But slowly, now that we’ve passed the peak and the end feels painfully tangible, a new more surprising feeling has crept up on me: one of dread. Dread of the crowded commute, dread of job applications, dread of dating IRL, dread at being ripped off for overpriced coffee (now that I know how to make dalgona coffee at home!), dread at shaving my legs and getting dressed up every day to face the judgement of others (what even are jeans?!), dread of the return of FOMO, dread of the pressure to live my ‘best life’ because Instagram is telling me I’m a loser staying at home while everyone else is partying.
How will I cope with the change?
Since lockdown started, I’ve repeated the same eight words over and over again and had them repeated back to me from everyone I know: “I can’t wait to be out of lockdown”. This period of isolation has, at times, felt like living in a cruel, closed-off, claustrophobic cave, cutting me away from my friends and family and my last few months of fun at University.
Turns out my cave has been more of a safe, stress-free cosy impenetrable bubble.
Before lockdown, the FOMO was real: where was everyone? Why wasn’t I there? If I don’t go, what will I miss? But for the last few months, I haven’t had to worry that I was missing anything: there was nothing to miss. Everyone I know has been sitting at home in their pyjamas, binge-watching Normal People or Too Hot to Handle. Bliss! The idea that soon everyone will be busy scares me: will my FOMO re-emerge tenfold?
Lockdown has been the longest period that I have gone in my life without experiencing any social anxiety. Social norms and pressures which tell you what to do, say and wear have slipped away, and socialising with mutual ‘friends of friends’ that I don’t feel comfortable around is a distant memory. On Zoom and Houseparty, if it’s awks, I CAN JUST hang up. Small talk with strangers is something that I’m not looking forward to, especially considering NOTHING has happened since March 2019 (what am I even supposed to talk about?!?!).
For those of us that have missed out: on graduations, weddings and birthdays, what happens now? I know that I’ll feel guilty if I ever decide that I don’t want to go out to everything I’m ever invited to, because ‘remember that time we had to sit at home for two months?’ But I also can’t imagine myself going out EVERY night, just to make up for it.
I’m scared to find out which of my friendships have survived the pandemic, and I’m pretty sure that my social and communication skills have disintegrated over the last six weeks, to the point that interacting with my peers face-to-face might at first be very awkward (uuuh, hi?). I know that eventually I’ll relearn how to behave within crowded groups, but this is going to be a massive readjustment considering the only people I’ve seen in the last few months have known me since birth.
This is all made worse by the hard truth that Coronavirus isn’t really over, and social distancing will still be necessary even after the lockdown is relaxed to ensure I keep some members of my family safe – will I ever be able to see my grandparents for the next six months? Or my friends who have lowered immune systems? Will the awkward elbow bump (remember that?) count as social distancing?
This isn’t to say that I’m not excited for restrictions to ease: I miss my friends, getting dressed up (and feeling like I look good). Oh, I know I’m contradicting myself here, and i’ve just said I’m dreading getting dressed up again… but that’s why this situation is so goddamn weird – it’s mentally so contradictory.
But part of me will forever miss the public statement allowing me to take my foot off the pedal and not worry about my ambition, my future career, instead giving us all time think about what we really want for ourselves and those we are close to. It’s been time to reflect on my actions and decisions – good and bad – and to reconsider my next steps in life. For me, this period of tranquillity is something I can’t imagine I’ll ever get again, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready for it to end…
So, what have I learned from lockdown? If you’d have asked me five months ago if I could stay home for over 45 days, I’d have laughed in your face- not a chance I could go that long without a Starbucks, a brunch with my girls to Boston Tea Party, a trip to the hair salon I’ve been visiting since I was a child, or a shopping spree to Urban Outfitters. But it seems that we’ve managed it, aware that some ‘me-time’ is a good thing, and that being alone doesn’t always mean feeling lonely.