Writing by Will Rogan, Illustration by Josie Berry
In early March, when the world fell apart, it took my year abroad with it. I was living in Madrid, having the time of my life, until the Spanish government shut universities and schools on Monday 9th March. By Thursday the 12th I was back in the UK, with no help from Edinburgh University, utterly bewildered by everything. In the subsequent tumult and lockdown, I found surprising stability. In another time, not leaving the house was a sign of a bad mental health day; being confined to my bed was the worst place for me. But waking up every day knowing that my plan for the day was limited to the inside of my house gave me much-needed stability. In this newfound time of opportunity, I could focus on my university work, get back into my exercise routine and read those books I had put off.
With no one apart from my family seeing me all day, my day-to-day became very predictable - a blessed relief from life at 100mph in a metropolis. Too many plans tend to pique my anxiety, leaving me to either cancel or dwell on having let people down. Seeing beyond the next few days without becoming anxious about one thing or another was a stubborn fixture, something that with hindsight I have now realised was a dreadfully limiting way to live.
Lockdown never seemed to me like it would go on in perpetuity – it always felt as though it would eventually move on; I would eventually get back to Edinburgh, I would eventually have my 21st birthday, I would eventually see my grandparents again.
I acknowledge that it sounds incredibly inconsiderate of those who have struggled both financially and emotionally through the pandemic, or those not fortunate enough to have a garden to enjoy the sun when it appears. But from my own intensely personal experience, I enjoyed putting life on hold and playing catch-up on months missed.
It has allowed me to re-evaluate my mental health, my priorities and who I want to be. The physically limiting lockdown allowed a mental liberation. I read books that were sat on my shelf, staring into my soul like a disappointed parent as more and more novels came to take their place. Then came the reality check.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, I found myself without an excuse to not engage directly with it. I educated myself and continue to do so. I’ve lived a rather sheltered life, and lockdown was the ideal way to take time to enlighten myself further about issues which do not directly affect me. There was a minefield to negotiate with regards to performativity, and I have been checking myself constantly. I feel more well-rounded, but also more aware of how much there is still to do. I have been given a new lease of life, allowing me to lead one that is more introspective and thus fulfilling.