I am from the UK, and with our Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that England is moving down a pandemic level to Stage 3, there has been a very slow, cautious shift towards normality. More people are out walking, you can now meet one other person and some shops and cafe's are starting to open back up (I had my first Starbucks in 9 weeks the other day and that first sip of Caramel latte was like heaven in a paper cup). But this slow movement towards normality has caused me to reflect on my 9 weeks spent in isolation. I spent the majority of my days pining for stuff I couldn't have or do anymore, but now the end is imminent, I want to flip that thought process on its head. The other day, I sat down and asked myself- what haven't I missed? What everyday routines and habits did I have that, on reflection, weren't beneficial to my life and happiness? What, in hindsight, will I actually miss from this strange, paused period of life? I wrote them all down in my Notes on my phone to remind myself in times to come of the few, small positives that I will be taking from quarantine.
1) The Peace
Since the entire country has gone into lockdown and everyone has been forced to retreat indoors, the streets have emptied. Cars have been left parked on driveways for weeks on end, boats have stayed moored in docks and planes haven't left the tarmac. This has created a serene, other-worldly quietness and peace, even within the biggest and busiest of cities. Photos have surfaced of places as over populated as London and New York totally empty in the middle of the day. These are images that will go down in history, and I doubt that generations to come will ever experience anything like it. When quarantine ends, I will miss walking empty streets and the ability to feel peace in the middle of a city.
Click on the photos for website links!
New York during lockdown, 2020
London during lockdown, 2020
2) The World Recovering
Because of everyone moving indoors, the small glimmer of positivity throughout this dark time, the very thin silver lining has been the outstanding effect on the planet. As we drew dangerously close to ruining the planet for good, quarantine has given the atmosphere a well deserved break from the detrimental effects of pollution. Amazing articles and photos showing huge improvements in air quality and nature have been a welcome break amongst all the sadness. Below I have attached a 'before and after photo' from Delhi, India. Click on the photo to read the full article.
For me, one of the things that I will miss most from lockdown is a sense of freedom of time. With shops, restaurants and bars closed and friends equally locked in houses, it suddenly felt like my days were opened up ahead of me. I had time to do things that I usually claimed I couldn't fit in. I've loved writing since I was little, but recently I had been letting my passion slip, convincing myself there just wasn't enough hours in the day for a social life, a job, a boyfriend and to write regularly. Quarantine gave me this amazing opportunity to focus on the one thing I really love doing- and so, this blog was born. This piece of writing is a direct love child of corona virus. And starting this blog has made me realise more than ever that this is what I want to do full time. When we finally get out, I am going to try and get a job in writing that I am passionate about, and that motivates me.
I am part ashamed, part proud to say I am part of the huge percentage of people that has suddenly taken up regular exercise during quarantine. I've always tried to keep myself fit to an extent, but so far, I have to admit that a lot of my motivation has been purely to make myself look 'good' rather than for the health benefits.
Prior to quarantine, if I ever felt my mental health slipping or my mindset becoming negative, my first answer would usually be going to meet friends, or eating my feelings (Ben & Jerrys, I'm looking at you). Quarantine forced me to find other outlets, and also taught me how important fresh air and exercise really is to me. For the first time in my life, I have been running and taking long walks for my mental health, positivity and happiness.
I also feel that this period of lockdown has given me a real sense of clarity in terms of friendships. I can be really rubbish at keeping in contact with good friends, and sometimes looking back I think I let real friendships slip away just due to lack of communication. In that same breath, it was also interesting to see who contacted me, and made the effort to check in on me.
This was also such an important time for me to take a step back and figure out who I felt I missed, and to help me realise some of the friendships that I really do value, and perhaps took for granted.
The same goes for my family; I can be guilty at not spending enough quality time just at home with my family. During quarantine, rather than rushing up to my bedroom to watch something on my laptop, I found myself staying at the dinner table long after the plates have been cleared, just to chat.
6) The Appreciation
I think that one of the most beautiful and heartwarming things to come out of this terrible time is the unity and appreciation we have found in one another. I think it is sometimes human nature to focus solely on yourself or close circle of family and friends, but this time has forced us to open our eyes to those around us. To protect the vulnerable, an entire world has stayed indoors. To keep others safe, people have put themselves out. Supermarkets have cleared special opening hours to provide for the elderly and key workers. Teachers have spent hours filming themselves speaking through lessons so students don't fall behind, and NHS staff on the front line have worked tirelessly, often without suitable PPE clothing, to try and beat this virus.
In return, I think there has been a palpable shift towards kindness and empathy. My parents run a laundrette, and regulars have bought them in chocolates to thank them for staying open. Take out orders come with little thank you notes, appreciating the business. In England, we have moved outside every Thursday at 8pm to cheer our NHS and a real sense of pride has swept through the country.
I have loved watching the kindness, and especially the real awe surrounding our NHS. I am really praying this won't fade as the corona virus (hopefully) becomes a distant memory, and I am very much hoping that this is one thing at least that I won't have to miss.
I do think and understand that I am only feeling all this positivity towards lockdown because we are now nearing the end. I think I have painted a bit of a rose coloured version of my experience, and I just really want to stress that, of course, there was some awful parts as well. I arrived back from a year and a half trip to have to stay 2 metres away from my family, and unable to see any of my friends. There were some days where I felt really down and really felt my mental health being impacted, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to watch the death toll rising so quickly with every passing day.
But viewing it on a larger scale, the worldwide lockdown was, and still is, absolutely necessary. And in these situations, I think the only thing you can do is attempt to look on the positive side and try to see everything as a learning curve, and, amongst all the sadness, a way to better yourself.