Cocoon and Pandemic

Ya-Wen Wang
Graduate Institute of European Cultures and Tourism

In 2020, a sudden epidemic disrupted the lives of so many people that it was as if we had become little characters in the pages of Camus.

Like Olam in Algeria, some have lost their loved ones and others have lost the ability to love in what seems like an endless cycle, which I think is more frightening and terrifying than physical illness.

The very reason we are human is because we can share our feelings and our souls, but in the last two years, these behaviors have disappeared with social distance. Where once there were friends who talked to each other all night long, now they can only be seen for a limited time of 15 seconds.

The intimate, lingering lovers of the past have been able to attach their love and passion to intangible conversations. All is suspended, and we are left with ourselves and only ourselves.

Most people might find the time spent in isolation unbearable, however, I found myself in this hourglass, as if I had a long, long dream.


Unlike other cities, I spent most of my first two years in Chungli, where the epidemic was most severe. The centre of life in Chungli was not far from the university and industrial areas, and the complex flow of people affected the control of the epidemic, thus making our city among the first to be closed and one of the most strict in its control.

Under this policy, I have taken the dramatic and rebellious decision of refusing to return to my hometown and spend time with my family, instead choosing to stay alone in my narrowly furnished rental suite. Perhaps it was selfishness… Perhaps it was indifference, but I was glad to be away from my family and my daily chores, away from socialising and forcing myself to do so for the sake of friendship, so that all my refusals were properly excused. No need to get up early to dress up, no need to look like someone I don’t like, let me go back to my natural self, to my own most completely unique self. I was particularly happy about this, I was truly relieved.

But the joy lasted only a few days, and as the novelty of the holiday wore off, the long hours of solitude left me feeling restless and empty, suffocating me in a swampy darkness. It was then that I realised that I was not good at being with myself, or even knowing what to do.

Needless to say, the realisation was a terrifying time for me. While I thought that I loved myself, that I was confident and proud in this body, that I was 22 years old, that I knew myself best, yet this few square metres of cubicle was like a confessional, forcing me to face this cruel reality.

Rightly so, for 20 years, I have been living a life of constant pursuit, constantly following in the footsteps of others, constantly fulfilling my parents’ expectations, constantly forcing myself to collide and clash with the world, without ever stopping to look at my own battered and bruised self, without ever treating her with tenderness, and without ever understanding her. And so I took it seriously, as seriously as I ever had before, looked at myself in the mirror and said “I’m sorry.” May she feel my sincerity.

The epidemic was getting worse, and the day of release seemed so far away, but as each day passed, I felt more fulfilled than ever, watching my favourite films, reading my favourite literature, doing my favourite activities, caring for myself as I grew up. As I began to explore my heart, I also began to explore the world around me, and I realised that there was so much beauty in the simplicity of life. The morning dew on the leaves, the sound of birds chirping, the warmth of the sun on my face, the breeze on my skin – all these things that I had taken for granted suddenly became so precious to me. With days turning into weeks and weeks turning into months, the time I have been isolated has become a period of self-discovery. Over time I have learnt more about myself and what I really want from life. The solitude has allowed me to reflect on the world around me and discover the beauty of the simplest things.

In the midst of the chaos and stagnation of a closed city, in the midst of a crushing and torturous epidemic, there was a long, long dream I dreamt that I found a chrysalis shifting in a small tree by the roadside, which aroused my curiosity! Then I realized. It was me!

For people who are still suffer in the pandemic, I may encourage you to come out of your cocoon and become the butterfly you were meant to become.