When We Were Free
Now that we all have to stay at home because of the state of alarm, we miss the time when we were free.
In those days, caught up in the frenetic whirlpool of daily activity, we’d turned our homes into half-board lodgings where we barely did more than have our evening meals and sleep. We used to leave early in the morning to go to work, we ate at work so as not to lose time and we didn’t go home until it was dark, when our children were already asleep.
At weekends, we used to get away to the beach, to the country or any other place that would liberate us from the feeling of being captives in our home.
Society made us believe that living a full, rewarding life meant working 12 hours a day, doing sport, learning languages and basically filling up every last gap in our schedule (something architects were good at even when we were students, when getting any sleep the night before an assignment deadline was considered a failure).
And suddenly we hit a reality that made us stop.
Now we bemoan having walled in the balcony to gain an extra metre of bedroom, or having closed off the porch to make the living room bigger. Because instead of Le Corbusier’s “machines for living in”, our homes were transit zones.
But masks, gels, and toilet paper apart, we now all strive to get a little vitamin D whenever we can. We look forward to the moment when a few rays of sunlight come in through our window with the same enthusiasm as we wait for 8 o’clock to come round so we can give the health workers a round of applause. And yet before, we never gave a thought to whether our houses had too little light.
We’ve moved from being over-confident to being over-confined in the time it takes a Formula 1 car to get from 0 to 100.
We improvise professional workspaces in bedrooms or living rooms, and gyms on balconies. We even use the kitchen or the dining room as postprandial hangouts, sometimes even chatting with other members of the family!
We adapt, but we still miss the time when we were free.
When we enjoyed the freedom of an alarm clock going off at the same time every day to go to work.
The freedom of being stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work, or down below in the underground at rush hour.
The freedom of hurrying and still arriving late at the next meeting, and of blaming it on the traffic.
The freedom of eating in 10 minutes while at the same time answering emails and phone calls that “can’t wait”.
The freedom of leaving a meeting early to pick the kids up from school, drop them off at their English language school and then take them to their sports activities… and all in time to get to our spinning class at the gym.
The freedom to arrive home late and exhausted, gobble down dinner and go to bed… and then repeat every single act the next day like robots.
We think this lockdown situation is depriving us of freedom, but actually it’s we ourselves who shackle ourselves by putting on our wristwatch each morning.
This enforced pit stop gives us the opportunity to understand (or remember) the really important things in life, which until now have lain forgotten in some wardrobe hidden by enormous amounts of what we thought were urgent matters.
Let’s take this chance to do a William Wallace and recover our freedom. The freedom that depends not on “where” but on “how”. The freedom we had when we were truly free!