Detours from home: Time does not make sense in a pandemic

[Editor’s note: Detours from home is a Rappler column where readers can share about the new things they have been doing while in quarantine. In this essay, an incoming college student talks about how he's finding the most meaningful ways to pass the pandemic time. You, too, can share your own Detours from home story.]

I remember how disconcerting everything was. It was March 10th  and my mom called me in the morning – waking me from my sleep. “You’re flying home tonight. I emailed you your itinerary. Pack your bags”.

I don’t recall what time it was. I’m guessing it was around eight or nine o’clock in the morning. But like any obedient son, I packed my bags as soon as I gathered my senses – clothes, toiletries, books for leisure reading. My luggage had clothes good enough for eight days of travel. I’ve been away for almost three months now and only God knows when I can book another plane ticket back. 

Several days into quarantine and everything felt fine and well. My parents even joked that I was lucky because I got summer vacation early. But then I found that days have turned into weeks – and weeks into months. It was not as relaxing as I thought it would.

Soon enough, things started to become so much more disconcerting. Hours became minutes; seconds became days. One moment, it’s a humid Tuesday April afternoon and in the blink of an eye – it’s May. Lunches were at 3 PM and dinners were spent alone at midnight. And every day, I catch myself waking up still exhausted. 

Trying to get a semblance of understanding of time, I pace myself like any other person who is stuck at home with little to do by finding hours of refuge in the endless scroll of social media. A few weeks into the quarantine now, and I notice many of my friends and relatives using the word: “The New Normal”. I quietly disagree. I think to myself: but nothing that’s going on right now is normal. This is all abnormal.

Not being able to see my friends and hug them? Not being able to go to school physically? Not being able to roam around freely? And most peculiar of all: not being able to understand why time is suddenly so fast and still so slow? I refuse to believe this is the new normal. It can’t be. It shouldn’t be. 

Seeing, then, the alarming rate of people believing this is the new normal – I felt impelled to introspect. If this were truly the new normal (if the new normal meant time not making sense anymore) – what are some of my peers doing to pass (the senselessness of) time?

I see many of my friends baking, exercising to a 25-Day Workout Challenge, joining online debate competitions, reading books voraciously, enrolling in online courses, and other things to keep them busy and productive. Naturally, I ask myself next: now, what am I doing to pass the time? And I realize: I’m honestly not doing much. On many days, I feel like all I’m doing is surviving. At first, I felt guilty. But eventually, I realized that it was perfectly okay. 

Time does not make sense anymore because we are not on a summer vacation. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Worst of all, this pandemic is not the only thing we’re worried about. We see atrocity upon atrocity happening in different parts of our country and the world. I felt helpless in my room; unable to do anything meaningful until I realized: in the senselessness of time, the last thing I will do is keep quiet. In light of everything going on, the least and most we could do, perhaps, is break our silence. 

A few months into quarantine and I found that time still does not make sense – but I’m no longer just surviving. I now study books by political thinkers that help me better understand the times; I read articles to keep me updated with the outside world (of which I am still barred from entering); I sign many petitions; I have numerous sit-down conversations with my parents about politics – and we learn from each other’s inputs.

Indeed, when time does not make sense – one can (and must) break silence to understand it. Breaking silence comes in many faces: in posting Facebook statuses, in activism, in signing petitions – in being in solidarity with the world in our own rooms. 

When time does not make sense, we could only hope that one day it eventually will. While waiting, though, we need to keep fighting the injustices of the world in whatever limited way we can. Though we find ourselves confined in our homes, refusing to acquiesce and continuing to learn so that we can keep fighting the good fight is how we can reimagine and create a better “new normal” post-pandemic.

Time still passes me unpredictably. It’s still so disconcerting and it doesn’t make sense yet – but one day it will and I know, by refusing to stay silent now, that day will come with a new and much, much better world with it. –

Enzo Lagamon is an incoming AB Political Science junior from the Ateneo de Manila University. He loves writing and telling stories—and hopes to be as good as his idols, like Patricia Evangelista, one day. He prefers cats over dogs; and he has received numerous noise complaints from neighbors for singing too loudly in his condo. He lives in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental.