There has been no year in living memory like 2020…unless you are old enough to remember the Spanish flu, of course. Almost overnight, everything stopped. Everything changed, seemingly forever.
We are still dealing with the trauma. Sometimes, I may be watching some older series on the T.V. and, for a split second, I think—“Wait! Where are their masks? Why are they so close?!” And then I realise I’m re-watching season 5 of Will & Grace for the umpteenth time and they have no idea what the future will bring. Side thought: how would Jack survive in a global pandemic?
In my day-to-day life, pre-pandemia, I was (am?) a concert pianist. I remember that week when the first local restrictions were put in place. Email after email, phone call after phone call, all from producers with only two words to say: Cancelled or Postponed. Indefinitely, of course.
In the span of a few days, I counted the lost income with every cancellation that flooded my inbox. I stopped counting at £7000. It was disastrous, and yet, I was relieved!
My work was beginning to drown me. As usual, I always take on too much work. I practice hours every day in my tiny music studio in my little apartment. And then I panic at how much music I have to learn in such little time. Then I survive another performance, vowing never to take on so much work again. And then, the next day, I accept a near-impossible commission and repeat the cycle.
I was moderately successful, travelling around the globe, doing what some people would give everything to do, yet I began to see my standards slipping. I knew I was on borrowed time. I was tired.
Cue: Covid-19. Everything stopped. I could breathe again! I didn’t touch the piano again for six whole months! It was bliss.
In this time, I enacted a change. Firstly, I started spreading the word about my newly-released gay romance novella, Le Berceau. Then, I dived headfirst into my writing and drafted some exciting new manuscripts.
Writing became the creative outlet I was craving. An opportunity to escape my tiny music studio was the biggest blessing I could hope for! At last, I could have a holiday from music.
Soon, many months later, the phone began to ring again. My inbox began to fill up. The gigs were returning. Contracts were harsher now—I’d never seen so many cancellation clauses on one page! I accepted, of course. Producers can’t take the same risks as before. The rules are changing, almost daily.
But how difficult it was to return to life at the piano! The pandemic taught me to fall in love with writing again, but at the expense of my livelihood. I delayed my first return to the piano for weeks. The jobs were returning, but my enthusiasm had left. Before I knew it, my 2021 calendar was filled. My 2022 calendar is now halfway there. I need to return to the piano again, soon. But boy, am I scared!
Truly, things will never return as before. We may be able to fake normality, but when all this is over, I won’t be ready to shake hands with a fellow musician, or producer, or even a friend for some time to come. Concert halls will never be full again. Fees will forever be drastically cut, and we will never reach the same heights as before. The industry is in crisis, no matter what happens.
I often think how familiar the pandemic may seem for those who survived the eighties and early nineties, when HIV was running riot through our community. The fear of being touched, in case you catch it—the fear of going home with someone—the fear of people knowing you have it.
I walk in the street now and look upon every face as if they may have Covid-19, and when a friend calls me to say they tested positive and I should get tested as a precaution, it all seems hauntingly familiar. The words positive and tested carry a certain trauma for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
As normality begins to appear, just over the horizon, I know things will never be the same again. Thankfully, humans are very adaptable, resourceful creatures. We will have to learn to live with a new normal, but for many of us, this will be extremely difficult.
Heraclitus said, “You can never swim twice in the same river”. Sure, we may dip our toes in the stream of normality once more, but the water rushing over our feet will be different now. The sand pushing up between our toes will be different, too.
But just like those who swim in the river often, we will learn to love what the changes will bring. Starting with small habits, we will become accustomed to change on a larger scale. We have to! There’s no going back now.
So, excuse me while I go and wash my speedos. I think I’m going to find it very difficult to get used to new-normalcy, but like everyone else on the planet, I guess I’m going to have to go for a swim.