The word “lockdown” is a special one. Like Marmite, it is hated by some, loved by others.
Especially when it comes to socialising, going out to parties, and leading an eventful life like we students often do and thrive on.
Hearing that we were facing a pandemic, of all things, and that we had to put a halt to our “you only live once” mentality as a result, came as a shock to many of us, to say the least.
Although some individuals were chucked right back into their comfort zone and happily retreated into their rooms, many were left confused and devastated at the prospect of having no plans and no people physically surrounding them.
I was the latter – at first. Energised by big crowds and a bit of a party animal in the pre-pandemic world, it took several lockdowns for me to realise just how burnt out I was from constantly doing something.
Back then, I did not want to admit to myself that I was hanging on by a thread due to the fear of missing out on some good old-fashioned fun. So, I ignored that I was the equivalent of the 1% of battery on an iPhone: nearing the edge, but visibly still going strong.
Truthfully, I was long overdue for some recharging and introspection.
Two lockdowns later, while life outside of my flat was nowhere near still and calm, I finally stocked up on all the tranquility that I had lost.
Which surprised me.
For the first time in my life, all the overthinking that I tend to do actually brought me clarity rather than brain fog, and realisations and happiness rather than disorderly mess and chaos.
I was finally “allowed” to rest because I was essentially forced to do so. There were no parties for me to miss; nowhere to travel; no friends to meet up with. Quite the rare opportunity.
Simply put, life slowing down, in turn, had me slow down too.
But wait. Rewind a little. I make it all sound too easy.
For a person who generally likes keeping themselves busy, it was anything but easy. It was unfamiliar territory and, initially, I can’t say I was a fan of it. I didn’t know what to really do with myself, not to mention all this time I suddenly had.
So while everyone was baking bread or getting into shape, I was either reading up on books I’ve been wanting to read for ages or endlessly scrolling through TikTok or Instagram; desperately trying to fill the empty hole that was growing deeper within me while my social life depleted.
After a while, though, I grew a little tired of this little routine and craved something more significant – something bigger for myself. I’ve either been reading or watching people do something with their lives instead of doing something myself, and I felt embarrassed, even guilty, for not using this time I was gifted more productively.
And I can’t tell you the exact moment I decided to do something about it, but one day I woke up and realised that perhaps all this alone time was something I’ve been needing for a while. Really, it was as effortless as that.
Finally, I remember thinking, I have reached the stage of lockdown contentment that everyone around me seems to have been at since the very beginning. Little did I know back then that I would dislike the idea of things returning back to normal so soon, and so quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the day when Covid won’t be a problem anymore and people won’t have to fear it or battle it. But I’d be lying if I said that I won’t miss the plethora of time, space to develop my interests, and the simplicity I have learned to abide by and come to love when lockdowns will cease to exist at last.
Because it was this needlessness of having to be somewhere or having to always do something, which gave me the time to pay attention to things I never truly noticed before – about myself or otherwise.
One of the many reasons why gardens are increasingly precious to us in this day and age is that they help us to escape from the tyranny of speed. Our skies are streaked with jets, our roads have turned to race-tracks, and in the cities the crowds rush to and fro as though the devil were at their heels. But as soon as we open the garden gate, Time seems almost to stand still, slowing down to the gentle ticking of the Clock of the Universe.Beverley Nichols, “Forty Favourite Flowers”
Take the environment, for example.
The more I walked during lockdowns, the more I came to regret not appreciating my surroundings more prior to the pandemic – likely because my eyes were too busy being glued to my phone, or because my ears were stuffed with earphones, blocking out nature’s symphony and humanity as a result.
But suddenly, there was just so much time. Like, an abnormal amount of time. Time to do what I pleased, and time to finally be more attentive to the little things around me that previously passed me by.
By little things I mean something like a baby bird hidden up a tree, singing a beautiful melody; the sun’s shimmering reflections in the lake; the violinist that sometimes plays down my street; the flowers dancing with the wind; the elderly man in a straw hat, smoking a cigar outside his shop, enjoying his lunch break.
You get the idea.
While I might’ve been very well aware of their existence, I was too busy doing other things to fully soak them up and let them affect me in any way.
When on these walks, even seeing fellow walkers kept on bringing a smile to my face. It felt like a treat, strangers or not, to see somebody.
We’d sometimes end up making eye contact, which would bind us together for that millisecond; making us both feel less alone. At least that’s the way I saw it.
It might’ve just been me, but I always felt like there was an exchange of this unspoken respect, tenderness, and kindness between us that went unnoticed – or was taken for granted – previously.
And don’t even get me started on meeting friends and family. With lockdowns, restrictions canceled flights, and other complications, it felt like dodging lasers in laser tag just to meet up for coffee.
But wow, did it feel amazing when we finally ended up meeting and hugging each other.
It’s a bit wild to think how things can be taken away from us in the snap of a finger. All the pleasure, contentment, and entertainment we are all so used to receiving, as well as the opportunities to be with people we love – gone, just like that.
Just like many others, then, I’ve taken every chance I had to hang out with my loved ones during lockdowns. Even something as small and humdrum like grocery shopping became an adventure filled with the intention to make the best time out of it.
Things that seemed mundane and laborious before became a privilege and a joy to undertake. And doing all of these things with the people closest to me meant all the more.
Being with the people I love in person not only made me appreciate their presence more, but it consequently taught me to live in the present moment, as being present allowed me to absorb as much of them as I could in the time we had together.
Just like with the walks, (and I hope this doesn’t sound creepy), I began to truly perceive their details – what kind of perfume they wore; the way their mouth moved when they smiled; the lines on their face; the sprinkle in their eyes; their laugh. I memorised their tattoos, even the shape of their nose.
I tried to grip onto anything and everything I could to then imprint these details into my memory in the hopes of remembering them so well that, even if I’d spend another year or more apart from these people, it wouldn’t feel like so much time has passed in the end because a part of them would have always been so strongly with me.
I don’t know whether that sounds more lonely and miserable but believe me when I say that it brought me an incredible amount of consolation and delight when I needed it the most.
Life decelerated, and generous with its time – which royally annoyed me at first – actually ended up making my life all the richer by allowing me to be more percipient, as well as appreciative, reflective, and even contemplative.
I like who I have become after all the lockdowns. I think I’ve undergone a much-needed character development, for I started seeing the world in a more beautiful way than ever before (albeit all the problems) and started enjoying my own company again, rather than only relying on other people’s presence to bring me joy.
Naturally, then, with restrictions easing and life slowly returning to its usual, fast-paced tempo, there is a certain discomfort, perhaps even anxiety, regarding what will happen to this newfound deepened outlook on life.
Because, with the return of packed schedules, how will we find the time to appreciate the beauty of life that’s usually overlooked?
Well, the easy answer would be to simply “make time”, right? Because it’s our responsibility to learn to manage our time well.
But it’s not that easy. If it were, everyone would do it.
We live in a modern world. There are distractions attacking us left and right everywhere we go, occupying our minds and silently taking over our lives. It’s hard to keep focus on one single thing for longer than a few seconds, let alone actually give it a thought rather than just acknowledging it.
So, is there a way for us to keep this abundance of time, space, and simplicity in our complex, busy society?
Yes, of course, there is.
The way I see it, the key is to not give in to the high-speed pace life is usually going at; life goes by so much faster when you let it keep you constantly busy, and it’s funny because you don’t even realise how fast it’s going until you let yourself rest and look back on it.
No matter how hard it may sometimes be to say “no” to events, though, resting is necessary. And, if you’d like to slow downtime, then you need to slow yourself down, too, and find a balance between having fun and doing you.
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