What did you really get up to in the last 3 weeks? Probably nothing.
Let’s face it. Be honest now. For all those pictures of you on Instagram reading new books, learning to play the piano and finding your spiritual inner-self, the truth is you did absolutely nothing, didn’t you?
Like me, chances are you emerged from Dubai’s lockdown last Thursday night hating the same people, eating the same rubbish and buying the same stuff you still don’t need. What a waste of three weeks.
How could this happen? I suspect that for most of us, the journey of self-introspection only really began on Friday, when it was all too late.
Wind the clock back to just over three weeks, and that text message on a Saturday evening announcing that Dubai’s sterilisation programme had been extended to 24 hours a day, for at least 2 weeks.
What followed, I believe (and just to be clear, this is on the basis on zero training or knowledge in the matter) were the three stages of lockdown.
Stage one: shock. There was no warning. Boom. It happened, and now you needed a permit just to walk the dog. You had to specify what time this would be, and pick a window. And you could only do this every three days. We made desperate calls to friends and family, speculating that the world was actually coming to an end. Drones flying overhead at night to steralise the streets didn’t help. I felt lonely and distraught, but deep down quite pleased that at least Liverpool would not win the Premiership. So close. Hahahaha.
Next came stage two: adaptation. This was the smooth and easy phase, where you signed up to Zoom, picked your favourite places on Uber Eats, downloaded 23,000 home fitness apps, became a vegan for a couple of hours (never again, I can tell you). For good measure, to show support for the UAE in this hour of need, you even took out an OSN subscription.
All the above took no more than a couple of hours, before the big one, and the onset of stage 3 of lockdown: Instagram.
This turned out to be the all-consuming one, as without social contact with virtually anyone, we have all been free to create the image of ourselves that we would like to project to the outside world. It is of course a totally false one, which doesn’t contain a grain of truth. But it’s the version of ourselves that we would quite like to be, or at least let others believe is the real us. And lockdown gave us all a 3 week window to do just that.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticising, but confessing. I did the same. The first part of this journey was to appear more intellectual than I actually am. Aware that my friends and colleagues would get a Zoom window into my living room, I removed two of my favourite books from the shelves: Invincible – Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season, and Take That, Now and Then (contains some song lyrics in the hardback edition).
These were replaced by Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom (I kind of knew the ending so never read it), and The Unfinished Life of John F Kennedy (again, same issue re the ending).
A fake fitness routine was soon invented. I am not alone here – I saw one “influencer” post on Instagram that said: “Wow! 100 squats, 50 push ups and 5km run. And it’s only 7am! Now let’s get to work!!”
This is of course total nonsense. Where exactly did you go for this 5km run without being arrested for breaking the lockdown? Yes, you may well be wide awake at 7am, but only because you’re still on Season 3 of Narcos.
This was just the start. I have seen friends who can’t boil an egg claiming they are close to being Michelin star chefs. Tone deaf pals are suddenly giving Mozart a run for his money. Worst of all, every day of lockdown brought a new and dreadful home created video urging the world to stay safe. Everyone with an iPhone positioned themselves as the next Quentin Tarantino. (Small tip: if you get 3 views, that means the lights are on but nobody’s home).
In the coming weeks, it is likely that our lives will slowly get back to normal. And the dreaded real world, where we have to be ourselves again. So I will leave you with this wonderful quote on self-introspection by the scientist Robert Winston. Kind of how I feel…but at least I admit it.
“When I look in the mirror, I am slightly reminded of self-portraits by Durer and by Rembrandt, because they both show a degree of introspection. I see some element of disappointment; I see a sense of humour, but also something that is faintly ridiculous; and I see somebody who is frightened of being found out and thought lightweight.”