It’s been over a year of varying states of lockdown and restrictions since the pandemic began. Looking back at the year as a whole, there have been five distinct phases to my experience of this bizarre phenomenon: Fear, Smugness, Novelty, Misery and Optimism.
Fear: March – May
National lockdown started at almost the same time in the UK as it did in New Zealand, where I was living. Everything was new and scary. Cases and deaths were going up around the world and we didn’t fully understand this new disease. Whenever I left the house, which was only once a fortnight to go to the supermarket, I was genuinely scared of what could happen. There was an endless stream of new information, so although it was overwhelming, I felt I had to be constantly watching the news.
However, there was also a kind of morbid intrigue about the whole scenario. There was no lockdown fatigue yet. I thought it would be interesting to change our lifestyles just for a couple of months for this major global event and then go back to normal. I’m glad I didn’t know how wrong I was, because I don’t think it would have benefitted me to know that I would be in and out of lockdown for over a year.
Smugness: June – July
Then New Zealand did go back to normal after a couple of months. Restrictions eased gradually and then completely. I went to bars, clubs, sports events and didn’t worry about the virus at all. The borders had been closed for months, so there was no chance of catching Covid. I travelled the South Island for a month, and if anything, the lack of tourists made my experience better, because it was less busy. Businesses were so desperate for custom that there were huge discounts on activities and trips. I felt incredibly smug living life in New Zealand while lockdown in the UK was barely easing.
Novelty: August – October
I came back to the UK in August. I had to spend two weeks self-isolating because I had spent an hour in Singapore airport en route home. Even that felt exciting. I was home with my family. I saw my friends for the first time in a year, forgetting that they hadn’t seen each other for most of that time either. There were still some restrictions, but the novelty of being home outshone that. I then moved to Bristol and being in a different city was novel too. It felt like I’d made it through the worst and now we would just trickle the final few steps to normality. But all this excitement was very premature.
Misery: November – March
This period was really bleak. The gradual inevitability with which we slumped back into a second and third full national lockdown really wore down my soul. All the novelty of the pandemic experience was well and truly gone. I had no motivation to do anything really. I was bored of Joe Wicks, fed up with the same walks and miserable at how cold and dark it was. My faith in the people making decisions had been gradually eroded away and I was completely pandemic fatigued. We were in the same position we had been almost a year prior and yet there still appeared no end in sight. This stage of the pandemic really took its toll.
Optimism: April –
Cautious optimism, I should say. I was optimistic that the worst was over back in August, and that made the regression even more unbearable. However, there is reason to be optimistic. The vaccine rollout is going well, the days are getting longer, and restrictions are beginning to ease. It is still a long time until that arbitrary date in June when all restrictions are due to finish. However, at this point, I think it’s important to have something to look forward to.
My pandemic experience has been easier than a lot of people’s. I’ve been miserable for periods of it, but I’m fortunate that it has been separated into different phases, breaking up the monotony. If there’s one thing that’s become clear, it’s that we are remarkably good at adapting and getting used to situations, even when they seem completely alien. I hope that by the end of summer we can adapt back to something resembling what we knew before. And hopefully we’ll be more grateful for all the things we’ve missed during the past year. Then we can start to rose tint all the extra time we had, all the new hobbies we gave up on and the Zoom quizzes we never have to do again.
Check back in April 2022 to read my review of the second year of the pandemic and find out how wrong I was and why I found lockdown 6 the hardest one yet.
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