Title: Journal Entry, April 10, 2020
Submitted by: Helen R.
In James Clifford’s Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, he writes, “These, then are the main features of diaspora: a history of dispersal, myths/memories about the homeland, alienation in the host country, desire for eventual return, ongoing support of the homeland, and an important identity collectively defined by this relationship.”
I read that today. Then I read it again. This, I thought. This is what working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like.
Let me qualify this statement: I have not been removed from my country by force, rampant warfare, or intolerable living conditions. I have access to all the same creature comforts (food and shelter, medical access and a safe neighborhood, my husband and my dog, Netflix and Zoom) that I had before. And I am one of the very fortunate Americans who is able to continue my full-time work at home, so I can pay all my bills.
But I still feel a sense of unqualified loss, one that revolves around two places. Let me explain.
First, I miss my work. I miss seeing my colleagues. I miss the routine of going into the office, of walking down the hall for my first cup of coffee, of hearing the murmur of the conversations outside my door. I miss being in this physical space. And while I continue to work to support this place, identify with this place, and talk with others about when I will return to this place, my workplace feels very far away.
Second, I miss my family and friends. While I have my husband here to tell me jokes and cook my dinners, I miss being able to drive across town to get a hug and smile from my son, to listen to my mother tell me one of her stories as she is sitting across from me in her kitchen, to sit outside with a glass of wine with a good friend in my backyard. I miss this metaphorical space of being with other people I love. But like Clifford and Safran also tells us, I remain committed to maintaining these relationships, holding these memories, and believing that we will eventually return to these places once more. But I will say, all of this is rather hard.
So diaspora. One way of categorizing the myriad of feelings that hit me during this pandemic. At least for today.