It’s been a whole year… (well, over a year now because I’m not very timely with my blogs). March marked a year since we were first told to stay at home. All I can remember thinking is what the hell is going on? with a slight hint of excited nerves as it was all so new and had that element of novelty which has long gone.
A year on, I’m thinking about what I’ve really struggled with this last year, but also what I’ve really enjoyed. So I decided to write down my thoughts and feelings, and maybe you relate to these things too.
In all honesty, I’ve found it really hard to…
Feel okay about things
Has anyone actually felt happy over the last twelve months? Like genuinely, fully happy? Fair play to you if you have. For me, it’s been such a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes I’ve felt comforted by the fact that all I have to do at the minute, pretty much, is survive. Other times, shrinking the world down to just survival has scared me so much.
We shouldn’t be just surviving, but that’s what the last 12 months has been. Looking after myself and the people around me.
Be kind to myself
Last March, I thought to myself it would be great to challenge myself. To be able to say, after lockdown, “look what I’ve achieved in this time”. Looking back now that was really damaging, and I know that was a narrative that was thrown around on social media. It was not a productivity contest, but to me it was a productivity challenge with only myself. How well could I do with endless evenings and weekends at home?
With this pressure to succeed and always be using my time wisely, I didn’t really look after myself and was often so incredibly critical of myself and the work I had done. I took on a lot with my graduate platform and when I wasn’t working my 9-5, I was using these other things to keep myself busy and not think about what was going on.
A year later, I realise that the kindest thing I could have done at that time was to allow myself to feel all of the crazy emotions that I was experiencing.
Go for a walk every day
Honestly I am so sick of walking. When I was living at my family home, I must have done the same two loops 100 times. Boring.
Now that I’m back in London, there’s of course more to do but it just feels so much better, giving me a sense of control, to sometimes say “no I am not going for a walk today even though that’s all I can do.”
Focus on work
I found it really difficult to concentrate on work over the last year. Finding it hard to deliver the best work and results that I could, because every time I was having a good day, a little thought at the back of my head was saying “what is happening? Why are we all working from home and, as the year has gone on, acting like we’re not in a pandemic?”.
My favourite work-related post on social media the whole 12 months has been the “you are not working from home. You are at home during a pandemic and trying to work.”.
As the year has gone on, I’ve realised that when work and office life goes back to normal, this will actually feel like my normal. Twelve months out of my 18 being in the workplace as a graduate has been during the pandemic and remote working, so how easy will it be to shift back to working in an office and attending face to face meetings?
Move away from home, again
On my Instagram, I recently spoke about feeling homesick. Something that I thought was odd at 22, but it turns out it’s very normal. And of course it is. How could I spend 18 years, and a few years on and off while at university, living in my family home and not really miss it when it came to moving out again?
I moved back home last March, a week before the lockdown was announced and we stayed there until mid-July. I’d never really experienced living at home as a graduate, but I had to do it and during a pandemic.
The hardest part about moving home, was having to move out again. I’d got settled back into my family home and then in July moved out to London again, which felt really hard. It felt like making the big move out, to independence and away from familiarity, for the first time again.
But on the other hand, I’ve really enjoyed…
Having time to rest
I’ve never had so much time on my hands. There’s been none of that “oh no Monday is my only free evening this week” pressure to rest. There’s been lots of opportunity to chill out, even if my thoughts have been whirring the whole time or I’ve had a worry niggling at the back of my mind.
This has given me a lot of insight into what I enjoy doing when resting, what activities truly allow me to switch off, and just how important rest is.
Thinking about the future and what I want from it
It’s definitely been a year of reflection. Being able – or forced – to take a step back from our usual lives has given us a chance to reflect on what we did and didn’t enjoy.
For me, I’ve realised just how precious time is and I’m going to try to be a lot wiser about what plans I make and how I spend my free time.
It’s also shown me a lot of things career wise, from how much I do enjoy having time to switch off, to how much I really miss the office and being with my colleagues face to face.
It’s been lovely to have this time to really think about how I want to spend the next few years, and I really hope there are no lockdowns in my future.
Spending time with family
This was something I didn’t think I’d fully encounter again. I’d moved out of my family home, and so had my older brother, so I really couldn’t have pictured a time where we’d all be back under one roof, with my boyfriend too.
I can’t lie, but I did really enjoy the first month or two of last year’s lockdown. The weather was glorious, I was back home with my family, boyfriend and Henry, our 13-year old black Lab, I was on furlough for three weeks and I was spending barely any money. It felt quite exciting at that point in the pandemic, and I do feel very privileged to have been able to enjoy that and not have much to worry about other than loved ones’ health.
I’m very grateful that I’ve had that bonus time with my family, and that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
Learning more about myself and what I enjoy
And to top it off, I’ve learnt so much about myself.
In the first lockdown, I became really aware of how much I was using being busy to avoid my emotions. I didn’t really take much time to switch off, and I realised that I was using being busy as a coping mechanism. After a few months, I finally confronted this and can now do absolutely nothing without feeling anxious or overwhelmed by emotion.
Without the ability to go out and enjoy all that the world has to offer, I have learnt a lot about what I enjoy doing when there really isn’t that much to do. At one point, writing had such a huge place in my life, and I was constantly writing blogs and other ramblings. Then I really found my peace with journaling, allowing me to express my feelings on paper and keep track of my life. Recently, it’s been reading. Reading has allowed me to have the downtime that I didn’t give myself in the first lockdown while I was busy with my blogging.
Going forward, I feel a lot more aware of exactly what pastimes I enjoy and want to keep a place for when ‘normal’ life returns.
What’s something that you’ve enjoyed or struggled with during the last year of lockdowns?