I have to be honest. When I sat down to write about what lessons I’ve learned while living through the pandemic, I was stumped. I couldn’t think of a single thing. Nothing.
I was stumped.
How could I not have learned anything? I thought about what I’ve been doing… I have had my head down finishing off my third book; something that keeps me shut away in my bedroom at my new makeshift writing space. I used to work in the kitchen, but now the kids use it as their classroom I had to find somewhere else to call my own. My desk started out as the laundry basket dragged in from the hall, with an upside-down tray on top of it, where I rested my laptop. After a few weeks and an increasingly sore back it was clear that this wasn’t a long-term solution. So I moved a small table and chair from another room and I created my happy place; a space by the window in our bedroom, where I put a plant, some flowers, a candle and my crystals. And I wrote.
When I wasn’t writing the book, I was writing for the site, or having meetings with Nick in our office about next moves for This Girl Is On Fire. I’ve done a lot of laundry, changed a lot of sheets, cooked a lot of dinners, listened to the kids tell me about what they’re up to online with their friends and watched a lot of Nashville on TV. I’ve exercised in some form most days – but the enthusiasm for it that I started lockdown with has definitely dwindled. I can’t look at another YouTube exercise class…
Oh! That’s one thing I’ve learned. I never want to go to dance aerobics. I thought I did; I really loved the idea of it, but after trying them out online I’ve realised that I will never get the hang of them. I forget the instructions, I can’t keep up and I end up more irritated then invigorated by the time it’s over. So I’ve gone back to what I like – yoga, weights and skipping, doing it in my time, by myself.
I guess that’s another thing I’ve learned. I work at my own speed. Nick and I are very different in how we work – he is up like a shot before the alarm has finished beeping and has done his morning exercises before I’ve finished brushing my teeth. I tried to keep up with him for the first few weeks, but he got annoyed that I was holding him up, and I got annoyed that he was pushing too fast. So now we do our own thing.
I haven’t learned a new language, or taken up painting, or any of the other things that have been thrown into the mix of things we are ‘supposed’ to have learned during lockdown. I don’t think we are supposed to do anything other than survive mentally and physically when the world has gone into global meltdown. I’ve just tried to stay consistent and focused on goals so that I feel like I have achieved something by the end of the week – even if it’s not by the end of the day, because not every day is amazing.
I suppose I have learned that it’s ok to do things my way, that I don’t have to fit in with what anyone else thinks. I’m more Dory to Nick’s Rocky; I don’t see every day as a fight to be won. I forget things, I get side-tracked and distracted, I try and do too many things at once and do none of them as well as I should. But I always keep moving forward. I just keep swimming. And at a time when it feels like the world is drowning, I think that learning to swim is a good enough lesson to learn.
Jayne Cherrington-Cook is our Head of Content and has learnt that having no social engagements has been a revelation
“I don’t think I’ll ever know the full effect lockdown has had on me until this crisis is well and truly over, but the one thing I’ve really realised is just how much I love having NOTHING in the diary. I’m a big planner, you see.
Part of this is borne out of necessity. With a husband who works shifts and a young son to look after, there are only certain nights I can go out. My months get booked up very quickly. However, it’s also because I love being busy and having things to look forward to. It’s also a little because I want to be liked AND I don’t want to let down anyone, ever. I live a very full life. Some days I don’t stop as I hurtle from appointment to appointment and while I relish this, as an introvert (I know, I’m complicated!), I need to recharge every so often.
Regular life doesn’t offer this opportunity very often so I’ve taken lockdown as one major piece of chill time. It’s made me realise I often say yes, when I mean no and that being in a bit more often doesn’t make me boring or unlovable. When we finally come out of this crisis, I’ll be planning less and letting things just happen a bit more. After weeks of just staying indoors, a few surprises will be just what my body and soul need!”
Rebecca Martin, a digital consultant, has learnt how much she misses human contact
“When first asked what I’ve learned about myself during lockdown, I felt should come up with something really positive. That I’d learned a new skill or discovered a new talent. What I’ve actually learned is how much of my time was spent with people. And how much I miss them.
I’m single, a self-employed freelancer and live alone – so I chose to move in with my parents and younger sister as soon as lockdown was announced. I love my flat, I love living by the sea, but everything I love about my life involves my family and friends. Dinners out, cinema dates, box-set-and-cheese nights, business meetings, networking events, dating, holidays, bars – and those taken-for-granted passing handshakes or hugs. Oh, how I miss those passing “see you soon, get home safe” hugs at the end of every meet-up.
On paper – being single, living alone and working alone sounds like the loneliest existence ever – and I’ve often thought it sounds pretty sad. But it never was, because I was always surrounded by amazing friends, colleagues and family (and a tiny niece and nephews). I was rarely alone, even when at home.
Now, I miss them dearly and can’t wait to fill my calendar with too many pizza nights and rosé dates. And now I realise how lucky I am.”
Sharn Rayment, is a social media producer, who has learnt to tap into her creative skills during lockdown
“Working as a writer and in social media, I’ve always been described by others as a ‘creative’, but it’s a label that’s never quite sat right with me. I pride myself on my grammatical accuracy, my logic and my ability to organise – traits I wouldn’t necessarily describe as ‘creative’.
But when lockdown hit and my clients switched to remote working, I was being called upon to shoot and edit videos in my spare bedroom, design graphics from scratch, come up with and test out new creative concepts, and pitch them to big wigs, all from my kitchen table. For once, I was forced to embrace my inner creative, and it came easier than expected. No longer was I panicking about getting e-mails sent on time or catching a train to get to a city meeting – my new ‘worries’ were more about getting my ring light in the right position to shoot makeup hacks than booking a meeting room for four at 2.30pm.
I hadn’t realised how all these small management tasks were getting in the way of what I loved to do – create and share original ideas with the world through the wonder that is internet. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m just grateful that in these testing times I finally have the headspace to do it.”
Hannah Verdier, is a writer and personal trainer, who runs Everybody Personal Training
“Lockdown has made me want a proper job. I’ve been freelance for 12 years, but I would give anything for some security right now. And the idea that we’ll all go back to normal and back to workplaces when the time is right. I’ve been suffering with loneliness for years, but brushed it off and dealt with it by planning nights out with friends, having chats at the gym and sitting in coffee shops.
With all these things gone I’ve had to face up to it and it’s tough. I’ve made friends with my neighbours and spent more time with my children, which is lovely, but when lockdown ends I need to stop drifting and get some structure.”
Emma Lazenby is a mum of three very lively kids and has learnt that it’s the little things that really matter in life
A lovely thing I’ve learned about my lockdown experience is that – in a time where I thought I’d feel so lonely, I’ve actually never felt less alone. When I talk to friends and family, that throwaway question ‘how are you’ is now so heartfelt and we just don’t stop thinking about each other. Ever. And we all consider people outside our immediate circle like never before. It feels like the world’s suddenly got smaller. And kinder. And we’re all so much better for it.
Secondly, oh the solace I’ve found in food! I love cooking and feeding my family (when the littlest ones don’t throw it on the floor or at my face, obviously) and mealtimes are the only solid structure we have right now. I’d be lost without them. And just planning dishes for the day ahead – it gives me something mildly creative to think about!
Lastly, just being able to occasionally lose myself in books or music has been EVERYTHING to me. Little doses of escapism have kept me sane. When this is all over, I’m determined to make sure I take a few minutes each day to mentally teleport to another place for a little while!