brave new something

my best friend still makes fun of me for the time in university when i was interviewing for summer internships and trying not to wear the same thing to two interviews. this is an irrational, absurd thing to worry about it, but the whole thing makes (minimally) more sense if you understand that i catalogue every significant moment by what i was wearing at the time.

the past year is a blur of bike shorts and girlfriend collective leggings and a giant employer-branded black hoodie. before the pandemic i had never owned a pair of sweatpants, but my apartment was freezing cold this winter and i actually had to spend time in it instead of going out all the time, so now i own three pairs, which no one should ever do.

i know what i was wearing every weekend for the past year because it was exactly the same. even the tiny-bit-brighter days of last summer are a rotation of tech conference t-shirts and jean shorts. i wore a dress three times; i know this because i can detail each of those times in excruciating detail. if you knew me before the pandemic, then you know that i live in dresses, right down to zero degrees. i only reluctantly wear pants when it's -12°C and i need to commute on a streetcar; only then will i admit that 20-denier tights are not practical.

for weeks now, i've been writing about traipsing around this city in crop tops and dresses, about this future where everything is made new; so close that i can see it now. i said that it feels like hope—and it does—but it also feels big and overwhelming. the universe is asking me to step back into coexistence but my brain is so fucked up by pandemic isolation that i don't know how; can't figure how to slot back into this world that we all abandoned when the pandemic hit.

i do want it. i'm tired of this digital existence; exhausted from maintaining an online world between us which is a crude facsimile for the richness of the space between people, exhausted by a worldbuilding exercise which would have been effortless if we were sitting in the same room. i'm tired of soft clothes and emoji shorthand affection and the monumental effort it takes to send someone a DM. i'm glad that we all tried this little exercise in remote work all together—i heard it was supposed to be the future, but it turns out that we don't want it.

we built pixel representations of each other as if they could ever come close. we thought that technology would save us; that maybe we'd project our friends and family and teammates into virtual reality and they would feel close or at least close enough. we thought that maybe we'd be happier if we could be anywhere we wanted even if it was far away from everyone we loved, that maybe we're all so virtuous, so good that we could build human connection without ever existing together, forging camaraderie out of thirty-minute scheduled coffee chats and rooms on Clubhouse and virtual offices and Discord tag.

we've been approximating shared existence with how-are-you text messages and fleeting moments on video calls for a whole year now, but i'm tired of internet voices in my head. i'm tired of pixels on a screen and i'm tired of pretending like this is working. i want to exist within hugging distance and i want to tell you all these unsaid things we've been saving up for the day when we're finally sitting across from each other. i'm tired of pouring out my heart on paper; exhausted by the one-sided vulnerability that this requires. i'm writing all the time because it's the closest approximation to intimacy, a stand-in for a year's worth of missing i'll-tell-you-in-person conversations; the conversations you can't have over video call, the ones you slip into when the lights are dim and you feel safe together. can you long for things which never happened, mourn lost time, miss people you've never met?

everyone keeps promising that the world will return to normal soon, whatever that means. i'm distracted, frantically trying to unearth the version of myself that i tucked into hibernation when i realized that the pandemic was here to stay. i'm tired of cozy pants, but swapping them for dresses means that i have to figure out how to exist in the real world again, and i'm not ready; not brave enough. there is so much distance to be closed and i don't know where to start; the map of the city hasn't changed but everyone somehow seems further away. i know that if i were to take the subway line north for twenty minutes i could walk into my best friend's apartment and everything would be okay, that friends live out in the beaches which is only a streetcar line away, that this city is still full of people i love, and it will soon be home to people who i adore. all of this has always been true, but somehow it still feels like everything has changed.

maybe i thought that everything would be where i left it and all the people i love would still be in the same place; that we've been frozen in time until now and the pandemic ending would mean simply unfreezing it; that this city would pick up exactly where it left off. this is the same city where i met new friends at the Mozilla office for the first time and knew that they would be my favourites, the same city where i had my heart smashed into a million pieces and put it back together again, the same city where poetry takes over the basement of the Drake Hotel on Sunday nights and it feels like transcendence—it's simultaneously all of these things, but it's also an entirely new place, full of unwritten stories i have yet to know. i'm staring down a whole new world, knowing that this futurelove looks different, trusting that it will be okay because i know that never in history has there ever been the same love twice.

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