An Open Letter To The Quarantine Glow-up I’m Never Going To Get

Like most relationships, we started out hopeful. I was stuck at home while the prime minister turned the global pandemic into a PR stunt, and you were there for me, full of possibilities. You were the silver lining in a really dark cloud – the ‘after’ image in a photoshopped fitness campaign. You were the cool kid in school EVERYONE wanted to get to know and somehow, I thought I’d win you over with all my metaphors (I didn’t).

Looking back, I realise that my infatuation with you, like my short-lived crush Noah Centineo, started because of the internet. Except you were a lot more versatile. My best friend started working on her soon-to-be-published collection of poems. My ex decided to break-up with his beer belly. And a colleague, who until recently had never cracked an egg, was now making pasta from scratch. And it was all up there on their Instagram stories, one trending hashtag at a time.

The millennial antidote to coronavirus was perfectly Instagrammable snippets of ‘self-growth’.

So I jumped in, headfirst. I cooked an elaborate meal, every day for two days. I looked up countless ‘how to write a bestseller’ articles. I tried starting my own blog and ran out of things to say in a grand total of three hours. I watched fitness videos, woke up at 6 am (before remembering that I was up googling coronavirus symptoms till 2 am), and went back to sleep. I even tried to deal with the stress of the world crumbling by ‘sweating it out’. So in my AC-free flat, I decided to take on Mumbai’s humidity and my cellulite by doing a 15-minute workout every time something stressed me out.

After three days of stress workouts, I was still stressed and had grown to accept the fact that my cellulite probably was not the biggest problem in the world. Or my house. I wanted to take those selfies with the perfect six pack. I wanted to post #delish #yummy #homemade food photos. I wanted to come out of this with a shining new personality, shinier hair, and a blueprint to what the rest of my life was going to look like.

Except, as the ‘encouraging’ tweets and ‘self-care’ posts piled up, I realised… that maybe I just wanted to come out of this. That you were nothing more than a forgotten item on a checklist I made after watching way too many makeover videos.

Also read: How the COVID-19 Lockdown Has Changed the Way We Fall in Love

So I took a break from you. In true millennial style, I ghosted you. You kept popping up in stories, Jay Shetty tweets, and videos. But I ignored you until I finally decided to block you the only way I knew how – I got off social media. I stopped worrying about the fact that Neha from college has scored a book deal DURING lockdown. That, while the rest of us were dealing with pay cuts and zero appraisals, Rahul from HR had managed to bag that promotion.

I stopped worrying about the abs, the KimK butt workouts, the ‘easy’ dishes that took two hours to make. And instead, I gave myself the space to worry about the things I couldn’t ignore. My job. Migrant workers. My parents, who are currently in a different city. The fact that I might be carrying the virus, even if I show zero symptoms. What a post-pandemic world is going to look like. And somehow, after all the worrying, I decided to exercise. Because I wanted to.

Turns out, (figuratively) walking away from you was the best thing I could do for us. It stopped me from comparing myself to the world and rating the way I was dealing with a crisis. Suddenly, I was doing things because I wanted to – not because everyone else was doing it. I was exercising because it felt like a nice change from aimlessly staring at the ceiling. I was cooking simply because I was tired of takeout. I was writing because giving myself the freedom to worry actually left me with a lot to say. Somehow, I had made my own Instagrammable routine. One that had zero pics and zero views. Growth that definitely wouldn’t make its way to a #10yearchallenge.

Even though I have changed, I definitely haven’t ‘glowed-up’. There are days when all I can do is muster the energy to reach for the TV remote. I’ve burned more food than I care to admit. And even when I work out, I sometimes cheat.

When this lockdown ends and we return to the new normal, I won’t have a flat stomach, a recipe book, or a brand new hobby. I’ll have, quite simply, survived. And honestly, I think that’s all any of us can really do. So while I might revisit you when I’m 30 and still single, I think it’s time for me to look you in the eye, and move on.

Farishte Irani loves cats, cheap alcohol, and good poetry. She can be found oversharing on her Instagram, @runawaybookworm.

Featured imaged credit: YouTube screenshot