"I've Forgotten How to Hold a Conversation" and More Post-Pandemic Worries.
"When are we returning back to normal?" and "Is it over yet?" are questions that have been asked continuously since the first lockdown we faced on the 23rd of March last year, but now that June 21st is vastly approaching; although people are thrilled, it's also paired with doubt and uncertainty. After all, lockdown has been our life for the past year and we normalised to that more than we thought we would. Here is what some of our writers had to say about entering post-pandemic life.
Over the past year, I've grown very used to staying within my social comfort zone, at home in my comfy clothes, spending time only with the immediate people I live with. As someone who can be quite introverted and anxious, I am like a purring cat in the haven of my own company. Stepping back into society in big groups of people after all this time is quite an overwhelming prospect for me and will be a process of dipping my feet in the water rather than diving right in. Even just traipsing back onto the high street is something that now appears a much bigger deal to prepare for. You might be someone who has flocked to a pub as soon as possible, and that's great and understandable. But look a little closer for some of the introverts among us, who are slowly venturing out for that first drink perhaps, smiling gently as our minds swirl with thoughts that are so noisy sometimes there remains little room for speech. The process it takes to get here might even make that first drink feel all the more satisfying.
Going back to normality does scare me, as much as I hate to admit it. I've been so excited to go back to pubs and bars, but now the time has come, I'm filled with anxiety. The thought of standing in crowds of people like we used to makes me feel apprehensive to say the least. I've missed socialising with my friends, but I am scared that my social battery will be drained quickly and my introverted side will take over. Pubs, bars and restaurants are such an intense environment at the best of times, especially when suffering from anxiety. After over six months away from my last visits and over a year since life was normal, the intensity of it doesn't fill me with joy. Even though it's not as intense right now during restrictions, the potential lifting of restrictions is not far away. I'm partly thankful that I can use this time to ease myself back into post-pandemic socialising and somewhat scared that it's all coming at once.
The thought of going out on a dinner date with a stranger is just so unappealing after abiding by social distancing measures for this long, but how else can you meet a potential partner? Granted, everyone worries about whether or not to make the first move on a first date. Do I go in for a hug, maybe a kiss? But now, this fear is magnified by the risk of catching covid that comes with it. There's a safe sense of clarity with friends and family because I know where they've been and who they've been with, which can't be guaranteed on a first date with a stranger. Dating apps are not the same as dating in person and I do want to be able to meet my potential life partner, but it comes at a risk that I don't think I'll be jumping into straight away. I just hope this doesn't change the nature of dating in the long term.
I worry I've lost the social part of myself that yearned for that night off work so I could see my friends. I yearned for those weekends away in cities I'd barely been to, but now I feel anxious. I feel I'm trying to repair a part of myself I never realise lockdown had broken. I worried my body had changed and would be judged for it, but now I recognise my value does not change when my weight changes. I am just as worthy as I ever was. The media is currently preying off our insecurities, telling us that we need to lose weight, have surgery and "slim down", in reality, I need to see my friends, tell them I love them and hug my grandparents. Those sort of moments are the ones no one can take away from me.
Life after lockdown seems like something that will never happen, but it will eventually and hopefully soon. I miss the atmosphere and the freedom to go out with friends without choosing between who to see constantly. However, I am nervous about going back inside where there are lots of people and being subjected to germs that I have managed to avoid through various lockdowns. Due to this fear, I will continue to wear masks in busy shops even after the pandemic had ended. I look forward to the world opening up, but I know that it will take some time to get used to.
Despite spending most of my free time with family and friends, I flourish in having my own space to recharge my social battery. Before the pandemic hit, I could still present myself confidently when social situations required it, and although being deemed 'shy' around unfamiliar faces, I was confident around the people closest to me. Now, I feel as if I've forgotten how to hold a conversation, even with the closest people around me. Instead of speaking fluently like I once did, I find myself stuttering for words and unable to piece sentences together that were once easy enough to say. I worry that my talent of faking it until I make it to get me through job interviews has resigned and that taking on these critical social interactions will be ten times harder and ten times more exhausting.
As someone with a disability, the pandemic has been somewhat of a blessing in disguise. The newfound acceptance of working and studying from home has made my life a whole lot easier because I have more energy to get things done on time. Working remotely has allowed me to gain work experience through online internships, which may have been impossible if I needed to move accommodation or commute. I’ve been able to do more in terms of extracurriculars since they don’t require physically going to an event, and when I’m often tired or in pain, I can sit in comfortable clothing with things like heat pads while I take part. Losing this worries me as restrictions ease because I want to work full-time and get as much out of life as possible. I know that if I am expected to commute every day as I enter the job market, my chances of holding down full-time jobs will slim drastically.