A New Life in the Middle of a Pandemic

Right now, as we know it, the world has come to a bit of a standstill as the whole world comes together to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. I don’t think any of us could have prepared ourselves for what was to come and I’m in absolute awe and admiration of the key workers who are risking their lives every day to save others.

Despite the awful tragedies of lives lost and families broken apart, it’s been wonderful to see human beings and communities come together every day to help one another out, from clapping for the NHS workers to offering to get an elderly neighbour’s shopping for them. It reminds  you that most humans have an innate kindness and longing to help.

Of course, there’s never a right or wrong time for something like a pandemic to take place. It’s always heartbreaking and tragic. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m lucky that I haven’t lost anyone close to me from this awful virus and that I can still continue working while others have lost their job or been affected financially. The only strange thing for me is that I moved to a new city and started a new job just a few days before the UK lock down was put in place. It’s safe to say that it’s not quite been the fresh new start that I was so excited about! I ended up going into my new office for just two days before I was told to work from home, so I haven’t even met most of my new colleagues. The people I now spend all my time indoors with at home are people I’ve known only for a month. The only scenery I’ve seen since my move to Manchester is a couple of nearby streets and parks. Right now, it still doesn’t quite feel like my real life.

However, I imagine this is the case worldwide, as we’ve all had to get accustomed to a new way of living and working. It’s strange to think how normal it has become to queue to get into supermarkets and to keep a 2-metre distance from strangers at all times. It now feels normal to wander down deserted streets that resemble a ghost town, and it’s starting to feel hard to remember how lively pubs and restaurants used to look. Yet for some people in other countries, this level of restriction is a normality. If anything, this pandemic has reinforced how lucky I am to live where I do with the freedom I usually have. It’s made me angry to see people disregard the importance of following some simple instructions that will literally save lives. We’ve become so used to living a life of luxury in the UK that we see our own enjoyment as being more important than the lives of strangers. Yes it’s a shame that we can’t enjoy a sunny bank holiday weekend in pub gardens with a group of mates or on holiday, but the true shame is the slow measures we’ve taken as a country to protect people. The true shame is the lack of PPE to protect key workers. And the real heartbreak is the families who haven’t been able to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Yet we’ve seeing resilience. We’re seeing volunteers and retired NHS workers coming together to save lives. We’re seeing young teenagers putting together care packages for their vulnerable neighbours. We’re seeing people touch hands with their loved ones through windows. We’re seeing huge fundraisers to raise money for the NHS. We’re seeing individuals create protective masks for NHS workers who are lacking PPE. We’re seeing millions of people around the UK clapping and cheering outside their doors at 8pm every Thursday. We’re seeing the NHS finally getting the recognition it deserves. We’re seeing harmony and unity across the world.

I feel lucky right now. I could have felt lonely and sorry for myself, especially being in a new city and unable to visit my family. Yet I know I’m so lucky that this will only be my life for a few months. We all need to remember how lucky some of us are right now. And while we are sadly still going to lose more lives from this heartbreaking virus, we will still get through it as a country and as a human race. I’ve seen such a sense of community over the last few weeks, and I hope that we all learn something from this tragedy. I hope we all continue to remember those who have helped us in this trying times, and we become appreciate of all the wonderful things that have always been right in front of us. See you all on the other side.

A New Decade

Admittedly, I’ve put this blog on the backseat during the last few months and I haven’t written a post since September – yikes! However, as is in keeping with tradition, I felt the need to write another end-of-year post to round up the year – and this time it’s not just the end of a year,but the end of a decade as we head into the next round of the roaring ’20s.

On a personal level, I feel like 2019 was positive for me, but on a wider level, I can’t help but feel nervous for what the next year has to told. The results of the UK general election last month left me feeling deflated and just a few days into 2020 and I’m waking up to more news of the devastating bush fires in Australia and ‘World War III’ trending on Twitter. Not quite the positive start to the year we were all hoping for.

Of course, no year goes by in history without its tragedies, conflicts and challenges but am I naive in my thinking that humanity should be more progressive and compassionate by now? Racist incidents have continued to rise throughout the UK  and food banks are being used by UK families more than ever before. It’s safe to say that the news this year has left me feeling more helpless than ever before.

However, it’s important to remember the positives that have come out of this decade, some of which are recounted in this article from The Week.  Some personal favourites of mine here include the Michigan Kindergartens who supported their friend as he was formally adopted and the Iraqi Muslims helping their Christian neighbours to rebuild their church after it was destroyed. It’s moments like these that remind us that human compassion can be found everywhere across the world and acts of kindness are happening around us all the time despite the the negativity that surrounds us.

Resolutions

So to recap on my 2019 resolutions: I successfully completed Dry January and I didn’t actually find it too challenging! Pistol squats on the other hand were maybe a bit too challenging for me – I’ve given them a go a few times, often using the TRX ropes to help me, however I think I need to improve my balance and core strength before I attempt these properly!

This year, I’ve set myself a fair few little goals. I’ve been challenged to give up sweet treats for the whole of January (this includes things like biscuits, cakes and chocolate but I can still enjoy fruit and natural yogurt.) I’m also going to try and go without alcohol for as long as I can without officially declaring it a dry January. I also thought it would be fun to set myself a small skill to learn every month so I’ve put together a list of 12 things I’d like to try and achieve. They range from useful skills DIY skills to fun party tricks. I haven’t decided what order I’m going to attempt these in but I figured it’d be interesting to see where I get to:

  1. Successfully sew up a hole or button (I put successfully, as I have sewn up a few holes in the past but not to the best standard)
  2. Dice an onion (I’d love to be able to do this really neatly!)
  3. Learn the astrological constellations 
  4. Tie a bowline knot (very useful for climbing and my friends are probably sick of doing it for me!)
  5. Grow a fruit or vegetable (this one may take some planning as it will be season dependent)
  6. Learn the capital of every country (perhaps quite ambitious but I’ll see how many I can learn)
  7. Shuffle a pack of cards (I’ve scuffed up too many packs not doing this properly)
  8. Make an origami figure 
  9. Eat with chopsticks (tried and failed with this many times in South East Asia)
  10. Juggle
  11. Wire a plug
  12. Learn to say the alphabet backwards (definitely a party trick this one!)

And there we have it – a fair few challenges to be getting on with. Here’s to the new decade and hopefully some more positives to come!

 

Dry January

As you may have seen in my 10 Things I’ve Learnt In 2018 post,  one of my New Year’s resolutions was to complete Dry January, which is a popular resolution for many every year. While I usually have a ‘dryer’ January every year anyway, I’d never officially completed Dry January, and I realised that I probably hadn’t had a month of drinking since I was about 17 years old.

I’ve never have the healthiest relationship with alcohol, and I think this is what motivated me to complete a whole month off drinking to see if I actually struggled to do it. I had my first couple of alcoholic drinks when I was 12 years old at my dad’s 50th birthday party, and I remember getting that buzz of confidence that I’d always longed for. After that, there were occasions at 13 and 14 when I used to drink with my friends in local parks, with one occasion resulting in my friend’s dad carrying me through my front door as I was too drunk to walk. I even tried to sneak a few cans of Strongbow into school because I was desperate to feel that confidence in class that I was always lacking. It’s easy now in hindsight to realise that I was struggling with anxiety throughout school, however until I had counselling in sixth form, alcohol was my only coping mechanism.

From 15/16, many of us in school were drinking regularly on a Friday night in the park, and it wasn’t until I went to university at 18 that I realised just how young I was when I started drinking. Some people at university were only just starting to get their first taste of going out and drinking, whilst I’d been going to house parties since I was 15 and had been going for nights out in Nottingham with my sister’s ID at 17. University drinking culture of course just helped me to continue using alcohol as a coping mechanism, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the social aspect of drinking. I definitely made many bad decisions whilst I was drunk, and my bank account certainly didn’t thank me for the amount I was spending!

After university, I struggled to get a job for a while, and it certainly brought back old negative feelings that I’d experienced before, but with the financial concerns on top of it all. Even when I got my first admin job, I would still look forward to Friday night when I could go out and enjoy myself, and I was definitely in a bad habit of drinking every Friday to Sunday. This was another factor that swayed me to quit by job and go travelling back in 2016/17. I was fed up of the same routine of going to work for not much money, and counting down the days until I could go out at the weekend. It was a bad habit and I needed a change. I was also starting to dislike the person I would become when I was drunk, often making decisions that I’d never make sober and then waking up full of self-loathing the next day. Travelling really did give me the chance to alleviate a lot of the causes of stress I was experiencing, and while I still enjoyed drinking and some nights out while I was away, it just felt like a sociable thing rather than a way to relieve stress.

Nowadays, I think I’m starting to get a healthier relationship with alcohol. I certainly don’t drink as much as I did during my university days, and while I still may have a bit too much than I intend some nights out, I think I’ve gotten better at recognising when I need to tone it down. I also really enjoyed completing Dry January and I didn’t struggle as much as I thought I would. For me, I love making plans that don’t involve drinking, and I only want a drink when plans involve nights out and things (as I really don’t think I’d be able to handle a sober night of dancing in a nightclub!). If anything, it was my friends who seemed more bothered about me not drinking than I was, which just goes to show how our social plans usually revolve around drinking. Instead, we enjoyed doing some other activities like escape rooms, lots of meals out, and going to London to see the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays.

I’m really pleased that I found Dry January as easy to complete as I did, and it’s reassured me that I can still be a fun person to spend time with, without having alcohol to help me. I think many people, especially in the UK, don’t recognise that they have a slight dependency on alcohol. We all have a judgmental image in our heads of what we picture an alcoholic to be like, however we don’t realise that many of our friends, relatives and coworkers can also be dependent on alcohol. While I’ve only ever drank on social occasions and never by myself at home, I know many people rely on having a glass of wine in the evenings to unwind. It’s taken me a while to admit to myself that I don’t always have a healthy relationship with alcohol, and it’s okay to recognise that and keep working on it. I don’t know if I could ever go full teetotal, as I will always enjoy drinking at certain occasions and the taste of alcoholic drinks, but I’m determined to get to the point where I have a 100% healthy relationship with booze.