A year has passed: a brief reflection

It has been a year, a year of spreading solidarity, but also a year of strength. While it is twelve of us who started this online platform, 165+ shared in it. But it was the entire world that had to change their lives and take action abruptly.

‘It’s a matter of weeks’, said a friend the last time we met. Who could tell it would be a year of political distress, of evident social inequalities, of a constant reconceptualisation of our day-to-day. Alongside the virus outbreak, some important events got cancelled or postponed for a year (and now indefinitely). Other events on the agenda were impossible to move. We all had to cope with them differently: from Brexit to the US elections, from Merkel leaving her charge to the new wave of populism in Latin-America. Our mission, however, is and has been to Spread Stories that reveal life at an individual level, an everyday life manifest of lockdown and the “new normal”.

"New normality" in Madrid. Photo by Luisa Alcocer.

We are a group of young urbanists who came together to create a public space in the shape of an online platform and seek experiences worldwide. At the moment that Spread Stories was launched, we were still longing for a normality that was abruptly taken away from us - a situation gradually covering the whole globe. Despite some challenges, we embraced an adventurous journey of reading and editing stories. We made space for an alternative narrative, and so a transparent historical statement of what the pandemic is and will be. And at the same time, receiving all these words and pictures helped us cope with the idea of a paralysed time and space, and hopefully, we achieved something similar for our readers.

That state of not knowing what to do, the void of it, created movements and events. However, nobody ever thought that this period of uncertainty could last so long, with some ups and downs in between, and it has indeed become the new normality that we resisted for so long. Going online for our everyday communication feels both mundane and exhausting. And being constrained in the limited locality also becomes routine and numbing.

Winter in Madrid, 2020. Photo by Luisa Alcocer.

There is a new rhythmic melody in cities. The act of imagining life post-covid has now the shape of a routine that comes almost as often as we brush our teeth. The re-cognition process is now intimate because even in public spaces, in supermarkets, in trains, we no longer interact as we used to. But we have also seen children playing on the streets again, people searching for bikes, even in the largest cities, nature popping-up between the concrete and the sidewalk. What we thought would be symbolic and temporary has re-shaped the way we see many “daily” practices and is inviting us to contemplate what our future can look like. For instance, we are back to supporting our local communities, interacting with our children, and caring for our elderly. We are taking responsibilities with goals of well-being and climate benefit instead of profit. This makes us rethink the necessity of getting tied-up with something far away and the neglected importance of rediscovering our “nearby”, regardless of whether we can or should go out.

It’s been a year now. Do we want to go back? Or do we want to move forward? How can one start to engage when all we can do is nothing? Maybe we can begin to ground ourselves in our proximate reality instead of the seemingly near, yet very alienated and distant, virtual networks?

At its time, the stories we shared were made in real places all over the world, living through the same shared present, differently. Our online public space has quietened across the year and has become somewhat dormant; hopefully, those energies are now spread worldwide, ready to re-enchant those proximate realities.

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