By Indigo Jones
It’s been a long year. Having said that, it’s only April, but nonetheless it will be a year that we all remember. 2020: the year that the world went into a lockdown, the year we had a global pandemic, the year everyone came together and arguably showed more love and care for each other than ever before.
At the beginning of lockdown, I’ll admit I struggled, and as someone who has been lucky to not suffer from any form of mental health condition, I was in a pretty dark place. Selfishly, I felt like everything I had worked towards had been taken away from me, whether that was something as small as the last 3 months of my third year of university with my friends. Or, something I had spent three years working towards like graduation. In the space of a day it seemed everything was cancelled and ripped away. I felt selfish for being down, or feeling sorry for myself, as I always thought there are people worse off. There are people who are losing their jobs or people who are losing loved ones.
So why did I deserve to feel like I had been affected by this, when in reality I hadn’t lost anything?
That’s when my friends began to tell me they felt the same, they felt that they too weren’t allowed to be distressed by the situation. But sometimes we are allowed to feel sorry for ourselves, we’re allowed to make mistakes and be imperfect. We can’t constantly compare ourselves to those more deserving, as if in life we are in a system of rankings of importance.
We live in a society where we strive for instant gratification and perfection, we long for compliments and approval. Whether that is on Instagram through the number of likes we get on a picture, or maybe through feedback on an essay, we always feel the need to be told how we are doing and whether we are doing well. It’s as if life is one big competition where we need to know whether we are doing better than everyone, perhaps based on a better grade, a better wage or maybe by the happiest family, we constantly strive for perfection in this battle of one-upmanship. But in this battle does anybody ever really win if we all have our secret imperfections?
After my brief downward spiral at the beginning of quarantine I felt like I had failed myself, it felt like nothing was going the way I had hoped, I was unsuccessful getting on the course I strived to do, I had no motivation to do university work and I wasn’t exercising like I probably should. I not only felt like I had failed myself but those around me, I was letting people down by not acting how I normally would or because I didn’t get on the course. I felt like a disappointment. When that wasn’t the case at all, in reality those around me were just worried about me.
Reflecting on these first weeks I realised that I’m not perfect, but then who is? I realised I put too much pressure on myself to make those around me happy, I spent too much time perfecting things and making sure that every little detail in my life was planned. When in reality you can’t plan everything, especially when a virus comes along and ruins all your plans!
One of the things I have done during isolation is read for enjoyment rather than reading for work, something I realised I hadn’t done properly since I was in school. I never feel like I have the time to pick up a book and relax because I feel guilty knowing I have some form of coursework to do instead. But I picked up Everything I know about Love by Dolly Alderton, and I was hooked. This book transformed my outlook on everything, and I know that sounds a bit ridiculous but honestly, I was inspired. Dolly Alderton managed to squeeze her memoir in just under 400 pages, and as a result created the most relatable content I have ever read.
I don’t mean I relate to her stories or friendships, but I related to her need to be in control. It has always been a running joke with my friends that I need set plans, I always need to know exactly what is going on, or I need to be in charge of planning the holiday or birthday presents. I’ve never been a relaxed ‘see how it goes’ kind of person, I like timetables and order and I like to know immediately what’s happening. I get anxious when I have to rely on others to arrange things, knowing that my fate lies in their hands. But, one thing I learnt from this book is that we don’t always need to be in control, sometimes it is fun to see how things pan out, and to just let someone else have control for a change.
Sometimes you don’t get on to the course that you want, and that’s okay because there are other options. Sometimes you get a low grade in a piece of coursework, and that’s fine too. Sometimes relationships don’t work out, and that is normal. This article is probably riddled with spelling or grammatical mistakes, and you know what who cares! I’ve realised, yes you can make plans for your future, but nobody can really plan for the future because you never know what will happen!
Throughout this article I’ve discussed reflection and imperfections, and I must say although my time on Gair Rhydd hasn’t always been perfect, I look back and think of my perfect memories. I laugh at the bad moments, the frequent breakdowns, the article disagreements, losing hours’ worth of indesigns and staying in the office past 10pm. It was all worth it for the friends I made, the Monday night Taf trips and the Cardiff Student Media Awards, oh and for building my portfolio of work of course. So, I just want to say thank you to everyone at Gair Rhydd for making the last two years one of the best experiences of my life. I also want to thank anyone who has read my (often hypocritical) articles over the last two years, I hope you enjoyed reading them! This wasn’t how I was expecting the academic year to end, or how the last issue was going to end. But, I’m so thankful that I was fortunate enough to spend the last two years with this incredible team, and I wish them all the best of luck with their future.