While term was ongoing and university work was still taking up most of my time, I felt untouched by the pandemic. Though I read the news and regularly listened to the increasingly unhelpful Downing Street daily briefings, there was nothing tangible in my day-to-day life to suggest anything was different. To me, this was just another long, boring holiday from uni; my time filled up by work, procrastination, and the simmering exasperation at being forced back into my parents’ routine. Now that term is finished, and I no longer have awkward-as-arse Teams tutorials around which to structure my days, I have had to look for other ways to occupy myself.
Having written about the 10 types of people in lockdown and thoroughly mocked each of them, I find myself having become a bizarre mixture of them all. I am crafting (somewhat unsuccessfully) by ruining perfectly good pairs of jeans trying to make them into shorts. I am keeping fit, but only by running several times a week in an effort to escape my parents and our locked-down household. I am rebelling by cuddling the neighbour’s two-year-old, who really doesn’t understand the concept of social distancing. I am baking cupcakes excessively, drinking slightly too often, and binging old episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix.
Essentially, I am now filling my time doing everything I can to avoid thinking about one thing: my 2020 summer plans. The long-awaited chance to saunter through the streets of Lyon as an excited young intern, drinking wine with fabulous French colleagues, is now just a distant dream. Instead, I get to spend my time in a tiny village in the west of Scotland, trudging through muddy fields with cows for my fashionable drinking buddies. I, like many others, feel cheated. The last year has been one of the hardest of my life, and this summer was supposed to mark my new beginning. It was supposed to be different. Better.
And yet, while I indulgently wallow in self-pity, there are people who are really succeeding at making this difference – at making things better. There is a woman in New Zealand who, through compassionate, cooperative and impressive leadership, has single-handedly saved thousands of lives. There is a family behind a GoFundMe page that has raised nearly $15 million in the hope of achieving justice for the man whose death sparked an enormous, global political movement towards supporting BAME communities. There are people going to work in hospitals and shops and warehouses every day, despite the risk of a run-in with Miss ’Rona. There is my mum, who ran 10km for the first time in her life the other day after graduating from the BBC’s Couch to 5k programme and absolutely smashing it. There’s my talented best pal, who has written and produced a song on Spotify which is sure to be the next big summer anthem. There’s the farmer who gets up at the arsecrack of dawn every day to look after the cows and sheep that watch me excitedly as I run past their field.
And then there’s me. For all my complaining, I can’t help but notice that, actually, I have so much to be smiling about. Last year, my wee village was named the second healthiest place to live in the UK. While I took basically no notice of this accolade at the time, I have since come to appreciate the immense beauty of this odd little place. There is so much joy to be found here; whether it be from listening to the eternal birdsong, watching the shimmering reflection of sunlight on the loch, or catching the wonderful moment that a newborn calf takes its first steps. Amidst all of this, with a loving family and happy home around me, it seems there is no real reason not to be happy. This summer will most definitely be different, but that does not mean it can’t be better. What will be better about this summer is me. I will better appreciate my gorgeous surroundings and the incredible people in my life. I will be kinder to myself, because it really doesn’t matter if I spent a bit too long on Netflix or maybe cut those shorts a little too short. I found the joy in what I had in front of me, and I plan to continue to do so to the best of my ability.