Written by Neve Robinson
Languishing in lockdown -, the third of its inspid ilk – has truly been the most tiresome, yet transformative time of my twenty-two years of existence. Stagnant series of hours into days into weeks into months into…well, years. It has, at times, felt as though I was etching a tally onto the confines of my uni room’s weathered walls, counting down like a futile advent calendar to the day that it would be acceptable to feverishly envelope my beloved friends in embraces. I think the most jarring part of it all is the extraordinary sense of limbo I’ve been suspended into, and how accustomed and acclimated I’ve become to this strange inbetweenism. Being able to live, I suppose, but living by abiding by completely necessary but nonetheless neverending rules and regulations. Like being imprisoned in a glass fishbowl, breathing through glistening gills, but only within that unnatural rainbow-rocked prism of monotony. It’s existing. It’s sort of redefined what it means to live. I really, really dislike that, what lockdown has done to us as a society. That is, normalised the concept that we should just be unquestionably patient and content with unfulfillment, with loneliness, with boredom. Our negative sentiments about being trapped indoors are invalidated constantly, aided by guilt-tripping advertisements and an ever-present sense of duty placed on our shoulders as individuals, that we should focus our energies into protecting others. Whilst this is absolutely right (it is our bare-minimum responsibility as decent human beings to minimise any risk to our high-risk peers!) it is also crystal clear to me the magnitude of how this guilt culture affects the individual living through lockdown, and how it has affected me personally, too. The importance of mental health preservation, the importance of knowing that it’s okay to dislike these circumstances for tearing us away from our established routines, and the importance of hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel should not be lost to this idea of “things could be worse”. Things are terrible! For practically everybody! It’s not something that we should simply accept just because it’s been a long while in captivity. You’re entitled to complain about the crushing causation of the rapid decline of your mental wellbeing, and it’s not a sin for hating this period of time. I’m assuring you of this from the horse’s mouth, so to speak – I hate it, too. Everybody does. It isn’t selfish to dream of laughter with loved ones, of electric gigs, of drunken dancing barefoot in bars (no?! Just me?!) That’s the one huge impact lockdown has had on me and the newly patched-up fabric of my personality. I wanted to write this essay in order to remind myself of how good I had things before coronavirus threw the world into unwilling disarray. Lockdown has made me realise without a shadow of a doubt that I finally fully appreciate my everyday life – the good, the bad and the ugly parts, of which I’d prior considered to be fairly boring. It engenders the most bittersweet sensation.
So. This is a love letter to all the mundane features of my life. It’s a cry out for times I once perhaps even considered dull. For routines and structure I once cursed out of laziness and days lost to depression, cocooned in the domains of duvets. How I regret longing to not have to awake early for that 9am lecture. How I regret not clutching opportunities by their respective throats out of fear of failure. How I regret just moaning and moaning and moaning about all of the wonderful and terrible things that made my life, well, my life. Isn’t it strange how the simplest of activities can feel so dear to you when you have been robbed of them for over a year? Popping into Piccadilly Records for a flick through some vinyl in search of that special Patti Smith pressing you’ve been itching for. Watching the sunset from Castlefield Bowl with many cans and many mates. The stepping on a 142 bus, only to hop off just two stops later for a solo saddo mooch around the Whitworth Gallery. Wounding your tongue after biting into a piping Greggs pasty that is, without any hyperbole here, hotter than the Sun. Meeting a myriad of colourful characters on nights out – and always, without fail, befriending the befuddled stranger in the toilet cubicle opposite you who won’t stop proclaiming how beautiful you are. Girls are great. I remember being entangled in a constant sense of feeling hard done by. Of cloying self-pity. Nothing ever seemed satisfactory enough for me. I never felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Never felt that I was truly leading the romanticised version of life I’d conjured up in my cluttered cranium. Little did I realise, all along I was living as an authentic, flesh-and-blood, fantastic human – far better than anything I could ever wish to invent. It’s almost funny to me now how what I dream of every night isn’t this fictionalised life I once sought comfort in. No, the life I long for is the life that I had before all of this.
There’s little structure to my days anymore, other than the following:
- Wake up no earlier than midday.
- Make a cup of tea. (Normally out of sodding milk, so abandon tea in favour of a strange herbal concoction snaffled straight from the cupboards of my housemate)
- Full hair, makeup and funky clothes applied. The living room is now my catwalk.
- Walk my best friend’s dog, Rex, and watch him potter about the park, oblivious to the absolute hellscape he inhabits. O to be Young Rex!
- Return to the sofa for a full few hours of festering.
- Stay awake until stupid o’clock smashing out creative attempts at self sustainment (e.g., in a similar vein to what you are reluctantly reading currently)
- Crash into a, mostly, terror filled slumber!!!
- Rinse and repeat.
As you can tell, there’s little to do these days but to ponder and fixate. To contemplate and long for better days. As a result, I’ve recently developed a fear of lockdown restrictions easing. Ridiculous, I know, as this entire essay was blindingly condemning the whole bloody thing. I just mean to say that I’m anxious to return to how things were, in case I’ve hyped them up too much and will be even further disillusioned with life. I’m also a bit worried that I’ve forgotten basic social cues. I’m undeniably the most social of creatures and an unabashed extrovert. I radiate and ingest the energy of my peers. I learn from them. I adapt and adopt some of their behaviours; I think the best people are built upon a blend and hotch-potch of different perspectives and experiences. I want to be as wonderful as the people I have befriended, and in doing so I make sure to surround myself with sunshiney people in order to encourage the most positive mindset I can maintain. Maybe this has been the hardest part of all of lockdown. Having to restrict my extreme desires to socialise.
Because I think that, of all that I long for, I miss touching the most. Not in a perverse way, before you start! No, I mean in the most innocent sense of the phrase. Sensory shows of affection. I miss the brush of cracked lips against mine. I miss the tangle of frantic hands in one’s hair. I miss the clasping of cold digits, nestled in another’s coat pocket for safekeeping against that wretched North West wind. I miss the gentle kisses of eyelashes on my sallowed skin, the most delicate of butterflies. I miss the pounding of my heart – when it really feels like it’ll burst right through my ribcage and land in a bloodied pool before me; that excitable acceleration one can only feel in the company of the most special people. I miss the simplest of caresses. I miss being in the presence of anyone but boring old me!
I miss… I miss it all. I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my job, I miss university, I miss being young and reckless, I miss going on holiday, I miss going for a coffee, I miss being able to moan about the pettiest problems. I probably even miss you, dear reader. I can’t wait to be freed. If there’s one thing that this chunk of captive existence has taught me, and in the most non-cringe-inducing way I can express it, it’s the value of appreciating every ounce and drop that life has to offer. And by God, when I’ve got my life back, I’m going to squeeze every morsel of vitality from it. Just you wait. I hope with all of my heart that you do the same. After all, as the cliche goes, we’ve only got one life. Might as well make the most of it before they fancy popping us into a fourth lockdown, eh…