The pandemic has sparked huge lifestyle changes for everyone in the world. We’ve had to adapt to social distancing, regularly wearing masks, working from home, and a huge dent in our social lives. Though there are loads of obvious downsides, lockdown, and the requirement to stay at home gave me a new perspective and the chance to do things that everyday life had prevented before.
Like many people, I had put off my hobbies to try and meet the constant slew of deadlines that university offers up. I dreamed of the day when I could afford to schedule in things I enjoyed instead of just snatching moments of fun when possible. But with lockdown cancelling events, closing places, and forcing me to stay home, I realised that I have much more time than I had assumed. It was time management that was the issue. As an introvert I prefer being inside, but in the modern world you’re constantly having to travel to university, work, shopping etc. With many things closed and the official recommendation being to stay inside, we switched to an introvert’s dream and I suddenly was forced to have all this free time.
I opened a Star Wars crochet kit I received years ago, but could never work out how to start, and found a step-by-step tutorial on YouTube. I have now created two amigurumi (crocheted dolls) of Yoda and a Stormtrooper and I’m so proud that I’ve gained a new skill. I also had the time to finally start learning to play guitar. I had wanted to teach myself for months and had a guitar, but seemingly no time to learn. Fender Play gave out free 3-month subscriptions to their learning platform so people could learn an instrument in lockdown, and it motivated me to finally start playing.
Similarly, Rosetta Stone gave away a free 3-month language learning subscription, so I continued learning Spanish, something else I’ve fallen behind on while at university. Though my trial has ended, I have kept up my learning on Duolingo and am making progress in my long-time goal of being bilingual. To keep my brain active, I bought some puzzle books after seeing a lockdown deal and found them both fun and mentally stimulating. In addition, I have always loved writing and finally made progress in stories I started years ago but never continued (as well as writing this article).
As for university work, I found online exams easier than the usual system. The silent room with moderators walking up and down silently judging, coupled with the time pressure, always amps up my anxiety. But completing exams online meant I was in the comfort of my own home, without other students and teachers making me constantly wonder if I’m getting it right (though there was the alternate distraction of my family never quite being quiet in the background).
The lectures were also easier, as people could attend from anywhere instead of rushing to make it to a lecture hall on time & attempting to take in every piece of information the lecturer imparts while getting useable notes. I have attended various careers advice talks online which would usually have been in a specific location and, similarly to lectures, would require being able to travel there, get there on time and make good enough notes for it to have been worth coming. With online talks I could watch in my pyjamas, make notes, copy paste information from the chat and watch the video back later if I missed anything.
Lockdown has also fostered increased appreciation for the NHS and key workers. The country has realised that so-called ‘low skilled’ jobs (e.g. rubbish collectors, bus & train drivers, and retail workers) are actually key workers doing necessary jobs that are valuable both in a pandemic and everyday life. This has caused a change in how we see work in general, as people have also realised that the office environment was often restricting and full of pressure, while working at home allows more space to work without a boss breathing down your neck or feeling forced to do overtime.
Unfortunately, I was one of many who lost a job due to the pandemic, a part time role I had had for almost a year. But the meditation app Headspace offered a free year of Premium subscription to anyone in this situation, meaning I now have access to a wide range of resources which are already helping with my anxiety and stress. Plus, my free year lasts throughout my third and final year, so I know I’m covered for the most taxing part of my degree!
While looking for a remote summer job/internship, I got an email from Bright Network, a student careers advice group, saying they had a virtual Internship Experience for students to build employability skills in lockdown since many internships were cancelled. I had had some summer jobs I’d applied to cancelled or rejected, so this was perfect for me. I completed the experience across two weeks, gaining a certificate and proof I have gained transferable skills in lockdown.
The final, possibly most long-lasting benefit is the renewed appreciation for friends and family. In lockdown me and my family have visited my grandma, who lives alone, more often to check on her and take her food. I had previously only seen her at holidays, so I was glad to spend more time with her. I also value time with my friends much more and was so happy when we were finally able to meet up again. I was studying abroad when the pandemic was declared, so I left early to get home before borders closed. This gave me the unique experience of breezing through security and seeing airports and planes mostly empty. I doubly appreciated being home with my family, as I hadn’t seen them for 3 months on top of the risk of having to quarantine separately.
Though this has been a turbulent time, these upsides make me feel optimistic that some elements of life have actually improved, and things can only get better.