me as the new director to compile a “pandemic plan” for the whole organization. Admittedly, I didn’t take it seriously, I thought they were all overreacting, and that Switzerland was somehow in a bubble where everything’s always fine. Until it wasn’t. Right after I moved into my first apartment on my own in the beginning of March, Switzerland was hit by the pandemic and I found myself alone in my new empty apartment, working nonstop from “home” on my Mom’s old lawn chairs and organizing home office for everyone in my division. I never felt so alone and sad and lost in my whole privileged life like I did then. I tend to cry whenever I’m overwhelmed, and I was overwhelmed every single day for the next few months. No Roy, new apartment, new job, new life in lockdown. And even though I like spending time on my own, it was definitely too much alone time for my liking.
And so the days passed, day in, day out I sat on my Mom’s lawn chairs to work and after I finished working, I sat on my sofa and watched what felt like all of Netflix and asked myself “is this really what I wanted?” I thought a lot about my days back home with Roy, how I always wanted to go out more, to eat out or do something else than work, come home, eat dinner and spend the evenings watching TV with him. Now, there was nothing else I missed more.
Having the same group of friends, Roy and I kept seeing each other but when we all started meeting lesser people due to the pandemic, it meant that I saw Roy less. But we never lost touch completely. We said we’d be there for each other because we never stopped caring about each other. But as beautiful as it was and how happy it made us every time we talked, it made us even sadder afterwards when we had to part again. And so, we decided that maybe it would be better for us if we stopped texting or seeing each other completely and really focus on our new lockdown life without each other. It seemed like a good idea, but I felt more lost and alone and I missed the distraction you get when you meet friends and family. 2020 was definitely not how I imagined my single life would be.
Funny thing is, even if I could have had the chance to go out and meet people, I really didn’t feel like it, I was somehow relieved not to be able to go out and mingle. In July they reopened the clubs and bars in Switzerland and my friends thought it might be a good thing to leave our sweatpants at home and get dressed to go out dancing for the first time in four months. So, on the same day Roy moved out of our old apartment that we shared for almost six years, I got dressed and left my four walls of sadness. Or so I thought. After four months of seeing only a few people and spending most of my days alone, I found myself in the middle of so many people and I felt uncomfortable and overwhelmed. Everyone was happy to be out again and to meet up with people, except me. So, what did drunk me do? I left the party, took a taxi and drove to Roy’s new place not knowing if he would want me there or tell me to go home and leave him alone for good.
I’m glad he was happy to see me, and we talked all night and thought that maybe there was a reason we couldn’t stop missing each other and that we both didn’t want to meet new people and so we decided to start dating again. I went home and for the first time in months I was happy. But two days later Covid-reality hit me: everyone who attended the party on the weekend had to go into quarantine for ten days. I was bummed at first, I naively thought this shit was over, thinking about it now, I feel really stupid. Of course, it wasn’t over, it still isn’t over! But after a few days in quarantine I started enjoying it. It wasn’t like it was in spring during lockdown, this time I wasn’t sad. I really enjoyed quarantine and I had a quarantine buddy this time, my best friend was back, and I felt at home.
Life seemed pretty normal during summer. Roy and I were dating, nobody knew, it was perfect. We decided to not tell our friends right away, not before we were sure if this was what we wanted. That’s the beauty of this pandemic: nobody asks you what you’re up to or what you’re doing at the weekends, simply because there’s nothing to do. They all just assume you’re home doing nothing. We visited beautiful new places in Switzerland, discovered the beauty of this country, went hiking, had a little Swiss road trip in my convertible, it was great, and I felt as if I finally found what I was looking for and I had no doubts about it anymore. However, most people in Switzerland seemed to have forgotten about the ongoing global pandemic. They went on summer vacation, kept seeing other people and still there was no obligation to wear face masks. Crazy if you saw what happened in other parts of Europe or even the world. But in Switzerland the government seemed very reluctant to infringe on the freedoms of its citizens with strict measures, all they did was “encourage” people to wear masks. As soon as the government finally introduced the obligation to wear masks, people in Switzerland started to do what they do best: complain! All the decisions the government made to control the spread of the Coronavirus were questioned and people saw their freedom compromised. And this is where I started to lose my nerves!
There is an ongoing discussion in Switzerland about what the government should do, everyone seems to know better than the authorities themselves: before they introduced the obligation of face masks, everyone said that we needed to wear masks and “oh, why is it not compulsory in Switzerland yet? Look at the rest of Europe”, they said – still while not wearing masks. Then, as soon as it was mandatory to wear masks, people started claiming that there was no proof that masks actually work against the spread of Coronavirus and that it would damage their health. To be totally honest, I do think that the authorities lacked leadership and that they failed in thinking that the Swiss people would be responsible on their own without strict mandatory measures. Everything that followed has just not been taken seriously by the population.
Switzerland is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons. The Federal Council determines the measures that apply throughout Switzerland. However, the cantons can adapt additional measures if the case numbers in their territory increase or threaten to increase. So, while in some cantons there were more rigorous measures in force, other cantons seemed to sleep through this pandemic. In autumn some cantons already had a second lockdown while others didn’t. And what did people do? They started to visit other cantons where the shops and restaurants weren’t closed. The need for consistent measures was big in a country this small, as it was not only confusing but also quite ridiculous. And so, the Federal Council tightened the measures for all cantons. At least it’s not that complicated anymore. But the complains did not decrease and the strictness of the measures was (and still is) somewhat questionable.
It amazes me how people still think this is a common influenza. How people still don’t wear masks in public or when they do, they do it poorly. How people see a conspiracy in everything the government decides or how they question everything. How the government failed to approach this pandemic from the beginning. How people keep travelling as if nothing changed. And to be honest with you, it’s not the pandemic that bothers me, or how it’s shaped my daily routine for almost a year now, but what it brings out in people. Sure, I miss travelling too, especially scuba diving. Being locked down in a landlocked country without being able to hold my head under the sea for almost two years makes me sad every time I think about it. I miss being jet-lagged, as crazy as it sounds. But that’s just the way it is now and hopefully, I will soon be able to dip my jet-lagged head underneath the water surface somewhere far away again. And still, there are people that seem not to understand the severity of this pandemic or are not willing to take a step back and give up on some things. Every time I step outside my apartment I get upset because there’s people not wearing masks or ignoring the measure that there’s a maximum of five people for gatherings. Also, everyone wanted a vaccine as soon as possible, now that it’s available, nobody wants to get the shot because “there’s no way it’s safe if it was developed in such a short time, I’m not a lab rat”. People are getting more exhausting; everyone seems to forget about the common good. This exasperates me day in day out. And sometimes, just for a quick second, I start asking myself, “why am I doing all these things to keep others safe when nobody is even trying to keep me safe? What is stopping me from getting on a twelve-hour flight and dip my head under water?” I like to think that it’s common sense and consideration, but maybe it’s just pure naivety, I don’t know.
I also see it up close at my workplace: I did everything to make home office possible for my team in March and to keep them safe, even though the government still only had a “recommendation” for home office. During summer, people started to go back to the office because they were tired of home office and so in October, I decided that it was mandatory again to work from home and only go back to the office if really needed. Now, as of January 18th, there is the official requirement to work from home issued by the government – like 10 months too late. And what happened on January 19th? I got a medical certification from one of my employees to release her from the requirement of home office because she doesn’t like to be at home all the time. This is Switzerland everyone! And while I haven’t hugged my grandparents in almost a year because they are scared and I tried to do my duty and keep my employees and others around me safe, I have to witness how everyone finds ways not to do what they’re asked of to end this shit.
I understand that this situation is not easy on anyone, everyone has their own little daily struggles and I really try not to complain (haha have you noticed?). I feel lucky to be able to work, that my family is healthy and that I have someone who takes me in their arms when I need it the most. I consider myself lucky that I don’t feel as restrained by the measures as certainly other, more extrovert people do. I know that a lot of people don’t have this privilege at the moment, so who am I to complain? I just feel like I have this anxiety, this feeling, that in a few years’ time we look back at this pandemic and that we question the way we handled it. All we see are numbers, new infections, deaths, reproduction rates, all sort of costs, vaccination rates, conspiracies, a government that appears to not take it seriously itself – it’s just overwhelming. I feel like everyone has their own interpretations of these numbers and their own ideas about how to live with this pandemic and that we forget that together we could have a bigger impact.
And so, as this pandemic brought me back to Roy in 2020, giving me back what I thought I’d lost forever, giving me many happy moments and new experiences and helping me realize what I really wanted, my hopes for 2021 are that it unites people again and that with solidarity and determination we can finally overcome this challenge, together.