My Lessons From Lockdown
Include this article in your Skills Builder Journal. It could help you develop...
Lockdown has been a bit of a strange time for everyone. We’ve quickly had to adapt to new ways of living and it’s meant different things to different people. NCS Grad João is here to tell us what he’s learnt about himself and his world through lockdown…
On a quiet evening in March, I was sitting at my desk halfway through some practice maths questions for my upcoming exams, with Boris on my laptop in the background starting off his daily Coronavirus briefing.
Of course, I’d heard the rumours and seen what was happening elsewhere, but this knowledge did little to soften the blow when the announcement came through that exams were cancelled. I dropped my pencil and contemplated whether to finish the questions I was doing, to call my friends or to just carry on sitting there. For me, this moment captured the feeling of the next few months perfectly; shock, confusion and deep uncertainty.
And that’s my first lesson of lockdown: life is unpredictable, no matter how much our society tries to foresee, control and organise the future.
For several months now our lives have been dictated by coronavirus. It has disappointed us, it has separated us and it has put us through new challenges. Although my struggles don’t even compare to what others have gone through, I too have experienced the emptiness and uncertainty brought about by this period.
For me, things really reached a peak a few weeks into lockdown. It became evident that despite the stress of looming exams and university applications, the two things that kept me going previously were seeing other people and having something to do. Unfortunately, these were exactly the two things that coronavirus was depriving me of. Like many people I tried to work out how to cope by filling my time with productive things, or by having non-stop Zoom calls.
I quickly learned my second lesson of lockdown: that no matter how hard you try, sometimes you will be down. And instead of trying to gloss over it, you should face it and work on it. The overwhelming positivity of society can be comforting but it can also be isolating if you don’t resonate with it at a given moment.
There were many times where it felt like I was swimming against the tide. No matter how much I did, it felt like I was either not doing enough or like I didn’t have the energy to do more and it became quite suffocating. It made me reflect on how we live in a world where multitasking is celebrated, where the next step is on our minds well before we have finished the current one, and where stillness is underrated. It was only when I stopped fighting and started accepting that I cultivated a fresh perspective and started to bounce back.
And I got my third lesson: when faced with a challenge we have two options: hide from it or face it head on.
I can promise you the latter is the best option, it’s the way to growth, and growth never comes from comfort. Lockdown stopped being a time of entrapment and started being a time of introspection and gratitude. I moved away from trying to control everything and moved towards just being grateful for the small things. At 18 years old I never thought a simple walk in the park with a mate would be the highlight of my week, or that staying in with the family would be the go-to on a Friday night, but this time has taught me that we have enough and that we are enough.
It taught me my fourth lesson: to enjoy the little things and to value what is close to me instead of constantly looking elsewhere for happiness.
Yes, there was anxiousness and stress and loneliness, but what got me through was not neglecting my struggles and forcing myself to do something useful, but taking a step back and realising that I was going through a tough time and that was ok. This outbreak has shown me I’m stronger than I know. I also learned that I am more dependent on others than I ever admit and that seeing someone else, even if it was over a buffering Zoom call, could change my day. The comfort and joy of being around others really is irreplaceable and it’s time we stopped taking that for granted. I think this will help build a more open and connected society, it’s been made clear how we have a direct impact on those around us. Working on your problems and asking for help is brave and healthy, staying at home has helped me develop new ways of tackling stress.
This time has been a reminder that you can’t have darkness without light. The NHS, our key workers, and our loved ones have shone as bright as ever, and for once we actually stopped to take that in and applaud it. Key workers are heroes, but I now realise we should not limit our gratitude.
And hence my fifth and final lesson: being grateful feels good and generates kindness and generosity for all people involved. It has become the foundation and the glue of society instead of just an afterthought.
The world has changed, at least for now, and that can be hard to swallow, but it’s important to remember that life will keep changing, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Look around you and you will see a world less polluted, families more united and people more at peace. In the midst of the chaos this has been a time of activism, achievement and art. I’ve learned to slow down and realise the things I really need to live a happy life, and it’s not the commercial quick-fixes but the simple things right in front of me. We will always be the generation that constantly reminds our grandkids to wash their hands, but we will also be the generation that values the importance of others and is grateful for face-to-face conversations where no one freezes.
I know that although one day this will all be over, we will carry the lessons with us for a long time. I know that we’ll be risk-taking and resilient, we’ll make time for family and friends and we’ll be that bit more grateful for the present moment, for others and for how lucky we are.