When lockdown 1.0 was announced I had just celebrated my 20th birthday, had about four weeks of teaching left of my first uni year and was about to plan a holiday with my partner.
In the space of literal days my whole life, along with the rest of the worlds, changed. My mental health plummeted, I ended up getting permission to not finish my final assessments and after 5 weeks of lockdown, my boyfriend and I ended up moving back to my parents.
In May I began to seek the help I so desperately needed. In June I started taking medication for my anxiety. In September we moved back to my rented house and began my second year of university, courtesy of MS teams. Now in February, I look back on a year that has been the most mixed of my life and realise how much has changed and what I have learnt in the process.
1.That the way I was working pre-covid was unhealthy.
This isn’t exactly a hot-take, there has been an onslaught of interesting articles around how covid has changed our working life but as a student and blogger who also runs a book club, a life with very little routine very quickly became one with none at all. I have always been a super-planner but I struggled with boundaries – I felt like I was working all the time, often finding myself rushing away from socialising because there was always something to do.
When returning to university I knew I needed a routine, I set myself a goal. I would work 9-5 Monday to Friday as much as possible (damn that one 5-7 class!) and would always take weekends off. It was a struggle but 5 months in I am so much happier, plus it turns out there never was as much work as I thought.
2. The unexpected is *sometimes* the best.
Let me stress that when I am saying unexpected I do not for one minute mean covid itself- this was, it bears repeating, most definitely not the best.
However, things that undeniably helped me get better this past year- moving home, medication, slowing down and some aspects of learning online- were things I could never have seen coming. Of course, there is a flipside to each of these. I wish I hadn’t felt so bad I needed to go on medication or move home, I wish covid wasn’t happening which forced a slowing down and online teaching yet they have happened.
We, will all never know a world without covid, which means I will never know a world where these aspects of my life didn’t occur but without them, I am quite sure I wouldn’t have made the realisations about my life or even got the help I needed.
3. Doing my own thing is extremely scary but very worthwhile
You know how I said some aspects of online learning were brilliant for me personally? Well, something that has been missing from this last year is the teeming anxiety I would feel as I waited for seminars and lectures- listening to all my peers speaking about what they had done or not done with their work that week usually resulted in a ‘have I done enough and am I very lazy’ panic attack a few hours later. However much I miss those pre-lecture chats it been so freeing to do my own work, my own preparation and what is right for me with little external pressure.
Similarly- I haven’t been in a shop since March last year, because quite simply I am still terrified. When everything started reopening, I know I was not alone in the worry of whether I should go to the pub, or eat out, or see a performance or not. I spent many hours blaming myself for feeling bored or lonely when in my head I was ‘worrying too much.’ Since moving back home the only places I have entered are a doctors surgery for my flu jab and the building of a public toilet. I haven’t met any friends, not even outside because I am scared.
However, I have made online friends, I have connected in new and exciting ways, I have finally got to spend the evenings with my boyfriend and I have reconnected with my own personal hobbies. Its been scary basically forcing myself to stay put whilst others, in their own right, followed the rules and went and did things but I am 100% certain that had I allowed myself to not trust my instincts, my life would look very different right now.
All of this isn’t to forget what these realisations have been at the cost of. Along with better recognition of accessibility issues in day to day life, better work boundaries and appreciating the small things, covid has also come with its losses in more ways than one. I am in the super privileged position that despite the many changes I haven’t experienced any of these, but my heart goes out to those who have- here is to happier times x