Can you believe it? Today is known on social media as the ‘National Day of Reflection’ as the UK marks exactly one year since the first lockdown began. In a way, I can’t really comprehend that it’s been a whole year but there’s also a huge part of me that feels like it’s gone quite quick. I’m sure many will understand and empathise with this rather contradicting set of reflections.
As with most people, I’ve found this year pretty challenging. However, it’s also included times where I’ve been grateful, frustrated, angry and utterly aghast with what was going on in the world and also right on my doorstep. It’s safe to say my mental health has suffered to a certain extent and I am sure many others will have felt this too, even if they’ve not experienced anything or thought about their mental health previously.
To round up the full circle that today brings, even though the battle is not yet finished, I thought I’d share some of the things I learnt and realised. Being in lockdown, and shielding for most of it, has provided so much time for thought that wasn’t really the case before. It’s only right that, as we try to navigate through another year (or few months) of uncertainty, we take the time to reevaluate and re-align.
The best new thing I learnt:
Sugar-free baking! That’s been the main thing I’ve been proud of doing in these months. As someone who didn’t ever bake, I have been baking almost every week or fortnight and trying different flavours of cakes and other things like hot cross buns.
The biggest realisation:
This is difficult to narrow down to one thing so I’ll mention two. The first is that everyone’s experiences of lockdown or the pandemic have been different. So whether it’s working from home for 12 months, being furloughed, going into a new job without the comfort of having colleagues around you, you may have lost some you love, or that you’ve had to open and close your businesses due to the stop-start restrictions… everyone has had to deal with something or the other. As such, just because you can’t see any “suffering” visibly, don’t just assume someone is OK.
Secondly, I think you do realise that no matter how grateful you may be, it gets exhausting when you’re restricted in daily activities. I have found it really hard thinking about how relieved I am that I still have a job but then also how very frustrating it is to be “isolated” at home with only colleagues or friends & family through screens or via phonecalls to converse with. I’ve also been shielding most of this time and really found myself gutted that there’s not much greenery at walking distance around me.
The harshest truth:
Because so many of my friends and family have been going through their own things, I’ve often found myself having to look out for my own mental health. Sometimes it’s been because I’ve felt like I’m capable of doing so rather than approaching someone else but other times it’s because I’ve genuinely felt like it’s just me being silly. I now know it’s not and try to reach out elsewhere. However, that is the harshest thing I’ve learnt. Sometimes you really do have to try and be your own hero. And it’s always the greatest thing to be! However, some roads are just too difficult to be on alone and we should ever forget that.
This is an easy answer but the toughest thing to try to come to terms with. The world will never be quite the same again… or at least for the next few years. The suffering, the heartbreak and the trauma of this time is literally going to take everyone maybe their entire lifetime to overcome. It’s not easy living through a pandemic and the more I’ve read, the more I’ve understood that technology has literally held us all together. We’re lucky it happened in a time we can still connect if we don’t meet in person. But that doesn’t mean our feelings are or should be muted to all the horribly heartbreaking things happening around us.
The one positive thing you’ll never forget:
I think the one thing would be that I now know that everything I do has an impact. It’s made me more conscious of so many things. I don’t just mean in terms of hygiene but in terms of my career or anything really. You need to push yourself. If you know your heart’s in the right place but you’re being misunderstood, that’s hard. Keep going anyway. Don’t let others opinions, shortfalls or insecurities get you down or convince you to change direction. You are responsible for you. I’ll never forget this now. It’s given me drive I don’t think was as strong before.
The one thing I’ve loved doing:
Because I’ve been working from home for the entire year, it’s meant I’ve not had to waste time commuting and with that extra time, I’ve been able to watch things on OTT platforms and otherwise which I probably would never have been able to have the time for in the routine before. It’s really been great being able to do that otherwise I’m usually weeks or months behind with these things. Also, being able to go to the park more often has also been a game-changer, especially in the months of better UK weather.
The one thing I don’t miss about pre-lockdown life:
The long commute to work! Although I do miss so much about work life in the office, I don’t miss the time it took to commute. I do miss being on a train though and being exported to a different world while listening to music. I love the people watching. But the hours I’ve saved from not commuting… been amazing!
What I miss the most about pre-lockdown life:
Aside from the general human interaction, I’ve missed going into a restaurant or a bar – without a mask – and just chatting to whoever I’m with without having to worry how distanced you are or anything. You can be in a packed restaurant and not worry about whether someone from the opposite side is going to transmit the virus to you. I never took for granted being able to go out in London before and I miss it so much! Just walking around London when you’re going to a restaurant or bar feels like the biggest luxury now.
The thing I’m most excited about when restrictions ease:
Although some of the things I miss are included above and I intend to try and go to outside restaurants sometimes, the one thing I’m most excited about is meeting my new niece who was born in January. The first girl in our family after me! Really can’t wait to meet the little lady.
The one thing that’s kept me going all this time:
In a way my parents but also the fact that I have a job and can do it all from home. I understand and feel the loss so many have suffered with family life and with business. I count myself very lucky. These things have really kept me going.
I would love to end with the cliche of gratitude. But it’s really not about that. It’s been a tough year all round and we should never forget the lessons it’s given us. May we always remember what’s important, the sacrifices people have made, the selflessness people have shown and the incredible souls there continue to be out there who keep us going. We should also say a prayer for all the loss, both personal and otherwise, that we’ve had to endure. The road behind us was, by no means, an easy one. But the road ahead is also going to be challenging.