Illustrations by Hannah Robinson

What will we keep of this lockdown experience?

“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.” The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

It is important to note that for those of us privileged enough to be safe and at home during this lockdown, our experience has been entirely different to that of frontline workers and those who have lost loved ones. Moving forward, we should all be cautious of this difference, especially in the ways we are imagining what life after COVID-19 might look like.

It’s difficult to imagine life post-lockdown. There was no long, drawn-out goodbye to our lives before the pandemic, it was simply gone all at once. I can hardly enjoy a film anymore, without fretting over seeing lots of people in small places, freely and trustingly using lifts, enjoying bars, restaurants or kissing. I panic at every possible COVID-19 transmission between characters. It seems like another world entirely.

It’s crazy to imagine how we used to live, and even harder to imagine how we might live in a few months. A time when we no longer clap for our NHS workers, we no longer deliver medication or groceries to the elderly and we all return to a somewhat familiar, disjointed reality. The present no longer referred to as “this” accompanied by various derivatives of ‘this shit show’ or ‘when this is all over’.

A global toilet paper shortage. A virtual Grand National. Goats taking over a town in Wales. A Premiere League with no fans. 100 days ago, this would seem like madness.

As our lives begin to slowly re-mould back into the old, we’ll likely find the mould no longer fits. The world is altered, unsettled and challenged. Our familiar modes of life will ultimately be changed. Will we hug, shake hands or kiss – or will we avoid embracing each other? Having spontaneous temperature tests, allotted roped spots in parks and on beaches and our meetings with others now tracked and plotted on a map, could very well be our new world.

Companies may close their offices as working from home has been so easy and perhaps preferable for many. Universities may be forever changed, as technology has allowed the absolute specialists in fields to give talks to thousands.

And what about dating? The idea of meeting someone new in a bar or a club seems like a distant dream. The risk of COVID-19 means this is no longer appealing. The huge surge in dating app usage suggests we’re all bored, lonely and looking for connection in this increasingly isolating time. The only hope of meeting in person is a socially distanced walk in the park. How quaint, and entirely unrushed dating has become.

In many aspects of our lives everything has slowed down, our pace of life has changed. Forced to stay home – we’ve all taken a step back, slowed down. We notice nature, we shop more locally, we’ve regained our sense of community, we cherish our NHS, and we all, hopefully, have a sharper realisation of what’s important.

As two metres becomes one and one friend becomes six – am I alone in fearing the end of lockdown? A little frightened of not only how the world will re-land itself amongst the rubble, but also where we all now fit in it?

The end is still not near, but it seems a lot closer than before. The “new normal” will certainly be no return to what we had before. I just hope we don’t forget how much we learned to notice the smaller things in life and how we have learned how to ask, ‘how are you’ and genuinely mean it.