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‘Trying to make a new life during a pandemic seems crazy’


By Jennifer McShane
08th Nov 2020
‘Trying to make a new life during a pandemic seems crazy’

As Covid shows no signs of letting up, one writer ponders her life choices and whether she should take a leap of faith or go with the easier option 


I had envisioned a different life for myself once I hit my thirties. I’d be more settled. I’d be sure. I’d know what I wanted, the path to follow to make me happy. Or maybe I’m not surprised I feel so lost. The pandemic has thrown everything off-kilter and what I once wanted, feels like it will be so, so much harder to obtain.

A move away. Back home. Rinse, repeat. Should I stay or should I go? The sentence vibrates around my head, as it has done all year. A new place, new city with no chance to explore, no support network to build up.

The easier option, they say is to admit defeat, you couldn’t foresee a pandemic. Your life is hard with mild Cerebral Palsy, living alone, body black and blue from another fall. The crying, unable to get up off the floor for 40 minutes, naked too, from the shower (the missed step does it every time). How can a woman in her early thirties still feel like a child? The kitten you so desperately longed for but felt too overwhelmed to care for (taking care of you is hard enough) with all this going on. The devastation of knowing you just weren’t ready, couldn’t cope alone.  The regret that he, your intended companion, is not here now.

Not the year I had envisioned. Not the year anyone envisioned. So much failure, so many tears, so many sleepless nights, not knowing what to do. Trying to make a new life during a pandemic seems crazy. And yet to change course now, means giving up on a dream I always wanted. It feels too soon, too early, too much like I haven’t given it enough.  Because going back, for me, is final. It’ll be too hard to start again. I feel time is getting on. I’m 33 and feel like I should be farther along the line. I wanted a fresh start but I want roots too. And yet again, I am stuck. We are all stuck.

My natural way is to never give up, keep pushing, keep going. Each and every one of my limits have been tested the past few months. The easy and comfortable option, is not always the right one, said a wise friend. Follow your happiness and the rest will work itself out. My gut knows this to be true. And yet my head says, bow out now. Go where it is safe and easy.

But I was there before. It was safe and it was easy. I was not happy, I longed for another life.

I obsessively read the Irish Times Abroad columns, looking for the familiar, those like me, who chose to stay put. It doesn’t help. I cry regardless, knowing that there is no right or wrong, only what feels right. But what do you do when, even when you know what’s right, leaves you feeling heavy? In my case, keep dreaming. Keep seeing the dream pan out into reality.

Therefore, I remain (unlike Brexit). I try to dream of a big future. Comparison is the thief of joy so I try not to compare myself to all around me who are, by and large, returning to wait it out in more familiar surroundings.  In this uncertainty, those we love are more important than ever. Am I being selfish? Abandoning them? Or brave to go for it with all the odds stacked against me? There are no easy answers, no easy choices  – or rather, there are, but with them doesn’t necessarily bring contentment. And yet, there is a pang of longing for all that is so familiar, despite running away from this initially.

So I’m waiting for my chance to begin again (again), post-Covid, in the hopes that when it does, the mix of the sweet and the sour, will have made it all worthwhile.

 Main photograph: Unsplash