It’s a wild Saturday night in my household and I am wrapped up on the sofa in my favourite slightly-decaying sweatshirt and a blanket, with a cup of tea planted firmly in my hands. I have Schitt’s Creek paused on the TV and I’m sat opposite my boyfriend, and between blubbering sobs I manage to splutter out the words: “I just… I don’t know how to live anymore.” And truly, I feel like I don’t.
Before March 2020, I felt like I had a decent balance. At least for the most part. My weekly diary involved a well groomed mix of activities: writing all day Monday, shooting photos with a friend on Tuesday morning before a play date in the afternoon, community yoga on Wednesday evening, playgroup Thursday morning, a games night Thursday evening and a Friday spent having meetings in London. And that was before we’d even got to the weekend. Then there were holidays. Weekend breaks to visit friends. Barbecues. Family gatherings. Hen dos. Weddings. Meals out. Nights out. The lot. Life felt full – and yes, sometimes too full – but it felt beautifully chaotic. I felt like I was making the most of my existence.
And then, well… then everything happened and life ground almost to a silent stop overnight. The entirety of the paragraph above was replaced with Facetimes from the sofa, Zoom quizzes, Netflix binges and desperately counting down to the next big shop at the supermarket, just for the welcomed reminder there was life out there somewhere. The constant background noise of uncertainty and limbo meant that planning anything, or in fact, hoping for anything, seemed a waste of brain space and so we all became used to just trying to wade through each day however we could.
Life went slow. There were moments of frustration and loneliness and of feeling trapped. But also moments of joy and acceptance and of relief.
We have, for the most part, tiptoed through to the other side after an incredibly long 18 months, thanks to the scientists and medics who brought about a brilliant vaccine distribution programme. Life feels recognisable and we have the freedom to live as we used to, if that’s what we choose.
But somehow, through it all, I feel like I’ve lost the ability to live, like actually live. My social media feeds seem full of people making the most of their new-found freedom. There are back-to-back holidays and fun day trips and weddings and time spent with favourite people, and I want what they have. I am seething with jealousy. I also know that social media is a highlight reel and that the reality is that I’m likely not alone in my inability to press on forward the way I truly want.
Recently, I confided in a friend about my thoughts and feelings and she told me that she’d recently asked her elderly relative how she was finding life now that the heat of the pandemic was easing off. Her response: “I feel like I’ve lost my zest for life”. And you know what, me too. I felt that. And my friend agreed that she did too.
Something in the air has changed.
There is still a level of unwavering anxiety and unease. The pandemic is not far enough behind us to be able to run full-speed at the glowing future ahead. It’s still there. Gently ticking away. And not one of us can guess its next move and I hate that. I hate the lack of control over my own existence. It makes planning things further away than the coming weekend feel fruitless.
And then there is, of course, the other hurdle. The fact that the c-word has impacted us all in such different ways. For those of us lucky enough to come through the other side, there has been no one single way to react to it. There have been some friends who have got used to not having to interact with others and have preferred the simpler way of life, and who can blame them? The silver lining to everything is that we’ve had time and space to reflect on who we want to be and what we want to do and to analyse the things that don’t work for us, whether that’s relationships, careers or lifestyles. Now we have options that felt like they weren’t there before.
I’m struggling to find my feet in this new world, but I know that I will get there eventually, and I also know that I am far from alone. We have a lot to figure out, and it is incredibly possible to feel grateful to have made it this far and yet lost at the same time. Maybe time is all we need to truly find out post-pandemic selves…