Illustrations by Hannah Robinson.
These are uncertain times. This is probably the first time that young people, myself included, feel that we have no idea what the future holds.
We weren’t old enough to really understand the global recession. We haven’t faced any wars or shared and endured suffering on a global scale. Situations like this have previously been what we read about in history books or see on the news in faraway countries. Before now, we could only sympathise, rather than empathise with challenging crisis situations. We’ve been unknowingly spoilt in living in fairly stable and comfortable times. COVID-19 has been a huge wake up call, and an aggressive one.
No one can predict a global pandemic. No one can predict that millions will die, millions will suffer, and to save lives you must stay at home. It can leave us feeling totally out of control, alone and lost.
When I took my first trip outside after a 2-week quarantine, I couldn’t believe the world that now confronted me. Empty shops and empty streets. The town was almost silent. The only people I saw crossed the street to avoid me. I queued outside a shop, in silence, standing on the 2m mark sticker. It suddenly became incredibly real to me, as I stood there waiting. This is not a new adventure; this is a crisis and it kills.
In no time, human nature had been drastically altered. No longer can people touch, hug, shake hands and embrace. We remain in our houses, fearful of other people and read the news to find out about the outside world.
This is what this virus does – isolates us profoundly. It has torn us from our lives, our plans and each other. This can take a heavy toll on our mental state- anxiety, restlessness, depression and we must care for ourselves.
This can be a time to finally finish those items on your to-do list. Complete those photo albums, clear out your wardrobe or even bake your own bread, just to decide never to do it again. Even volunteer for the NHS, start a charity – whatever you want to do, this is your time. Yet, we don’t need to be finding constant distractions. This is also a time to just slow down, ground ourselves and re-engage with our lives. To be simply doing okay, is more than okay. To be staying healthy is productive in itself.
What I have learnt is there is an immense beauty in those empty streets and empty shops. It’s not an apocalyptic vision to be fearful of. The emptiness symbolises a selflessness in all of us as we collectively make sacrifices to save each other- to stay at home is our act of kindness. It may not feel like it, and indeed there is a sense of guilt in our inaction, yet that very inaction is an action. Against all the anxiety and sadness, we may feel, I hope that we can all feel a little empowered in this.
These are uncertain times. They probably will remain uncertain. But if this time has taught us anything, we have each other, even if we are all apart.