“I try to allow myself to fully reflect on what we went through in 2020. I feel about it the same way you feel when someone mentions the name of an ex you went through a bad break up with. I kind of don’t wanna go there.
How I experienced it, in the beginning, in my little world. It was pretty grim. I went into the lockdown period in a flat which was infested with carpet beetles. I’ve experienced worse. I’ve experienced a hellish 8 months of living with bed bugs in London during my first 8 months ofprofessional dance training. As if my black female body wasn’t holding enough trauma already. How do I get rid of all this trauma from out of my body? So the carpet beetle situation didn’t feel quite as bad because they don’t bite you, but it was bad enough. They like to eat your hair. And given that I’d moved into this unfurnished flat alone straight out of university, (i.e. with no money behind me) I was saving up to buy furniture. I didn’t have a sofa and I didn’t have a bed. I was sleeping and sitting and doing everything on the floor. I would wake up in the night and find the beetles on my pillow, obviously coming for a munch on my hair. I would wake up in the morning and find a couple of them crushed on my sheets, where I’d rolled over and squashed them in the middle of the night or something. I started sleeping with the lights on, hoping this would act as a deterrent. I found out who the people are that stay up late on Facebook those nights. I became one of them. Chatting on messenger until 2am, delaying the inevitable. Thank God for night owls.
A couple of weeks into the lockdown I had to take all the carpets up. A pest control man was coming. He was going to save the day. Or my sanity. Most pest control services were not operating under the lockdown, but after pleading with the landlord to search high and low for someone willing to come out, we found this guy. Who decides what an essential service is? It’s alright for the wealthy in their spacious, well-kept abodes. What about the poorer people? In unlivable conditions. This for me was more urgent than the virus. The virus I may never catch. But this was happening to me right now, 24/7. More real. I could see it. I was living in it. And I was desperate.
He came and treated the floorboards and for the following 6-8 weeks the beetle situation worsened. Nobody explained that the treatment was intended to “bring them out”, so they could die on contact. And so now I was locked down in a flat with no furniture, bare floorboards covered in harmful chemicals, and STILL beetles coming out around me. Beetles and larvae. It was grim. I felt a bit like a squatter. I didn’t even have wifi or a properly functioning laptop at this point, either. Accessing Facebook on my phone via 3G I could see a lot of people I knew were getting through the lockdown by doing house renovations, watching TV/Netflix series, trying and baking new foods. As a recent graduate with only universal credit for an income now all my work had been cancelled and I didn’t qualify for the SEISS, I had a tight, £20 per week budget, for food and all other essentials. None of these other luxuries were accessible to me. It was at this time that the class divide became very real to me. To add to the sting, the same week we went into lockdown, new neighbours moved in to the adjoining flat, awakening me to how thin the walls actually are, and how aggressive and loud some people behave as a general way of living. How can I communicate to others that their behaviour is detrimentally affecting me?
Anyway, I got through it. I managed to get some emergency money from Arts Council Wales which enabled me to buy a friend’s refurbished laptop and loosen the purse strings on my weekly budget for a bit. I didn’t realise I qualified for receiving the funding until another fellow artist told me a few times I should go for it. At what point do we realise we are artists? Recognised as peers as opposed to an outsider… a wannabe artist? The new laptop made it easier for me to write more applications, and I applied for a Stabilisation Grant as well as a few gigs with other arts companies and organisations. Things started taking momentum. I got the Stabilisation Grant and for me that felt like a rites of passage. The Welsh Government recognised me as an artist. This is what I’m here for. All these miles away from my nieces (and now nephew) that I miss so much. Because I recognised that I could grow as an artist here. Although at times during lockdown, and certainly before the Stabilisation Grant I questioned if I had missed the boat completely. I’m not going to ask the question about age, and being too old, because I’ve asked it for long enough, and the answer is becoming clearer with time.
With the Stabilisation Grant I bought Wifi for 18 months, a website, a camera, and began trying some ideas out for an idea I had scratched months before.
But I’m not here to talk about my career. I’m here to talk about me. It’s just that I guess my career is so much a part of me. Always in pursuit of something. And I feel it even more now in these lockdown days. I live alone. I don’t come home and be someone else to somebody else… a friend, mother, wife, girlfriend… And rarely do I go out and be someone else to, or with, someone else. I just work on what I need to work on and try to remember to take some time to not work. But that’s hard when you’re passionate about what you do and what you do is your passion. The lines between work, play and rest become blurred, even more so when you work so closely with your body, I think. How does one truly rest? When you take a mental break from that creative task, only now that you’ve taken a break creative ideas start coming out of nowhere. When you go to sleep and have dreams of being in rehearsals for a work that doesn’t even exist in the real world. Am I going mad? Am I overworked? Or just passionate?
I think with it 2020 brought an intensity. It’s almost like, without so much mixing with others and the world we become more concentrated versions of ourselves. I guess we really have to learn to like ourselves, then. And this for sure is continuing into 2021. So… what do we need in 2021? What do I need? To get through 2021? I need to love myself. So much.”
– 9th Feb