Long journey into light.

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Panel taken from “From Hell” by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

With the coronavirus pandemic now into its second year, the wait for relief isn’t over yet.

Everyone’s tired. It’s been a year or more of chronic uncertainty. A year that’s stretched on and on, a year of feeling impotent, unsure of the future, unsure of money. 

And as time’s rope stretches, personal discipline begins to fray. Keeping your distance, keeping isolated, keeping the mask on all get harder. Patience dwindles.

There’s frustration too. And anger. And a yearning for change, for an end, for contact with others. The sullen discontent of a dog chained to a post.

We travel together through a long, dark tunnel. The length uncertain. The darkness oppressive. The jostling incessant. All eyes straining for some change in the distance, some glimmer of light. The results of the vaccine trials mean that relief is coming, but the vagaries of rollout mean it’s not clear when.

Scientists know these feelings all too well. Too many of us spend too much of our time feeling like this, travelling this dark road, again and again and again. Now the stresses of our work life are mirrored in our domestic routines too.

The grind, the churn, the hopes repeatedly dashed, the yearning, the bondage, the slog, the sense of going on and on and on and not knowing when it’s going to end.

The pandemic is a life and death event and maybe it’s tasteless to compare working life to the psychological endurance test that’s been inflicted at a societal level, but scientists are unavoidably and uncomfortably familiar with this psychological terrain. We skirt it, we walk it…sometimes we get lost in it.

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Illustration by Édouard Riou from “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” 

Others having success, getting things before we do. Unfairness, chance, bitterness. The sense of being trapped deep underground, forgotten, disorientated in the dark. The temptation after long duress to start running, cutting corners, relaxing control…to be resisted.

The pandemic has shown us that this mental state isn’t healthy. Science shouldn’t be like this. We’re not paid enough to be miserable. Our work should be challenging but fun. If it’s just making us miserable then there’s something wrong in our environment, our circumstances, or the expectations put on us.

If nothing else, living through the pandemic, being part of that long collective journey into light, has taught us that.

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