When Will It Come Back?

By Lucy Harbron - 20:11

8:30pm on a Saturday and I’m complaining about the noise, turning down invitations because I’ve already taken my makeup off, dismaying over my tiredness as I promised to add another tick to my yearlong to-watch list. I complain a lot lately. I complain about crowds, offices, Instagram stories, busy brunch places. I stress about bookings and calendar dates, can’t keep up with the logistics of my life being stretched. Sometimes it feels like that medieval stretch torture, strapped to the rack of the month and they’re saying you will be taller! You will go out and be busy, have plans, get new clothes, keep up keep up keep up. With each bone crack I have to celebrate or it’ll make the new one seem worse, everything is about easing into to.

Life peels further from my imagination and I complain about that too. My dedicated time for rose tinting is squeezed and things are starting to slip through the cracks. I’ve spent all year missing uni, teasing myself with masters prospectuses, flipping through photos of my 18 year old self who now seems to me like the most social person ever, my peak. But 8:30pm on a Saturday in 2021 is cutting a bit close to 2017’s Saturday 8:30pms - ripping outfit after outfit from my body, getting hotter and hotter in my bedroom with music below, analysing the drink I made and uber costs and ease of getting home, selling my ticket and deciding to not go.

I could cancel on my best friends then if I had 50 minutes to falter. But the 18-year-old anxious flake looks like gentle when you’re in your 20s. Now it screams early retirement and I stress mostly about never getting it back as everyone dives in with such ease. Drunk girls are singing Valerie in the bar across the road, stumbling footsteps have returned to my weekend soundtrack – on Thursday the anxiety I got from 4 pints made me consider resigning myself sober.

Suddenly headachey and old, I keep looking at club pictures of my younger self and wondering if I’ll ever have fun in that body moving, chaotic way again. Surely we’ve all forgotten to dance? Or have we splintered off into those that threw themselves living room lockdown parties and those that didn’t? How long will it be until my approach to dancing can return? Liking to be the perfect level of unexpectedly drunk and dressed just casual enough that your presence looks just as spontaneous as you feel when you decided to go to a club at 1am. I barely remember 1am as anything more than a time to realise you’ve stayed up too late watching tiktok. 2am, 3am, even 4am are lost to me now. Should I be training for their return?

From the noise outside, I feel like I missed the reunion. Reacquainted with art gallery mornings, beer garden afternoons, café work days – It’s Saturday nights I can’t pry from the hands of my lockdown habits, clutching hard as the wheels turn and my bones stretch further. A more resilient person wouldn’t care, look down from the balcony with superiority as prawns cook and the 26th film of the year starts.  But everything tells me I got old without realising, and everyone seems to be snapping back while I’m study wrinkles, wondering when I’ll get the chance to be 23 or if 23 is too late when 21 and 22 were sacrificed.

Far beyond clubs and bars, I complain a lot about people’s holidays, one way I can use the year’s moral compass as a wall between myself and plans. I turned FOMO into tuts as I add to the mental list of places to go, places I should’ve been, ways everyone is better than me. I’d like to go to Paris and wander round Versailles in a big dress. I want to go to every museum in Berlin, ride a bike in Copenhagen or Stockholm or Amsterdam, eat food in Italy. All these longings I’ve been putting off for a lot longer than a year, always waiting for something to say go as I was busy interning or working or stressing about working. It’s nice having a pandemic to blunt my own disappointments over my lack of travel, totally unable to empathise with people mourning the loss of their yearly holiday, but somehow knowing if travel opened up restriction free tomorrow, I’d probably still not go. I can’t figure out what I’m stalling for, but know the world’s pause was a comfort to me. It felt like a year to play catch up when I felt incessantly behind in big goal checkpoints. I relaunched a magazine, I started a newsletter, I wrote music articles weekly, I watched film after film, I performed poems, but my to-do list is long and the play button has been pressed. How am I supposed to go on holiday when I’m still writing my lockdown novel?

The rack is stretching me and I’m pushing back like it’s a leg press, like my strength alone could stop it. If I cut off my peripheral, I can be okay. Walk my path to and from where I want to go, figure out times when my favourite places are quietest and go, make my own leaps when I book tickets, take trains, make plans. But Saturday nights stay stubborn, too attacked by outside, too alien with the reluctance to make any plans to feel the empty space of no curfews. I am too old and too tired, affirming it with each early night and wondering when it will stop being true. I isolate myself in the house I built against FOMO, but they built a bar right outside. And when will it all come back?

I tried making a list, drafting a blog of ways to get your mojo back.

  1.  Buy a new perfume but have no one be close enough to compliment it. Start doubting if it’s nice, because no one has said it is, with a subtly that won't travel 2 metres.
  2.  Experiment with makeup. Do your eyeliner different on a day you don’t go out, worry too much to recreate it for the pub.
  3. Go out to get yourself some new clothes. Buy nothing because you can’t try it on, fight a battle in every shop between the size you probably are and the size your brain thinks you are because you slacked on your hula hooping for a week.
  4.  Get your fringe trimmed. Wake up at 7am and worry about your cool value in the world as everyone experiments with colour and you’ll never get the confidence to bleach your eyebrows.

I want to feel hot and cool, I got the memo that post-lockdown we were all glowing up, but it ended without me realising. I ask again, when will it come back? Starring at people from my balcony, head too busy creating a timed schedule for my movie night to even notice the tug to go out, the tug that would pull me into tiny tops in a moments notice and run out the door two years ago. Not ready to retire and not ready to go out, I'm lying in wait for some mental easing where spontaneity will take over the night shift from cosiness and 2am will be alive again. 

On days it eases and I let myself be excited rather than scared, I sit in a café with my friends. They talk about fake vaccine passports and people  who are playing the system to get to Portugal for an all-inclusive. I go home resigned to staying there for another year, turn down the evenings invitations, make a coffee and apply eye cream.

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