Written by Zadie McCracken
You know when your life totally falls apart?
Okay, maybe not totally, but in many ways. Like a personal revolution, a messy month, the very 21st-century bourgeois notion of a breakdown.
I’m sure we’ve all had those moments, weeks, years, blah blah, where shit just hits the fan: your long-term relationship breaks up, or you lose your job, or, god forbid, someone dies, or you fall into a depressive spiral, or you fight with your best friend. I had a moment. I had several moments. My mother moved overseas, I graduated high school, lost my passport in a foreign country, got fired from a job. I got drunk and high and vomited on a stanger’s bathroom walls and the next day, hungover, I was very nearly scammed on Facebook. A global pandemic evicted me from my apartment, so I packed all I own into ten boxes, found out I had likely been exposed to covid-19, and stayed put. I waited. My father left, despite my not-leaving, leaving me alone, in aforementioned apartment, with the boxes and the moths eating my clothes, and lots of bags and bags under my eyes and tears and too much yogurt, and feelings buried deep in my gut like a tapeworm. I felt very what.
I felt very sad.
It’s been a whole week, a whole month, a whole year. Since school ended, life has been one long, surreal dream with all the normal ups and downs of young adulthood – all the drinking and oddity and growing (yuk) and grossness and pain – and, just when I thought a return to normalcy might be imminent, a global pandemic smacked me sideways like an ugly beaver. I am sure this is how we all feel: like the rug has been pulled out from under us. Like we are crawling through a dark lava tunnel, no hope of light at the end. I personally feel like a soldier in a deep, deep trench, just clawing my way through mud and other people’s spit; which is unfair, considering my destiny in life is to become a semi-famous, semi-funny, 30-something white lady writer living inside an English-Californian dreamscape. Instead of lying around watching television and getting laid, I’m moving prematurely away from my family or else spending two weeks completely alone in an empty apartment with a balcony I’m scared of, possibly getting ill and making my friends drop off my groceries.
But boohoo for me, right??? This is hard for everyone. It’s harder for people who aren't me; people without families who catch them when they fall, people who work casually in retail or hospo, people who are older, people who are immunocompromised, people who need Centrelink already, people who rely on the arts and events industry for their income, people who grow food, people who work in supermarkets, doctors, nurses, bartenders, homeless people, jobless people, people with mental health issues…people who are stuck, lonely, lost, broke or poor. This is hard for everyone, but especially for them. What happens when the boat sinks, and you realise you don’t have a lifejacket? What happens after a breakdown? What do you do when your life has fallen apart in one way or another, as it has now for all of us?
Materially, you lean on whoever you have and if you have no one, you demand frozen rents, cancelled evictions, reduced debt and extended welfare. You dip into savings, you couch surf, you overwhelm Centrelink. If you’re lucky, you donate. You care for those you can, take people in and stay the fuck home.
Emotionally, you…keep going. You cry and then you dance in your underwear in your makeshift shelter in the middle of the storm. You watch a lot of Aisling Bea and Sara Pascoe, you work, you make, you start a garden, you do phone therapy. You call friends and overwhelm yourself with social contact; you miss your friends, and you are sick of seeing them rendered on your screen every day. You fight with your parents, you have great conversations with your parents, you start an email chain with your entire family. You put together ridiculous outfits, you listen exclusively to Big Thief, you spend too much time on Instagram, you text your crushes and your ex. You think about pre-pandemic – about the Before Time. You think about weddings and children, you think about travelling when this is done, like you were meant to. You think maybe there will be an After.
At least, that’s what I’ve been doing.
The great thing about being at your lowest moment – in the trenches, injured from that bloody rug, that beaver, swimming in tunnel lava – is that it can only get better. Once you are down you can only go up. There is only good at the other end of this.
Meanwhile, we could do well to remember something I read when I was internet-stalking a stranger: Not everything is the disaster movie. There is still music and love in the world, bright buds of spring and shadows of winter. There is still recovery and hope and shoes and television and laughter; still friends and jokes and sunsets. Canals in Venice which are clearer, now. Not everything is the disaster movie.
But if you’re like me, and most of it is the disaster movie, that’s okay too. We have never been here before and we are scouting rough terrain. We are terrified and solemn; this is an apocalypse. Luckily, the movie always ends. The people leave the cinema, spilling popcorn on their seats, scuffing their shoes on the street. They stretch their bodies into the golden afternoon light and discuss the story, the tension, climax, resolution. They laugh, paraphrase, argue. They walk home, in the open air, and the sky is just as blue as it always was.
Zadie Mccracken is a Melbourne-based writer, performer and creative producer. In addition to her practice, Zadie likes to-do lists, personality tests, glitter and television. You can find her all over the internet, but especially at her website, https://zadiemccracken.wixsite.com/home, and Instagram, @zadiemccracken.