Humans are a species of habit – particularly the Brits! Anything that strays from the regular, the understood, and the already-experienced, is a source of terrible fright and must be avoided at all costs. That’s one of the reasons why, for example, smaller, more extreme parties tend to do so poorly come election time, or why middle-class M&S mums value the reputation of the brand so much more than the actual taste of the food.
For me, entering lockdown on the evening of 23rd March wasn’t such a jolting experience. All of a sudden, I was forced (by law) to stay at home watching Netflix all day, to order takeaways rather than going out to the supermarket, and to avoid my friends. It sounds like my typical week: I really didn’t notice the difference.
Okay, I exaggerate, but I nonetheless did enjoy the (literally) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to slow down and discover aspects of my identity that the everyday pace of the rat-race doesn’t allow for. Entirely unexpectedly, my thirteen-week hiatus from humanity gave me the breathing space to pause and, after I caught up on the months worth of sleep that the university lifestyle just doesn’t accommodate for, I found a passion for Americana music, the Hindi language, South Asian cooking, and memorising the capital cities of Latin America.
And no, I’m not selling my toxic productivity to you, don’t worry: I gave up on Hindi in week two, and still can’t remember whether Asunción is in Paraguay or Peru. The point is, for many of us lockdown helped us invaluably. I can’t stress how important it was for me to rekindle lost, long-distance friendships via Zoom (something I would never have had time to think about without being in lockdown) or how powerful it was to rebuild bonds with the parents I thought I’d never live with again.
And now, suddenly, everything is reopening!
Of course, I share in the excitement of the masses about pub beer gardens and summer visits to the beach. But I have already normalised the habit of owning the hours of my day, of studying from home, and of only visiting abroad when tuning into Netflix’s White Lines.
Obviously, I am beyond relieved that the effects of this deadly virus are subsiding, and want to use this platform to thank the carers, NHS staff, and other key workers including (though by no means limited to) teachers and delivery drivers who have kept this country on its feet. It’s brilliant that fewer lives are being lost, that fewer Covid patients are being admitted to our already overburdened hospitals.
But to those tripping over their shoelaces to get back to the nightclubs and cinemas, I say: spare a thought for those of us who are creatures of habit, and are slightly anxious about social life relaunching at its pre-Covid pace. For many of us, if we haven’t yet entirely forgotten the laws of social sensibility, we certainly need a few revision sessions.
We are all excited about the Great Reopening, but for some of us it is tinged with a hint of anxiety. Packed-out pubs and crowded stadiums have become alien, and there will be a great deal of stress among people who had to work hard to develop their social skills before lockdown. For the less confident, returning to normality will be a gradual process, rather than a sudden leap, and that is fine – we all work at our own pace. If a friend tells you they don’t quite feel ready to hang out just yet, let them know you understand, and give them a call instead.