Getting back to normal
As we all gradually come out of lockdown, a mixture of emotions has been unleashed in the process. How do we maintain our new framed routines whilst trying to enjoy those exciting yet daunting face to face interactions?
It's fair to say that this year has been a rollercoaster of emotions, and when things opened up, I did not know how I would respond. I was getting used to the safety of my own four walls, having cultivated a routine that was informed by to-do lists with every hour planned. I was cosy. Now, as we re-enter the normal world and the streets are fuller, louder and the days consist of more interaction, I found myself feeling a little bit of everything all at once.
Unlike half of the population, I left it a day before leaving the confines of my home and making use of everything reopening. I witnessed the overcrowding of the pubs from a safe distance on my phone, thanks to Instagram. The bonding that takes place over a light-hearted drink and aesthetic lighting is so simple yet effective. Everyone looked joyous in those 3-second boomerangs and candid pictures, but I couldn’t help feel that I wasn’t missing out on anything extremely worthwhile. Am I missing out if I dont go to the pub, go shopping, and get my hair done?
When I did leave the house, I knew exactly where my first destination would be.
I would feel the need to sit in the designated seating area of my favourite coffee shop by St. Pancras Station. I started to think about the setup that I wanted to create as I sat on the chair outside the coffee shop. I took out my journal and my cigarettes and took a deep breath. I had become too accustomed to sitting on a patch of grass in a nearby park - away from everyone, of course. When we paid for coffee in a pre-Covid society, I had forgotten that we would typically sit down and relax for 30-minutes or so. As the waiter approached me, asking what I wanted, I instinctively thought she was going to ask me to move. Surprised to find that she asked what I wanted to order with her notepad and pen at the ready. It made me feel like royalty - but only momentarily. So much to choose from, so I “ummed and awwed” and said, “iced latte with oat milk, please”. The simplest task sparked the most severe anxiety. I used to make these coffee trips so often without batting an eyelid. Now, I want people to not talk to me. Over lockdown, personal boundaries have become so cemented that I question where they should lie, as we all go back to “normal”.
I took it one step further by walking to Camden by the canal. Knowing that the end goal would be Camden high street, I subconsciously started walking there but was very much aware that this meant a busy and overwhelming town ahead. As I started walking, I could feel my heart beat increase. I found myself dodging people even more than before, as they were now formed in bigger clusters. It felt like a game of dodgeball. Every crowd that I walked past was louder and more excitable. Of course, it is great to see, people are finding things to talk about other than Covid statistics and BBC News. The conversations have now shifted to where they can drink next. Just like prisoners are deprived of the outside world, we mimic characters from residents in those circumstances, deprived of alcohol and social interaction.
I arrived at my destination, Camden Town high street, aware of what was about to be one of the more extremely overwhelming walks of my life. A part of me felt the need to get involved, interact and physically walk into a clothes shop to feel a part of the experience. I didn't quite anticipate how excited I would feel, walking into Urban Outfitters, feeling the material, smiling at passers-by and generally having a real life experience. Despite my initial nerves, it is hard to maintain that level of anxiety when you're surrounded by so much choice of things to buy physically. I will aim to maintain my bubble routine that I worked on throughout lockdown, but as we slowly go back to normal life, I believe that a one step at a time approach is necessary for everyone. It is scary, it is uncertain, but without a doubt, it feels like a weight has been lifted, and we can all connect again, without Covid being the constant topic.
As we go back to “normal”, however that may look to someone, it is essential to evaluate your mental health before venturing out on social adventures. Think about what has made you feel at ease during lockdown, and maintain those habits. They could be little things, such as going for an early walk, doing some cooking or writing in your journal. After my first night, I was slightly anxious the day after, and it just solidified that this needs to be at my own pace. It is easy to look at the crowds outside of pubs, but realistically, we are all coping with the same chapter going forward.