opinion

'200 unimaginable days.' Melbourne, may we never forget what we've been through.

For someone who abandoned this city in 2010 at the ripe age of 19, I am probably not the first person who should be putting pen to paper to talk about Melbourne pride... but if this past year and my unplanned and very immediate return to my hometown has taught me anything, it is that 2020 can and will surprise you.

My heart is full of love for the millions of strangers who have stood by my side, albeit from afar, through 200 unimaginable days. 

Our hearts collectively shattered in July when it was announced we were headed back into lockdown. 

We had hung on every word of those North Face Jacket press conferences and felt the swell of increasing anxiety as the numbers crept up and our hopes fell down. 

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For a city that is known as the entertainment capital of the world, suddenly the hottest ticket in town was to the 11am Dan Show, even if you didn’t want to go. 

And sure, everyone went through that first lockdown and can understand it right? But the novelty of Tiger King and sourdough Sundays was all but a distant memory as we went back to life inside, watching the rest of the country, and the rest of the world embrace the outside. 

There was nothing cute about lockdown two. 

No catchy hashtag or fun filled photos to post. No global citizen concerts. No overwhelming feeling that "we’re all in this together".

The rest of the world was moving on, while we weren’t moving at all. We were back to the beginning, now battling the extra stressor of feeling that we were falling behind while our lives were on pause. 

It was week after week of relentless, exhausting resilience. The self motivated effort day in and day out to find optimism and positivity in the prolonged gloom. 

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A daily commitment to finding the energy to show up to another day of unrelenting monotony. 

We lost the sound of a tram’s bell, the hiss of steam out of a coffee machine, the bubbling murmurs of happy diners in laneway restaurants, the buzz of delight and pain from rival fans on packed trains home from the G, live music at the pub, comedy shows in basement theatres, birthdays, weddings, hugs. 

Image: Getty The activities synonymous with what it means to be in Melbourne were replaced with the hum of Zoom waiting screens, the endless calls of "can you hear me?", and the "your audio's not connected yet."

Replaced with the anxious wait for the all important daily case number at a Dan Andrew’s presser, the dreaded 3pm show which we came to learn could only mean bad news, and the eventual loss of interest in the daily announcement as numbers lost all meaning and hope for a life outside of 5kms dwindled. 

We lost businesses, we lost birthdays, we lost births, we lost the AFL, and we lost too many of our own. We lost the freedom and the safety most of us have never had to think about or question. 

Replaced with a strange indescribable claustrophobia of the 5km radius barrier and the 7.55pm scramble to make it home by 8pm curfew. 

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We lost so much. But Melbourne never lost its spirit. 

I can’t begin to express the strange love I have for the millions of strangers I have never met, and will never meet, who endured this quiet pain with me. 

I am proud of faces I don’t know. And faces I can’t see as they stay hidden safely behind masks. I’m grateful for all the terribly difficult sacrifices that were made by anonymous individuals for the greater good. I admire every person whose life I will never know, but pain and fatigue I share. I know the simple act of surviving this - of adapting to the hardships and making it to the end - has bonded every Melbournian in a way that our beach going and restaurant loving friends in every other state will never be able to grasp. 

I don’t begrudge you your freedoms. Truly I don’t. On the contrary, my time locked in this little bubble has made me so full of joy for anyone who is able to be out in the big wide world.

But your lockdown one is not in the same post code as our lockdown two, and the least you can do for your Melbourne friends is acknowledge that. 

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To my glorious and strong new best friends, all five million of you, gosh I love you. I need you to know that. I need you to know how incredible it is what you have done. What you have endured. The rules you have followed. The loss you have suffered. The seemingly endless restrictions inflicted upon you.

It is not an easy feat to continue to show up, each day with a few more battle scars upon you than the day before. It has been tiring and testing, and I am proud of you for choosing to get up each morning, side by side with me. 

I can’t wait till I can smile big and wide at the unknown faces around the city, who were my brothers and sisters through this. 

To share a knowing look about the winter of 2020, full of Zoom calls we kind of didn’t want to do and grocery store trips that were the highlight of our week. 

To smile about the resurgence of family bike rides, of picnics in the park and board game nights. 

To smile about the rediscovery of joy and happiness in the simpler things that our busy lives had made us overlook. 

To smile about the realisation of the importance of our family and friends. That smile lives on under my mask for now, while my eyes try really hard to figure out how to convey that same messaging. 

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Image: Supplied.

There have been hopeful days, joyous lunacy, incredible acts of kindness, sleepless nights, a sense of community I’ve never experienced, full jars of peanut butter stress eaten, sheer exhaustion, and deep gratitude for any glorious connection despite our disconnection. 

Melbourne, you should be so proud of how resilient and adaptable you have been. You are stronger than you know and stronger than you should have to be. 

The patient, prolonged sacrifice is the work of champions. Each and every person that went through this for themselves, their family, and the millions of strangers they’ll never meet, is a hero. 

Go live big when we finally can. 

May we never take for granted weekend dinner parties, live theatre, coffee with friends, the roar of a crowd, pub trivia nights, birthdays, weddings and dance floors. 

And may we never forget how simple happiness can be. Or how invested we once were in a North Face jacket. 

Feature Image: Getty

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