As part of our ‘My Experience’ series, Redbrick writers come together to offer heartfelt reflections on the good, the bad, the ugly of lockdown and what we learned
Lockdown for everyone has been a time for reinvention. Never in our wildest dreams could the world have imagined life being flipped upside down as it had. Nonetheless, with life feeling as though it was on a dramatic ‘pause,’ self-reflection is inevitable. In the journey of navigating a new sense of self in a new world, there are wonderful lessons to be learned and experiences to connect with in the void.
With hopes that July 19th will confirm lockdown as a memory of the past, it is a fitting time for writers to meditate on their personal growth and new perspectives on life entering a ‘post-pandemic’ world. So here lies a heartwarming collection of stories on lockdown’s highs and lows, from nostalgia and blessings in disguise, to mental and physical health issues. In showcasing glimmers of hope in the darkest times, our writers prove humanity always prevails.
Phoebe Snedker – Comment Editor
Facing lockdown as a university student was a challenge for the best of us – a whole year of staring at a screen and being ignored by the Government. When you add dealing with poor mental health and a chronic illness to this mix, and having very little access to the health care you need, the experience becomes incredibly draining.
Looking back on lockdown for me feels like a concoction of online lectures, countless facetime calls and deeply missing my partner. With the added stress of multiple medication requests and 111 calls, hours on hold chasing up appointments – or rearranging cancelled ones – and feeling incredibly alone.
The inability to have in-person appointments meant that for the majority of last year, I was frequently given medication I did not actually need – meaning the route of my problems went unnoticed. Of course, what they believed to be a stubborn UTI was hardly the biggest concern for the NHS during a pandemic, and I can hardly blame them for that.
But, had I been taken seriously to begin with, when I suggested my endometriosis may have been spreading, my condition would not have deteriorated to the extent that it did. The strain on my mental health would not have been so great.
Lockdown was incredibly isolating for us all. But to be ignored when you experience daily, frequent pain – it became incredibly hard to see a point where things would get better. Getting out of bed began to feel like an achievement, let alone logging into my zoom seminars.
While the light at the end of the tunnel shines bright with the news that July 19th will see the end of social distancing, I am accepting that my life is different now. I am experiencing my first month of a medically induced menopause to prevent my condition from spreading further. Perhaps this would not have been the case had my symptoms been recognised sooner.
While my life is most certainly not all rainbows and sunshine, I am hopeful that my worst days are over. I have suffered both physically and mentally, but I finished my second year of University regardless. I get to see my partner and loved ones again.
While I may feel bitter about my health, and still have dark days, I am more resilient and confident than I could have ever imagined myself being this time last year. I am finally getting the counselling I have so desperately wanted and needed. This lockdown was easily the hardest year of my life – as I’m sure it has been for most of us. But I am thankful that it has taught me a strength I previously failed to see in myself.
The thing is, lockdown was both the best and worst few months of my life. Although it may seem as though this letter is meant for lockdown, it isn’t. Not really. It’s meant for the person who made lockdown bearable for me, who made what could have been a horrible however many months significantly more manageable.
I remember when we heard that lockdown was about to begin and it just didn’t feel real, you know? I think that was down to the fact that we were living in our own little universe, too concerned with each other than the outside world. But the outside world came knocking and we were forced to answer.
It still doesn’t seem real now, even though we still currently wear face masks and new variants are trying to surface. It doesn’t seem real that what we once took as a luxury – the ability to just stroll into the local ASDA or Tesco without a second thought – became something that required us to put hours aside waiting in mile long queues. But it was real.
But, the thing is, when I really think about lockdown, I don’t even really think about those things. Not really. Yes, I found it incredibly difficult. I couldn’t tell you the number of days when I just wanted to curl up and cry because the house felt too small and the walls pressed in so tightly that I couldn’t breathe. But those days were tiny in comparison to all the wonderful days you gave me.
Lockdown wasn’t just sitting inside, counting how many times our neighbours went for a walk when they weren’t supposed to or recounting all the things we missed like take-out food or the occasional pint. Lockdown was going for a walk in the sun with you, getting to know you and imagining all the things we could do together if only the world wasn’t falling apart or being ravaged by a virus that seemed to show no mercy.
Lockdown was counting the hours until I could see you again and feel grateful for the chance to see somebody who wasn’t just a person I lived with; who made me feel alive in a time where living was becoming a very precarious and precious luxury.
Ultimately, if I’m being honest with myself, part of me misses lockdown. I miss the way our walks used to feel sacred because they were infrequent due to government restrictions. I miss that little excitement I used to feel all the way down to my toes when I thought about you and how things could be in the future. I miss feeling safe with you, even when the world wasn’t a safe place to be in at that time.
So I guess you could say I’m nostalgic for lockdown, but only because I’m nostalgic for who we used to be during that time. Change is never easy. It’s the hardest thing anyone can ever go through.
But as the restrictions finally end on July 19th, even though I’ll be happy to finally be able to live without the ever-present eye of government rules and treading carefully, a small part of me will long to go back to the start. Not for the daily fear and the overwhelming tragedy of death because nothing will ever make that okay. But for those few peaceful months where everything between us felt good because, like lockdown, those days are now far behind us.
Josie Scott-Taylor – TV Editor
Lockdown for me has been a range of things. I revelled in my furloughed time off last year, essentially getting paid to binge-watch Breaking Bad, attempting to learn new hobbies (somewhat successfully), and spending perhaps too much time with my family.
I also turned both 19 and 20 in lockdown, which means that sometimes it feels as though my life is missing an entire year. Although that void can become overwhelming and upsetting, the absence of normal life has brought me a newfound sense of appreciation for the smaller things in life.
Being locked away in my own home for such a long time forced me to confront the idea of happiness in ways I had not considered before, leading to the realisation that in order to survive lockdown, I was going to have to make the most of the situation.
Festivals turned into blasting music in my bedroom, nights out at the pub turned into drinking games on Netflix Party, and the ever-present company of my pets partly replaced real human connection.
This ability to recognise and treasure life’s smaller details definitely allowed me to enjoy more of the gruelling first months of University during lockdown, and this power is something I will endeavour to carry with me forever.
James Simpson – Life&Style Writer
In retrospect of the last year or so, I would tell my old self that lockdown will bring with it both many highs and many lows. In the initial period, life will be tolerable. You will cultivate a range of new hobbies and interests and, shielded from the brunt of the pandemic, you will find a strange sense of tranquillity in this new era of isolated existence.
Having dropped-out of University for the first time in the preceding December, life had not been all too eventful recently, anyway. You will find enjoyment in the smallest pleasures, from your newly discovered love for reading and writing poetry to peaceful evening walks.
Come the summer and the waning of the first lockdown, you will reconnect with forgotten friends and close family members once again. Unfortunately, your mental health will take a turn for the worse.
As the first year of your new University life approaches in the early autumn months, you will become overwhelmed by anxiety and uncertainty as to your future pathway. Hard times will fall upon someone close to you. Tragic possibilities will play upon your mind for every second of every day. Nevertheless, it will subside. You will find solace and certainty, as well as a new and vibrant social life in your new path of work and study.
Things will clear and the days will improve. Momentary episodes of regret will return, but they will be few and far between. Everything will pass because everything is ephemeral.
Cara Scott – Food&Drink Editor
The first lockdown for me was a weird blessing. Because of some things I was going through, I was struggling with being in school and my grades were slowly slipping. Lockdown meant that I didn’t need to worry about school. As much as other people were upset by the news that we would be given predicted grades, I was happy as I knew my work from across the two years would amount to higher than if I had sat the exams.
I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t be the person I was today if it wasn’t for lockdown. I used lockdown as a time to work on my writing, which is where I developed a love of writing poetry. I started learning a new language (which I gave up on after a few weeks), did some online courses and read way too many books to count (so I created a book review blog).
Lockdown made me grateful for the little things in life, such as an evening walk and spending time with my mum. Lockdown made me thankful for the ability to take a break from the whirlwind of life. Lockdown is also when I met my partner and I don’t think our worlds would have collided if the pandemic didn’t start. Even though I don’t think the pandemic was a positive time, I would still like to thank the lockdown for bringing me love.
Sammy Andrews – Music Editor
I contemplated so many different ways of writing this, considering a comical route or a profound message. The truth is any direction I chose would apply to the rollercoaster of a year this has been. But, more than anything, I would like to remind my past self that everything happens for a reason, and it takes time, but it has a way of working itself out.
In this year you will have learnt so much about yourself. You will have been thrown into situations and scenarios that in March of 2020, you wouldn’t have even dreamed of. You’ll swiftly learn two years into your Coeliac diagnosis, when you think you’ve got it all figured out, that you fall under ‘clinically vulnerable’ and, at your age of 19, are one of the first to be vaccinated.
You’re also going to deal with grief, with heartbreak and with new levels of anxiety (some of which you’re still working through). But nonetheless, every day through lockdown you will learn something new about yourself. Whether it is the yoga that you decided to take up on a whim one day in April and now do every morning, or learning to crochet just because you wanted the same cardigan as Harry Styles.
The loved ones and passions that you hold the closest are going to mean so much more to you – whether in the form of a facetime with your mom and sister while you are in between zoom seminars, or an Animal Crossing Island you dedicated over 200 hours of Lockdown to.
People and friends are going to leave your life but so many new people will join – people who you cannot imagine having never known before. It all has its way of working out.
Will Rogers – Life&Style Writer
Dear March 2020 Will,
The next year will provide mental, physical and economic challenges for your world – and for everyone’s world. The problem will not be caused by any human brain, cannot be reasoned with by any human mouth and shall not be seen by any human eye, yet will end the lives of millions and affect the lives of billions. The world does not know what is about to hit it.
On a personal level, you will have to find ways to fill your days, with your perception of normal being changed forever. For you, as an avid sports fan, remember that physical health is mental health. Continue your sporting goals and take time to work on your diet, health and exercise, with this being a perfect opportunity to improve your strength and physique.
Go outside, whilst you may not be able to see anyone face to face, remember that fresh air and exercise will only help the months go by quicker. Set yourself goals because this may be the last time before you retire that you really have time to work on yourself. As the days tick by and quickly turn into months, you will not want to look back at this as time wasted.
Finally remember one thing: throughout your life you have been fortunate with mental and physical health, so maintain a sense of empathy. Use your position to help others, who may not be so lucky or may have relatives who are suffering. Remember that even the smallest things can cheer someone else up. The upcoming months will be far easier as a team.
Always remember that no one is alone. People always want to help to see the best Will possible at the other end of troubling times.
Best of luck,
Aaliya Afzal – Life&Style Writer
When asked to write about the ‘lessons I learned’ during lockdown, my mind instantly went to the experience I have had with coming to terms with being alone and content with this. But then I realised I had already mastered this art long before the pandemic, when it was not obligated for people to stay home… and alone.
So, instead, I will write about the opportunities that lockdown has enabled. The pandemic has created this meditative setting that has allowed for self-reflection and an understanding of one’s feelings, values, limitations and priorities.
Through stripping away basic tasks that we do day-to-day and do not take the time to think about — whether that be going to watch a film, sitting in a classroom or trying on outfits in a store– we have been forced to stop and contemplate our very existence. To think about how easily things can be taken away and, in turn, the need to come to terms with being alone and appreciating everything – trivial or significant.
There is a key difference between being ‘lonely’ and being ‘alone.’ The latter should not be associated with the negative qualities of the former. Focusing on yourself is so rewarding – you are able to learn who you are, what you value in life, how you want to live – as well as what you do not want and what is less important.
I do not claim to have had a dramatic epiphany moment during lockdown, but it has solidified my desire to become more in tune with who I am. I just hope that everyone has been able to, or can, experience the positives of being alone and reap the benefits of being hyper-focused on one’s selfhood in this way.
Read more on lockdown experiences from Life&Style: