As part of our music wellness series, Australian pop fusion duo President Street shared some of their own experiences of the past year from the other side of the world.
Not being allowed to leave the house, even though I didn’t necessarily want to, was really debilitating. I will never again take our freedom of movement for granted.
As we sit here in Melbourne in January 2021 we feel really lucky. We’ve only had a handful of Coronavirus cases in the past few months and we’ve just had our 22nd day in a row of zero cases in our state (Victoria). It’s summer and our restaurants and bars are beginning to feel a bit like normal and life seems to be returning to our once empty city…touch wood!!
But yeah, 2020 sucked. In Melbourne, we had some of the strictest lockdowns in the world for the longest period. We had 7 months of sustained hardcore lockdown and for 4 of those months we were not allowed to travel more than 5kms from our home and we had a curfew that prevented us leaving our houses at all after 8 pm. It was awful.
They say that you only truly appreciate something once it’s gone and that was definitely the case regarding freedom of movement. It’s also funny how emotionally connected my sense of mental happiness was to my ability to get out of the house and connect with people. Even though I did the zoom calls with mates over a few beers I realised that it is simply not the same as going to the pub! The personal connection with other humans is a life energy for me that I never truly appreciated just how
much I needed.
Music has always been an involuntary action for me and it’s my go-to when I’m feeling uncertain, but for the first time in years, I found that I didn’t go into the studio, play an instrument or just sit on the couch writing songs in my head. It really surprised me and made me realise that my core creative energy is highly correlated to my core emotional energy and that one doesn’t function without the other.
I struggled and I moaned to everyone who would listen about our situation. What seemed to make it worse was that at that time Melbourne was the only place on the planet that was in lockdown as the European summer seemed open and kinda business as usual and that exacerbated the dread I was feeling. It felt like it would never end.
But what I can say is that having struggled more than I thought I would, what I found was that once we came out the other side the life energy I was missing came flooding back with a vengeance. My mental state snapped back like a rubber band and the creativity and excitement for life has returned and I am super excited to get things moving again in 2021 and beyond. I guess that the only thing I can say to the peeps going through lockdown right now is that it does get better! As we say in Australia, ‘hang tough’ and find your way of getting through it because it’s surprising how quickly we can move past it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have not forgotten how crap those times were but I think it’s like sitting on a long haul flight from Melbourne to London – it feels so crap while you’re stuck in the air but the moment your feet touch the ground in Heathrow you forget all about the flight and focus on the adventures ahead.
We will get through this!
For me, I can be a bit of a homebody at the best of times but being mentally aware of having the restrictions about travel and socialising for so many months did make it challenging at times. Like Pete, I sort of shut off creatively too. It was so important though just for my mental health to reach out to friends – if your friends and family are outside of your restriction/travel zone it is tough feeling more isolated! Especially if you don’t have any pets to cuddle and love too! We’re social creatures by nature I guess and I’m a hugger so I missed sharing hugs especially.
These lockdowns seem to create a greater communal understanding and awareness which was so nice in Melbourne! Apart from friends and family, if you’re able to meet up with a neighbour or make a new friend by striking up a conversation with a stranger on a walk to the park or food store, it’s one moment in history where most people seem pretty happy to have that extra eye contact or smile or conversation – any social engagement – because we are all in the same boat trying to get through this whole lockdown thing and we all feel the struggle of being isolated, restricted beings! And we never know someone’s circumstances at home – for some being at home it’s not a safe or happy place at the best of times, or added pressure with family members with special needs and health issues not being able to access usual services, or financial pressures adding to struggle with living expenses and wifi which is oh-so-important now to keep connected with people and the outside world and also keep the entertainment going to pass the time whether it’s reading educational and spiritual stuff, movies and TV shows and of course – listening to music.
I experienced first hand the feeling of losing a loved one during covid lockdowns and the additional stress, grief, and almost anger and guilt around not being able to be there with and for them. My grandfather was one of the many elderly effected by the aged care home Covid outbreaks across Melbourne (where the majority of our deaths in Australia occurred). It was awful to not be able to visit him since March 2020 and knowing that he was alone and when he tested positive for Covid in his final days, being transported to the hospital and having to be without visitors there too. A Covid funeral I know can also be tough – we had restrictions of only 10 people, not being able to go through the usual processes, having to be socially distanced with other family members not living in the same household, unable to gather afterwards with family and in general feeling rushed on the day and unable to have that time to process. It’s a time to be gentle with ourselves. We are all going through so many challenging things we’ve never been through before.
I’m grateful that my grandfather was mostly mentally with it to be aware of what was happening and that we weren’t visiting because we weren’t able to due to Covid – not because we didn’t want to see him anymore (I think of the many elderly people whose memory and comprehension are compromised and feel they have been abandoned). I’m grateful my grandfather didn’t suffer physically from any respiratory symptoms of Covid- it likely didn’t help his immune system but we very much saw that it was the isolation that took him as he declined sharply from March when he no longer had visitors every week – and particularly so the week before he even contracted Covid. He didn’t see any family members for 7 months due to Melbourne’s strict and long lockdown. 7 months of no human touch, no hugs… My heart aches for him and all the children and every other person in hospital or home and even on the streets around the world in isolation, dying without their loved ones around them, and unable to have visitors. It’s just not right for someone to have their last moments all alone when it all could’ve been so different.
I’m grateful Melbourne’s hospitals weren’t overrun to the point that I never got the opportunity to say goodbye and ‘I love you’ and ‘thank you’ to my grandfather via a video call. I’m grateful for all the healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly and sacrificing so much for us and still managing to fit in video calls from their phones to connect people in their care with family members. I know this luxury of at least saying goodbye hasn’t been the case for many people around the world and my heart goes out to you.
So having to work through emotions and all the “could’ve should’ve been” and accept what’s happened and find peace with all of it is difficult. And that’s okay. We are collectively going through a lot. And we are all stronger than we realise. All the people who’ve died from Covid and the periphery effects of Covid and all the other plights and injustices of our world now and in history were strong. Life sure can be cruel, but it also can be so kind and wonderful. Ying and yang. Light and dark.
So sharing a smile, chat, kind gesture or offer of assistance could be the light in someone’s day to keep going. Having so much time in our own heads can be hard – but also a great opportunity to sit with ourselves and honour our feelings and thoughts while consciously giving ourselves the challenge to stay in control of our thoughts in a self-serving manner! We are all in this together 💗
President Street’s new single Time Is Up is out now