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WHAT A YEAR OF LOCKDOWNS TAUGHT ME

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I don't like to speak to soon (especially given recent updates) but here in the UK it at least feels like we're probably not going to see the level of restrictions we have before, though globally the picture is obviously still dire. I thought now seemed like a good time to reflect on the past year or so and what it's given me a perspective on...

No matter how much time you have on your hands, you can't force productivity

When we were in full lockdown for the first time, I kind of expected to magically do all of this stuff like write several books, learn chess, start coding and I'm sure master a million other skills. Even if you're not going out to work or doing much socially, the emotional weight of everything going on actually makes it quite hard to be productive. You're still a human being, you still need mental rest, and it took me a while to realise that. Additionally, the lack of new experiences kind of stifled my creativity. It's really hard to be brimming with new ideas when you're existing day in, day out in the same three rooms. I may have less time now but my mind is happier, I feel more balanced and I'm actually more productive than when I'm trying to force 'flow'.

There really is nothing like face-to-face

'Zoom fatigue' has entered the lexicon with good reason. Obviously it was our only option to stay in touch for a while, but it does feel oddly laborious to try and have one with different people every night. I personally found it almost impossible to have these sorts of calls with more than 2-3 other people. Trying to have some sort of party is even worse without the natural flow of moving between different groups and breaking off into separate tangents. There's something so reassuring about human connection in person, even if you can't actually touch, just feeling the aura of the people you care about makes such a positive difference.

I can do and enjoy things I didn't think I could

If you'd told me at the start of 2020 that I'd feel moderately confident in my driving abilities and that I was running 5k a couple of times a week, I'd have laughed, but I'm keeping it up and I'm feeling good. There was a point around a year ago where you were only allowed out to exercise, and I just had to get into it. I never in a million years would've thought I'd be into this stuff, but the circumstances we were forced into made me expand my horizons in a really positive way. Likewise, I discovered some interesting walks near where I live and found a new appreciation for walking and getting into the countryside (as I was trapped in the city centre at one point).

I've taken my privileges for granted

Look, I'm a young, childless person with a decent job and I don't live in London, so I've been able to enjoy a lot. Whether that's the theatre, a weekend in Paris, a night at a cocktail bar or whatever else I fancied. The only limitations really were time and money and I had enough of both to do a lot of what I felt like doing. But the restrictions we faced were the same for everyone (unless you're a billionaire, or Dominic Cummings...) and I understood what it's like not to be able to do those things. It wasn't all smooth sailing; I was stuck in a one-bedroom central flat with no garden during all of these lockdowns, but it wasn't totally impossible for me to move and I appreciate many others had it worse in shared or overcrowded housing. Ultimately this didn't affect everyone equally and for many members of society, there always have been and always will be limitations (whether financial or due to disability) that affect them being able to do whatever they want, wherever they want. This experience made me understand that I'm not entitled to anything, and I will truly enjoy and appreciate travelling, eating out and having all of these experiences as the privileges that they are.

The importance of the collective

In the Western World (particularly the United States) we've been fed this idea of hyper-individualism so long that the idea of doing something like getting a new vaccine, staying at home or wearing a mask seemed alien for some. There have been so many people fighting for this idea of individual freedoms above all else, however I've gained a real appreciation of what we can do when we come together and organise. Yes, it's been exhausting, frustrating and mismanaged at many times, but we all made sacrifices and people supported one another in such thoughtful ways. We've seen an unprecedented number of protests - at least here in the UK over the past year - and it does give me hope as to what we can achieve when we come together.

Work isn't everything

Although I don't do it at the moment; I have previously been in a position where I was commuting an hour each way to work. It was draining, in many ways. Over the past year we've got used to having a bit of extra time in the morning with our loved ones, going for walks together over lunchtime, having a bit of a slower morning ritual and appreciating simple, everday moments without the distractions of modern living. I think many people really like flexible working and want a mix of office socialising and working from home going forwards, because we've proven you can work remotely effectively. It has its drawbacks, but clearly office working 7 days a week does too. I think staying at home with loved ones and feeling closer to them than ever whilst we saw huge numbers of deaths in this country has really put into perspective for a lot of us that there's more to life than work and we need to make some time for those things too. After all, tomorrow isn't always guaranteed.

How has the past year changed your perspective on things?


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