Life is what is happening to me as I sit down to flood these empty pages on Day–599 of the global pandemic, with disoriented thoughts to try and answer a question that really has no one answer. What is Life? For if Life is what is happening to me in the now, then what gravity does the Life already lived hold within the spectrum of the question asked? What then, is the importance of the Life that is yet to be lived? Is it Life that we truly talk about, or is it the hope of one? These are questions that I will attempt to answer while desperately trying to hold on to the coat-tails of Life, the slippery explorer, who I imagine to be a very harassed young woman like myself, with a stack of books in one hand, a jar of dreams in another, and not time enough to go through either at a leisurely pace.
A philosopher would tell you that Life is infinite. It stretches on like the cosmos, twinkling in the night’s sky like a tiny star, alternatively giving light and darkness. Life, he would tell you, comes in different shades, sizes, colours and moods. Life is fickle, he would say. Life demands much and forgets to live in the meantime. I would agree with this wise philosopher, for I remember the days in my childhood that were blissful, filled with unabandoned joy, peace, and fun, that I would while away wondering what it would be like to be older. Wouldn’t it be better, I would think, if I were not a child?
An adult would tell you that Life is hard. It is filled with challenges, work, stress, deadlines, long nights, and early mornings. As I grew older, and my toys were replaced with books, assignments, and one too many cups of coffee. So I would agree with this tired adult who has weary bones and a heavy heart. Life now does not appear to be like a twinkling star. Life appears to me in a neat suit and tie, with a large wristwatch on his right arm, with frown lines and hard eyes, breathing down my neck, as I desperately try to keep up with it. Life now simply passes, as I yearn for the carefree life I had as a child. Wouldn’t it be better, I now think, if I could always be a child?
And then there came a pandemic. And Life changed. Again. Life became patient, slow, drawling, filled with days that were the same. Life became a routine filled with Zoom calls, strained eyes, and banana bread. Life became a game of waiting. For Life. For it to normalise. Whatever "normalise" means.
So I now fill the Life that I hope to live someday with all the dreams, passions, and desires that I am not able to fulfil now. My Life tomorrow will take care of it, I think. Yet, still, our grandparents tell us that Life will not wait for us if we do not make use of it now. That Life will then become an old companion. Wrapped in a blue shawl, huddled next to a warm fire, breathing in the first tendrils of daylight. Life will be content to just, be. The travels I had put off, the dreams I had wished to accomplish in my spare time, the smiles I had wished to smile, they would now exist in a rusty old suitcase kept by Life at the back of a room labelled “Some-Day”.
Therefore, Life, I have come to understand, is what happens to you as you prepare for it to happen one day. But I believe that the human self has an enormous capacity to endure, reflect, and act. Therefore my Life, I promise to myself, will be filled with work, yes, but also paintings and music, love and laughter, theatre and dance, travels and explorations when it is no longer a threat to do so, new people and new places, new destinations and new dreams. My Life, I promise to myself, will be to help others live theirs better when not presented with the opportunities to do so. To protest, and speak. To stand arm in arm with the world when Life is cruel to it.
Life, I now think, is but the story of how we lived in this world and how we helped others live too. Pandemic, or no pandemic.