By Natalie Graham
The question that keeps playing on my mind is what kind of people we will have become as we emerge tentatively from a devastating and somewhat apocalyptic period of our lives.
Will we become ‘better people’, with a greater sense of self and appreciation for the world and the people in it? Will we feel obliged to start a social crusade, ensuring no member of the community is left behind in the aftermath of Covid-19? Or will we simply seek out anything that stands as a vague resemblance of normality from the wreckage of pre pandemic days?
It feels as though I have aged a decade during this pandemic, and with this comes a new found sense of wisdom. A lot of my time is currently spent contemplating the past, present and future, learning some valuable lesson in the midst of lockdown.
I have always been tortured by the unpredictability of events, grabbing hold of any control and routine where possible.
Coronavirus and the inevitably necessary lockdown that eventually came (arguably not soon enough, but that’s an argument for another time) threw this practice out of the window. Lives and routines uncontrollably turned upside down as we were told to embrace the ‘new normal’.
Struggling to ease my way back into life in my hometown, I stumbled across an Emily Dickenson quote that holds a relatability today more so than ever;
“In this short life that lasts an hour how much, how little is within our power”.
Dickenson’s words have a humbling effect, some things simply can’t be controlled and the future can’t always be predicted. To an extent all we can do is surrender to the situation around us, this is not to say we shouldn’t fight the virus but is an acceptance that for the greater good, life as we know it is momentarily paused. And that’s ok.
Lockdown has made distinctly apparent, the things we once relied on to give us a sense of self or distraction, and it has been an uncomfortable comforter to have been temporarily taken away.
As Gavin & Stacey’s Nessa so philosophically put it; ‘At the end of the day, when all is said and done’, you are left with the foundations. Your thoughts, relationships, literature, music and nature, that has to be enough and it has become enough.
The foundations stand strong, supporting the weight of our various anxieties and frustrations, waiting patiently for us to start rebuilding of social lives.
In the final week of lockdown free life I didn’t quite gage the extent of what lockdown meant, not realising what I was essentially doing was saying goodbye to my friends, boyfriend, third year and a city that’s grown to feel like home, for the interim.
Some of us will be flourishing in lockdown, to one day look back at this period as a romanticised opportunity for self-growth. Others of us will of course come out the other side, but not without our own personal struggle or mental scars.
However, the thing we all have in common is that we are missing someone. If lockdown has shown anything, it is how much your relationships get you through this. In the absence of socialising and when Zoom fatigue creeps in, we are reliant on our memories, always ready to welcome us back with a familiar warm nostalgia.
Scrolling through old photos (some far more drunken and questionable than others) provide a brief escape from the present. In the same minute I can go from dancing with friends at Tokyo World last September, to sitting in my Salisbury Road kitchen with my housemates or even to a picture perfect Saturday afternoon spent at Nash Point.
Of course I am not saying that a photo is anywhere near an adequate substitute for relationships, but they do offer some comfort and act as a reassurance that there are better days to come.
Mariella Frostrup wrote an article in The Guardian, speculating on life post pandemic acting as both a nod to reflection and mobilisation. She sees this period to an extent as an ideological awakening.
“I’d be tempted to call this new awakening Covidism, as a mark of respect to those who have died and a way of reminding ourselves that their deaths should not be in vain” – Mariella Frostrup
It is this point that I found most prominent. Perhaps it will become apparent, once the dust has settled that life as we knew it can no longer continue, too many people have died for things not to change.
Over the last couple of months I have found like many others a new found appreciation for things we failed to value highly, and a distinct change of behavior in the way we do things; for example the satisfaction of supporting small local business over the dominant big business.
I have come to realize that the busy and hectic life we all led before Covid-19 was not necessarily reaping the rewards it once promised. The world went in to hibernation and as we wake hazily, maybe this period should be used as an opportunity to start over and optimistically construct a better world.
We have witnessed the levels of compassion and community spirit we have the potential to exert, now is the time to carry it through.