"And so what is the master plan now."
That's my parents for you. First Skype call since back on land, first call in 4 months. Only a few hours ago, we've concluded an incredible, both wondrous and fucking dreadful adventure on sea: sailing around the world all throuhout Christmas 2019 and the subsequent delayed Brexit & Covid stocking filling (I guess we must have done really bad last year, so that Nature literally sent us to our room to sit and think about it.).
'I don't think 2020 will be much conductive to making any plans,' I tried to relate my theory of this whole disaster being a huge exercise in adaptibility (we as humans are meant to be masters of that, so fingers crossed) to my parents. And shockingly, they understand. They both work in hospital and been unlucky enough to 'catch this disease'(not literally) in their last year before retirement. I think by now, they too realised, life will never look the same after what collectivelly happened to us in 2020.
This corona virus storyline will not conclude with the last infected, cured or deceased person. I somewhat doubt the New World Order is just behind the corner, as many spiritual quacks on Instagram would have you believe, but I do think we cannot come out of this unchanged, both on personal and global level. Cue in the next economical crisis...c'mon, millenials, you didn't really think you'd avoid one...
To the day exactly, four months and a lifetime of changes ago, we departed from our home port in Southampton onboard the famous Queen Mary 2 (or as is now better known amongst all the recent crew and passangers 'The Scary Mary') on the seafaring working adventure. We left behind some well-established and solid walls around our comfort zones, glued together with satisfying careers & amazing friends, and optet instead for a labour intensive crusie ship lifestyle most of our loved ones (I'm looking at you, parents) deemed as something 'you should have done 15 years ago'.
Early on, during our magnificently doomed ordeal on sea, with ports getting cancelled, passangers dying left and right even prior the virus explosion, and with every week mounting up to 80hours of work for $2.20 per hour (I hope by now, you do realise nobody comes to work on the sea to make money. I am well set on eradicating this hilarious stereotype once and for all.), our minds and bodies atrophying (I hope by now, you do realise you won't have time for anything else but working and sleeping when working on sea. That's another one.) and my dad becoming seriously ill, we pretty much decided we wouldn't conclude our full 6 months contract. Legally, there's no way of doing so without resigning, which would then block you from ever coming back, so we waited patiently, re-assuring each other that some way out will manifest for us.
And than...2020 happened. And I still feel like maybe partially I made it happen.
To try and save itself in the wake of what will be unpredecented and fucking disastrous times for a cruising industry, our company terminated all of our contracts a week before arrival to Southampton. So for a week, we got to experience Queen Mary 2 as passangers rather than crew - another thing I secretly dreamed into being. There's been some pool time, some cinema & planetarium screenings, buffets in the King's Court restaurant on deck 7, promenading and reading in lounge chairs outside, some blackouts in the G32 night club & Monopoly tournaments in the Queen's Room - all the good shit crew had always been historically banned from.
As a British fleet, we did have to comply with ever-escalating restrictions inflicted by WHO and British Government, but with a crew of 2000, stuck together on one ocean liner, there's only as much social distancing you realistically can follow. I guess, because we've lived through this pandemic so detached from its land-locked reality, I half-expected to come back to London and hug all of our friends and chosen family and hold them close and together we would walk towards the end of the world or the new beginning.
I'm not gonna lie, it shocked me, when ALL OF OUR FRIENDS, basically said the same: 'Wonderful you're back, shame we can't see each other until further notice, hang in there.'...and that's even the most rebelious of them. So note to self - shit's about to ascendt to a whole new level of real.
So for now, video calls. Pretty much just late to the world-wide-party that's been raging on for quite some time. Our friend Gill coughs a lot which is worrying. Our friend Tereza worries about the nationalistic tendencies escalating even more when this 'Chinese problem' (ughh) is solved. Our friend Emma is seeing the future in which freelancing and working from home thrives. Our friend Corinne thinks we all work so much and so hard here in London in exchange for some securities...a capitalistic fairytale that totally failed us in face of this pandemic. The system you're constantly loading more and more hours of work and money into, will not save you. Because it's nowhere to be found. Your wardrobe full of H&M and Zara clothes? You've got nowhere to dress up for. Apple products and other brands you invested in to prove some sort of status, or simply because that's what you do with the money you make? The status is gone. The virus don't discriminate. And your iPhone is the biggest magnet to bacteria and viruses. People cannot but wake up into a new world when this nightmare is over.
The goodbyes on the ship were brief - to be fair they could never possibly feel adequant. Most of our colleagues from onboard shop are like twelfe, so they jumped into their parent's cars and drove off to self-isolate in their family homes. We've been so fucking lucky to find both a drive back to London through our friend Tuf from the 'photography department' (one of the few people I'm hundred percent sure we carry with ourselves forward into our 'aftership lives') and hallelujah - an empty flat in Golders Green our friend Marta, who's self-isolating with her boyfriend in Reading, will let us occupy for couple of weeks or so.
Beyond that, mum, the master plan is to find some job asap, cause realistically we only have enough money to eat for about two weeks, save up enough money to visit David's family in France and my family in Czech,...and beyond...well, we'll have to take it day by day. No plan. My biggest dread in life (yes, I am my mom's son) but also probably a challenge the last four months on sea were preparing us for.
It's bizarre because we only left 4 months ago, but a whole new life happened in the meantime. We've only left 4 months ago, but ever since, our every move, every minute of our day, when you eat, where you eat, what you eat and who you eat it with, had always been decided for us.
Without a warning and in a scope of single day, we regained all of our freedom, but not really, because of the lockdown in UK...
We've only left 4 months ago, but been around the world and back, both geographically and in terms of touching our own physical, mental and emotional limits. We've only left 4 months ago, but the London we're returing to looks and sound strange. Like a bad simulation with not enough budget for actors and sound engineers. Instead of the usual soundscape of traffic and voices and a messy patchwork of languages and lives you came to expect from London, the world outside our windows sound like the afternoons in our family cottage out in the Czech countryside. Just birds and lawn mowers.
There's people outside wearing masks and gloves and running to the opposite side of the road when they see you approaching. We're in Golders Green, so at the same time, you've got orthodox Jewish families of 7-15 just casually hanging out, social distancing be damned. You visit a park, and before the police drives in to disperse people, you could think this was just another quiet April afternoon in London. You go to the Tesco and it's '28 Days Later'.
For us, this change was not gradual. There's only BEFORE and AFTER (which is usually my favourite part of trashy magazines), with a truly tumultous MIDDLE. Brain chemistry is trying to catch up with it all, so in effect we sleep 14+ hours a day and spend the rest trying to get our brains to remember what one is to do when there's no work, how to cook, how to take care of yourself in the world where all decisions are YOURS again.
I've used my today's '1hr for exercise or food shopping' for a pilates session (yes, I'm gay) in Golders Hill Park, got mocked by a group of illegally congregating youth and subseqently had the last laugh when a police car came literally bumping up and down through the grass and under the trees, angrily sending everyone home, except for the one and only person who actually came here to do some Jack Knives and Swan Dives. Me.
On the way back I got happily lost in the streets just by the park, in a quiet golden-lit afternoon, lined with little houses that...hang on a minute...that reminded me of...yes! Those endless streets of suburban Subiaco, just outside the Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Perth, Western Australia. Streets that we wandered only a month ago, on our last day on land before arrival. (Moments before that, we've climbed the Kings Park's DNA Tower together, which now seems quite symbolic.)
And suddenly it struck me. Perhaps this right here: a shift in perception, barely noticable on the surface, is both the main reason for adventuring & the subtle outcome of that whole painful rebirth.
Because when you decide to leave, when you embark on your heroe's journey, no matter where you go and who you meet, you'll always come back changed.
No matter what you promise to your loved ones & to yourself, no matter how great or horrific (trust me, those two CAN co-exist) your voyage turns out to be, one & only one thing is certain: You cannot come back UN-changed.
Same applies to our current pandemic narrative.
'Well, you wanted an adventure, you've got three full assholes worth of one!', my friend Dasha from Czech quipped the other day, greeting us back amongst the landlubbers using a typical Czech nobel rhetoric.
I have no idea, who's the third one, but rest assured - mine and David's are filled to the brim. (And with that mental image, I shall leave you for today.)