No Pep Talks, Please: Young Melburnians React To Their Fourth Lockdown

Melbourne writers share how they're coping amid yet another foray into lockdown.

“It feels like we only go backwards, baby” / “Every part of me says go ahead”  / "I got my hopes up again, oh no, not again”

Tame Impala’s “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” was released in 2012. But does it not speak to our collective Victorian malaise? They say that when you’re in love, every pop song hits extra hard. But no one tells you the same thing happens when you go into lockdown for the fourth time in 16 months.

There’s no shortage of information about Melbourne’s upteenth lockdown orders if that’s what you want: the restrictions, the variants, who on earth James Merlino is. But here’s our question. Is everyone OK? Because this fucking sucks.

Here, four of our writers who call Melbourne home weigh in on how they’re coping with another round of lockdown orders. Are we regressing to our once peppy, productive 2020 lockdown selves? (My god, were we ever so young?). Delving into the art of Danish hygge? Making the best of it? The answer seems to be a collective “no”.

Passing the time, Dani Leever

I’m feeling weirdly desensitised to this snap lockdown. I was so used to life being back to ‘normal’ that I regularly thought about how horrific it would be to go back into lockdown after all of this progress. But now that we’re here, I’m all apathy and detachment. (A distress response, perchance?!). It’s all a bit, ‘here we go again’.

Strangely, lockdown 4.0 has coincided with a house-sitting stint, so I’m actually locking down in a fancy apartment with my partner. (As opposed to the share house where I braved the last three lockdowns.) I think the change of scenery might be helping.

As for what I’ll be doing? I recently purchased Guess Who for my partner and replaced all of the characters with their favourite lesbians of all time; so catch me drinking a Pinot Grigio and playing that non-stop. I shall not be productive, nor will I be attempting any life admin or ‘a new project – cute!’ I will simply be passing the time. Because I am exhausted.

Letting go, Reena Gupta

My first reaction to the news we were going back into lockdown was indifference. I’m a bit of a homebody anyway. I’ll finish the books I’m reading! I’ll clean my apartment! I’ll listen to podcasts! It’s only seven days. But things began to spiral when I started looking for something to blame. First I blamed the people who were eligible to be vaccinated and decided to wait until this outbreak to do it. Didn’t they know getting jabbed was about preventing an outbreak? Then I blamed the politicians, a sentiment I firmly expressed in a message to my Family WhatsApp group. “The VIC government failed to communicate that COVID doesn’t just go away!” My sister agreed, my brother commented on an unrelated photo and my mother did not reply. Standard.

Later came a chat with a friend. Neither of us are native speakers, but we sometimes speak in Spanish for a bit of practice. Ojalá que solo dura por una semana, they said, which translates to “I hope it only lasts for a week”.

Ojalá is my favourite Spanish word, roughly translating to ‘I hope’. It has its origins in Arabic, from inshallah (‘god willing’, or ‘if god wills it’). I don’t practise a religion, but it was comforting to acknowledge that when we hope, we kind of surrender to forces bigger than ourselves. It’s a feeling so universal that it has cognates in Urdu, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Cypriot Greek, Portugese, Maltese, and Bulgarian.

Contained in ojalá was an acceptance; a relinquishing of control. An understanding that what would happen with these new cases was going to happen. I was scared that the seven days would turn into weeks, and then months; that we’d be back in 2020. But all I could do was hope we’d be ok.

Out of pep, Maggie Zhou

We’re ok, we’re not ok. We’re ok, we’re not ok. After the year of lockdown after lockdown (after lockdown), you learn to live with uncertainty. You’re rewired to brace yourself for change. You catch yourself in moments untouched by the pandemic and ask yourself if it’s too good to be true. Newsflash: it was. I quietly watch the throngs of protesters on Twitter condemning our shifty government and our terrible vaccine roll-out and hotel quarantine program. But here on the sidelines, I can’t even muster up the energy to shout alongside them.

I’m tired and equally as scared. The day the lockdown was announced, my friends sent weeping voice notes to our group chat. We sent each other shitty memes and eye-rolled at every ‘we’ve got this’ pep talk. For me, I employed distraction and the faux-positive ‘making the most out of it’ mindset to cope. I finished a book! I did 10 minutes of yoga! I finally watched Les Misérables!

These self-care band-aids, of course, do not help the fact that some of the closest people in my life will be receiving zero income during this unstable time. Or that thousands of Aussies are still stranded overseas with no hope of returning home. Or that the hospitality industry is nursing yet another heavy blow.

If you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll give you a half-hearted smile and with a sigh, reply: “it is what it is.”

Victoria snaps back, Oli Prosser

This is Melbourne’s fourth lockdown. You’d think we’d be used to it by now; that we’d come to expect it. But just before lockdown measures were reintroduced last Thursday, we saw a mass exodus: Melbourne’s airport was packed and highways bumper-to-bumper as Victorians hot-footed their way out of here.

Seven days isn’t long, right? Especially compared to 110 days in lockdown last year. But it’s not just a matter of how long these snap lockdowns last; it’s about the memories and emotions going into lockdown brings flooding back. For me, another lockdown reminds me of the difficult experience of not being able to complete year 12 alongside my classmates. But this time it's giving me some much-needed downtime to study for uni assessments, which up until now I have been neglecting.

If that fails (which is highly likely), I’ll probably catch up on the shows sitting in my watch list or reconnect with friends.

To all my fellow Victorians – stay connected with friends and family, check in and let them know you are there for them.

More lockdown stuff:

Melbourne's Going Into Lockdown 4.0 & We've Got The Deets

Melbourne Writers On The End Of Lockdown

What Did I Actually Learn In 2020? 

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