I may have to delete Instagram. I don’t know if I can take it anymore. Over the past few weekends, the stories function has been flooded with videos and pictures of friends and Irish people I don’t know enjoying themselves.
While I sat on my couch with a lukewarm can of gin and tonic, they were socialising in groups and having the craic. Now before you shout Level 5 restrictions, they aren’t in the country. They aren’t even in Europe. These people are in Australia and New Zealand. They are the Irish diaspora, and they are having more fun than us – and it’s hard to watch.
Last week, I planned a video call with a good friend from Cork, who now lives in Brisbane, Australia. On the agreed night, she ghosted me. A few days later, she messaged to say she had spontaneously decided to attend a comedy gig and woke up severely hungover on the morning of our catch-up. I told her I couldn’t remember what that felt like. She thought I was talking about the hangover, but what I meant was the spontaneity of her decision to go out. I can’t remember the last time any of us made plans with abandon.
Speaking to her felt like conversing with a creature from another planet. And through social media, I encountered another galaxy, with boat parties, and gatherings galore. In our lockdown bubble, it’s difficult to comprehend that some people live life without the shadow of coronavirus haunting their every move. With much of Europe in similar lockdowns, the contrast in existence is mindboggling.
In Australia, the state of Victoria is only just out of an intensive lockdown put in place to stop the spread of the virus there. The territory is by no means back to normal, but states such as Western Australia are operating fully, while Queensland and New South Wales are moving forward with limited restrictions. In New Zealand residents have been told to remain alert, but everyday life has resumed.
This disparity in living situations highlights the gap between Ireland and these regions. Yes, all three are island nations, but New Zealand and Australia don’t share a border with another country whose Covid-19 situation is precarious. People talk of a zero-Covid scenario in Ireland, but that may only be an option if an all-island approach is proposed. This looks like it will never happen. Australia and New Zealand were strict in their system, with their borders shut to almost all international travel, and this ban remains.
We are now moving into unknown territory over the next few months. Case numbers are fluctuating and there is a fear of rolling lockdowns. Currently, there appears to be no planned strategy for the interim until a vaccine becomes readily available for all. The first lockdown was easier to navigate; this one is not. When times are tough in Ireland, the young usually journey elsewhere. Unfortunately, this time, we have nowhere to go because the pandemic has immobilized an option we have always depended on. If I could, I would go to Australia or New Zealand without hesitation, and so would many others in their twenties. If these countries were to open their borders soon, don’t doubt that a whole new generation of Irish immigrants would land on their shores. If restrictions persist longer than we hope, this hypothetical push may stem from economic reasons, but mostly it will be for the promise of a fuller life. Because you realise just how fast life moves when you remain stagnant – 2020 has proved this.
Every month that goes by feels like we are being pushed to the next stage of our lives without ever experiencing the one we are currently living. The scenes of revellers on South William Street last weekend were unacceptable but understandable. The nature of the young is to socialise and this year has put a halt to proceedings. It’s becoming more and more difficult to fight the urge, especially when you see the golden hue of friends drinking out of red cups on the other side of the world. Most young people understand the weight of the situation and the need for restrictions, but we can also yearn for normality – these thoughts are not mutually exclusive. While my generation feels discontented, I understand this feeling is cross-generational. We are all grieving for the life we imagined we would have this year.
The thought of drinking a cold can of beer on a sunny beach in Australia appeals to almost everyone aged between nineteen and ninety right now. But until our future becomes clearer, we have to watch our own people live the ordinary life of our dreams. Yet, we can’t begrudge them. Watching them through the screen of a phone shows there is a life beyond Covid-19. They give us hope for better days. With the news of a possible vaccine on the horizon, our lives may mirror theirs sooner than we thought. And one day soon, I may not feel the need to delete Instagram, because my stories will be just as good as theirs.