By now, every living being on the planet has had a pandemic birthday. A year into the life-altering consequences of a global outbreak, the members of the editorial team at Manual Jakarta obliged to reminisce about the personal changes that took place and what they signify. It’s normal, if not expected, to carry a new set of reservations when navigating the current reality. From small observations to the cold reluctance of engaging in any form of physical contact, we compile our thoughts on the changes that occurred in commemoration of One Year of COVID (as if it needed one).
Years later, when I reminisce about the experience of having lived through a pandemic, say to my nephew’s kids or a hall of undergraduates (just manifesting, don’t mind me), I would sum up that my life can fundamentally be divided into two parts: the pre and post-pandemic period.
Looking back at how I lived my life before the pandemic feels like observing a different version of myself. How did I ever find myself in the office sans face mask while battling a cold? Who’s that guy who willingly squeezed himself into a crowded elevator? I don’t know him. Wait, that’s me.
So, what will I be like post-pandemic wise when I look into the crystal ball? Honestly, I can’t see how going out on a first date can be like what it once was. For me, dating is a complex affair with an emphasis on the physicality of both parties. Being conscious of physical distancing and how air/droplet-borne virus is transmitted, initiatives like giving a goodbye kiss seems a bit much. Mind you, I’m not talking about tongue-to-tongue action as if giving each other an impromptu dental checkup but more like a brief peck on the cheek. Perhaps all of this is just overthinking on my part. I guess it’s still too early to say. As we all know, a lot can change in a year.
This observation isn’t so much of a habit change, but rather a shift of intent when I ask: “how many people are going to be there?” for group invitations. If the question served to pep talk my social anxiety for an upcoming social gathering during the pre-pandemic days, now I’m asking for other concerns.
Besides assessing the safety-ness of attending an event, the question has become a method of discerning my entourage. Keeping in mind the soaring daily cases the city has, it ticks me to know that many of my peers are still having large house (and bar) parties or organising group vacations. What’s all the more ironic is these people’s poor attempt to conceal their neglect of the pandemic by flaunting their short-lived good times to a set of “Close Friends” (as in, the Instagram feature), as if doing so would spare them of the judgement. I can’t gauge the thought process behind the act, but in layman’s terms: should they really be sharing that at all?
My reservation about crowds hasn’t merely changed how I engage my daily life, but it also affected how I view other people in how they conduct theirs. I understand, if not empathise, with the looming sentiments after a year of isolation-induced angst and the itch to go back to the carefree ways we love. Remember bar karaokes or all-you-can-eat buffets with your favourites? But regardless, neglectful behaviour made me dubious of several people in my life. I can no longer say that I’m excited to see some friends and family members, knowing how they chose to conduct themselves during the pandemic, and that’s saddening. Our year-long pandemic gave a new set of caveats on which to “judge” people. On the bright side, I’ve grown content to keep my inner circle tidy and tight with the people I like and trust the most.
Cindy Julia Tobing
Like a broken record, I would yell at my father and brother for entering the house with their shoes on. Pre-pandemic, stuff like this would be something unworthy of reminding and admittedly, a habit I would also unconsciously do (even though by Asian house etiquette standard, I should know better). Today, the thought that the soles of my shoes can collect and be carriers of the virus and other germs only further my fears. To my family’s annoyance of having me hound them with daily reminders, I’ve suddenly become that walking patrol/bad police in my own house.
Naturally, this tendency to be sanitised has grown anxiously since last year, from showering right away after I go to public spaces to spraying sanitisers to all known surfaces—something I’ve never put much effort in before. But who can blame this growing paranoia? It’s human nature to be fearful and to avoid consequences. One year on, these adopted habits are still fresh in mind, as if the universe is telling me “Hey, you’ve been hella dirty and careless.” Now instead of lapsing into the easier, pre-pandemic ways, these are the kind of adopted habits that I would want to deliberately keep as things are slowly starting to shift back, hanging on to what I thought was not important enough to ultimately, life-changing on their own.
Hana Anandira O.
Kudos to the pandemic for completely shifting my perception of group socialising. A year ago, an invitation to summon up at a bar with my friends was always the highlight of my week. It was difficult to say no when you are a down-for-anything type of person, and the idea of gathering with your loved ones against a lively ambience had always been an appeal to me, until the age of rona. I remember getting ready (with excitement) for my first post-PSBB hang out session, and instead of releasing my happy hormones that had long been repressed thanks to isolation, the excitement bounced back with insecurities and paranoia.
For instance, when a friend told me that she just went to the doctor for a regular check-up, I can’t help but think, “Would it be safe for her to hang out right now? Isn’t going to the hospital a bit risky at this time?” The uneasiness extended when another friend told me that he just finished a quick grocery run. Despite my knowledge of their safety concerns, an overwhelming sense of awareness and the practice of silently ‘inspecting’ where they had been and who they met in recent times became a draining habit that overpowered my longing for group socialising.
The reason I‘ve been limiting myself from group socialising isn’t only the questions of health and sanitation, but my newfound love for being a homebody. Why go outside with a chance of infection when I can just snuggle in? Here, I would like to apologise to all my friends whom I teased for never going out. I now realise the pleasure of being alone and I admit that I’m…very backwards.
I can’t believe we haven’t been protecting ourselves in this day and age from the city’s notorious air quality even before the pandemic hit. Unlike Japan’s mask-wearing residents who have normalised it into a routine, it took a global pandemic for us to recognise the need for this protective gear in our everyday lives.
If you asked me what was the most blaring shift I’ve observed within the last year, then it’s face masks, which has become an emblem in today’s society. However, becoming more spatially aware of my boundaries have also taken centre stage in the way I conduct my daily life. Growing up, I have always been self-conscious of stumbling into big crowds and being in confined spaces. Nowadays, the social anxiety I experienced, built up from attending concerts and taking public transports, have been replaced with a much urgent one and on a much larger scale. These days, we’re all weary about the slightest bumping of elbows, and not wearing a mask in public is like committing a cardinal sin. Many times I’ve gone out of the house without my mask, and had to turn back to get it – admittedly, it’s still difficult for me to keep in mind that today’s social protocols have changed.
But a year into this, I wouldn’t find myself taking off my protective gear in an enclosed public space, or be caught standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a small elevator; I would wait for a decently empty one. These adopted habits are pronounced in the face of the pandemic, but moving forward, it’s the kind that I would consciously hang on to. Adopting the habits of wearing your mask– be it out of consideration when you’re sick, or as an essential accessory to protect yourself when you’re out and about– is something that I can see being integrated into our daily lives even when the pandemic is over. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right? I believe this mindset is here to stay.