Quarantine journal — will we change?

It’s been one week since the Spanish government lifted some of the restrictions. People in my age group can go out every day between 6 am and 10 am and between 8 pm and 11 pm. I feel weird. A strange mix of “oh yeah” and “what the fuck”.

Morning bike ride — one the few pleasures of the “de-escalation” phase

On one hand, I’m excited about the thought of being able to go outside. On the other, for the first time in almost 25 years, I have to be home at a certain time. Feels like I’m a child again. Back then, the punishment could be a cut in my allowance. Now it’s a 600 euros fine. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Every day I woke up early in the morning and went for a bike ride to the beach. The first morning I stayed out for about 3 hours and 40 minutes out of the allowed four hours. The government’s recommendation is to go out for one hour. I think. I don’t know and I don’t care. Fuck them! I’m going out!

It was an amazing week. Biking every day to the beach to see the sunrise. Meeting with friends. Seeing people smiling on the street for the first time in months. All these things made me feel optimistic. The nightmare is almost over. Compared with the previous two months, this was bliss. Things change.

But now, the weather is crappy. Cloudy, windy and the forecast is rain. I am tired from biking every day. Going out now has a price: physical effort. Which, after 2 months of extreme sedentarism, is expensive as fuck.

I can’t just go out for going out. I can’t meet with friends for a mojito at the beach. Or to have dinner together. Or on a trip to Costa Brava. My motorcycle that’s already paid for is at the dealership. We’re still under quarantine. Yet again, I am alone in my house, smoking my shisha. Things stay the same.

As lockdowns continue, across the globe, hundreds of millions are in the same situation as me. We’re all different and we have different ways of coping. Some try to just wait it out. Like a prison sentence. Some fall into depression. Others join the ranks of conspirationists: 5G networks caused the virus. Vaccines will have mind-controlling microchips in them.

Some try to find a higher meaning. A great awakening. Hashtags like “TheGreatRealisation” are trending. It’s easier to accept the situation if it’s depicted in a positive light. Like the first step towards a better, left-leaning utopic world.

I’m thinking, will things actually change once this is over? Will the world change? Will I change? I don’t think so. Eight weeks of quarantine may have changed some of our behaviors but it didn’t change our values. Behaviors change all the time. Values tend to be constant throughout our lives.

Looking at myself, I had the same set of values since adolescence. I chose logic over emotion, I am an atheist, politically I stand on the right, I value friendship: I am closer to my friends that I am to my family. I believe in science. I am a humanist. I am a capitalist. These core values endured through decades, breakups, fuckups, changing jobs, or moving countries.

In the same timeframe, my behaviors have changed drastically, to the point that if I were to meet my 15 years old self, I would kick his (my?) ass. Stupid kid! I would be pissed even with the 25 years old me. That arrogant fuck! No ass-kicking there, since that was the period I was doing boxing and muay thai so he would probably beat the shit out of me.

Short term friendships are based on behaviors. We go to the same gym, we drink in the same bar, we work in the same office. We’re friends. Until one of the behaviors that brought us together changes. And it’s over. I had many friends like these over the years. And they’re good. I don’t always need a deep conversation. Sometimes, after a long day at work, all I need is a beer and to talk about the latest UFC fight. Or which of the girls in the bar has the hottest ass.

Long term friendships are based on values. With some of my guys, I’ve been friends for more than 10 or 20 years. Our behaviors have changed massively over time. We each started having girlfriends, went to uni, got jobs, got married, moved to different countries. We’re still friends because we share the same values.

Whenever people tell me “you’ve changed” there’s a fat chance that I just stopped acting the way they wanted me to. I generally get these from people I have superficial friendships with. Like when I stop drinking (for a short while), smoking weed (for a short while) or doing stupid irresponsible shit (again, for a short while). One of my behaviors changes, we’re losing the one thing we have in common and they’re reacting to that.

My long term friends will tell me “you haven’t changed a bit” when we finally meet after months or years of not seeing each other. Because my values haven’t changed.

With regards to the center of the galaxy, you’re more than 2000 kilometers from where you were when you started reading this sentence. Working from home was unheard of 25 years ago. Working in an office was not the norm 100 years ago. Working in a factory started about 200 years ago. Change is constant. Fundamental change is rare.

Competing for limited resources is what pushed us to evolve beyond single cellular lifeforms 4 billion years ago and it’s been going on ever since. It’s maybe life’s most fundamental value. And no amount of wishful thinking will change that.

Behaviors will change, yes. But values will stay the same. The Brave New World will have to wait. Happy quarantine!



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