We’ve all been in some level of quarantine for the past seven months; that’s not news.
As a family of one, my bubble stayed small. My next door neighbors were a godsend, and I set up regular Zooms almost daily to stay in connected with friends, family, and colleagues. Summer introduced more opportunities to connect with people outdoors, and my spirits stayed high.
It wasn’t bad, really. I was ready. The first few months of Covid were much like my first year of sobriety; I had the strange feeling I’d been through this before. Only this time I had tools. And everyone else was going through it with me.
But after two seasons of rolling mostly solo, I realized:
Winter was coming.
My usual techniques for managing my annual winter episodes of depression wouldn’t work this year: the gym, looking forward to Goal Brunch, a trip to a sunnier locale in February.
And then I realized…
I don’t have to be here.
I could handle Covid solitude, even thrived in it. But after George Floyd’s murder, my optimism crashed and I was back on high alert. Not only did I have to burn up bandwidth every time I left my home trying to dodge the invisible foe that is the virus, now I had to guess which people truly believed that Black Lives Matter and who was still so entrenched in white supremacy that their very presence threatened being treated as an equal.
It was rearing its atrocious head in hurtful ways. Being told by white women how to accommodate BIPOC people in the context of my job, dodging racism from strangers on dating apps, agonizing over how much to speak out and advocate for myself and others versus hiding under the (literal and figurative) covers.
And then my beloved pet rabbit Grandmaster Flash died. 2020, are you f’ing kidding me?!?!
As I always say…
If you don’t like the game, you can either change it or pick a new one.
Was it time to follow my own advice?
Now that work was entirely virtual, there was a window of opportunity.
I had always dreamed of living in another country, for at least a few months. And I had tried unsuccessfully to move to a beach city when I left New York, curious if constant sun and warmth would help manage my seasonal depression.
My recent self-education on Black history had me romanticizing Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, who each fled to other countries, upending the game, able to more objectively observe and live and thrive and be. While my light skin has always been a defense against racism in America, I craved living from a different framework. I wanted to experience a completely different perspective; to view the U.S. from the outside.
And so, last month I decamped to Quintana Roo, Mexico, a place I’ve loved and felt comfortable exploring and working from, for over a decade.
Isn’t it dangerous? my dad asked.
More dangerous than the being surrounded by people who ignore science and won’t wear masks? More dangerous than a country where police indiscriminately kill Black people and a city where they arrest peaceful protesters? More dangerous than a state where trucks waving Trump flags drive people off the road and shoot paintball guns and bear spray into crowds with zero consequences? More dangerous than a city where it takes the mayor months to stop the police from teargassing citizens?
Won’t you be lonely? my mom asked.
More lonely than seven months in my own Covid bubble? More lonely than years as a single woman and solo business owner? More lonely than December nights when the sun sets at 4:45pm? More lonely than weekends without concerts, parties, spiritual gatherings? More lonely than the awful feeling when people close to me posted on social media about #BLM but didn’t call me, their only Black friend or family member?
And so America, while I love you to my core, I need some time apart.
Yes, I am also trying to change the game. I voted before I left. I work behind the scenes with our local elected and appointed officials. I volunteer on campaigns and in the community. I’m on a committee to help our governor enact racial justice through economic policy. I share my platforms with others who want to tell their story.
But I need a time out. And I’m not alone.
America, please don’t let me down. I look forward to reuniting.