I’ve always been a bit of an anxious flyer but next week my usual jitters will overlay a much deeper fear.
I’m flying to Auckland for the first time since February, after living almost a year in the (relatively) Covid-free capital.
It’s been 11 months since I’ve seen my Mum and even longer since I’ve seen my friends, and as I’m working over Christmas, I leaped at the chance to be reunited -even just for a couple of days.
But that leap first, look later mentality means I am now realising just what I’m risking.
There’s no denying Wellington has had it good throughout 2021. We’ve dodged multiple close calls with the virus and as a result, have enjoyed significantly freer living than Auckland.
I’ve enjoyed café lunches, gym sessions, and drinks at the local while watching my family and friends go through a gruelling lockdown that seemed to have no end in sight.
But now the end is nigh, I’m heading straight towards it and I’m nervous.
I haven’t felt truly at risk of Covid since 2020 and now I am choosing to enter a city where cases number into the thousands. I’m double vaxxed, wear a mask and am a relentless hand-washer – but still, there’s an anxiety that I could be part of the small percentage of people for whom that makes little difference.
I’m only spending two days in the City of Sails this time around but that’s less time than it takes to contract a virus that can have life-long complications. I’ve told my mother and my friends I don’t want to go out anywhere and was surprised when the response was that they don’t want to go either.
I would have thought 107 days of lockdown would have them champing at the bit to experience the freedoms I’ve taken for granted – but perhaps they feel the same fear I do.
I won’t pretend I know what it’s been like for Aucklanders as the small taste of complete lockdown I had in 2020 took a huge toll on me, and I can’t imagine what three months of it would do.
But I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss the sun, the beaches and the sound of tui echoing off the Waitākere Ranges.
I want to walk barefoot at Piha then sprint as the sand scorches my skin, or wander down the shadowy trail to Kakamatua Inlet and marvel as the tide touches the horizon. I want to sit on the back deck of my mother’s house learning about all the things I’ve missed which she’ll teach me using words I don’t know. I want to sit in the garden with my best friend and watch her hands spell out the stories she tells me even as she stumbles on the phrasing.
I miss my dog, I miss the quiches from my local bakery and I’ve even started to miss the humidity that calls for three showers a day.
But most of all I miss precedented times.
The unprecedented times with which we’re all familiar mean I haven’t seen my brother since 2019. He’s in London, where Omicron is fast spreading as the Government scrambles to contain it. Like a horrible déjà vu, borders are closing, and with them, the window of opportunity to see him seems to grow smaller too.
Our lives have changed completely since we last saw each other– we’ve both watched the milestones from thousands of miles away through phone screens, but as we all know now, that’s not the same.
He has flights booked to New Zealand in the New Year but one of the many lessons I’ve learned from Covid is that nothing is certain.
Hanging on to hope feels risky now – but without it, I don’t know how I can cope. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to take that leap of faith.
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