All This Time I Thought I Wanted the Lockdown to End, But Now I Realise that I Don't

Illustration by Emma Drake

Over the last few weeks, many of the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of Coronavirus have finally been lifted across the UK. When I leave my flat each day it seems to me that more and more businesses are open and more and more people are out and about. Families are finally reuniting after months of separation and - crucially - we can finally meet friends for a pint at the local pub (with proper precautions, of course).

But the more restrictions are eased, the more I have found myself worrying about the lockdown ending. Of course part of my concern lies in the possibility of a resurgence of the virus fuelled by the easing of social-distancing, yet there is another part of me feels as though I haven’t fully taken advantage of the lockdown and worries what the ‘going back to normal’ will mean. (I know, I don’t get me either).

If someone told me back in March that in three months I would be feeling worried about the lockdown ending I would have laughed in their face (and then cried at the thought of being in lockdown for three months). Like most people, pre-corona me was terrified at the thought of everything just stopping for countless weeks on end while more and more people got sick from a highly contagious virus. In fact, my pre-corona self worked in a small bar and was going in for a Friday night shift on March 20th when the UK announced that the entire hospitality industry would be closing that evening for the foreseeable future. Instead of serving drinks, my co-workers and I spent the night cleaning the place up (which also included finishing off the last of the open kegs). What I mostly remember about that night is the feeling of dread that all of us experienced in lieu to the lockdown that we were all sure would be announced imminently.

And that sense of dread stayed with me for a long time, as it did for so many. But somehow, somewhere along the way things got easier. Don’t get me wrong I was extremely lucky. I was put on furlough and have a great living situation, both of which have helped me adjust to the so-called ‘new normal’ brought on by the lockdown.

When the lockdown first began, I found that I wasn’t able to do anything apart from watch tv, go for walks and cook. But gradually, I’ve found that I’ve been able to do more of the things that I always told my pre-covid self to do more of (ie. write more, paint more, bike more, craft more). I wouldn’t say that I’ve been productive per se - more like things have slowed down to a crawling pace, which allowed me to get around to the things I like doing at an equally slow pace. And it’s been nice to be able to do activities that I really enjoy without being caught up with working full time and maintaining social obligations.

But now, that’s changing. And after weeks of painfully accepting our collective fate to remain indoors while the world burns down, we’re just suddenly expected to jump right into things the way they were? Go back to working full-time (or back to working in person), seeing friends and family and to just… move on?

When I reflect on the last few months, I realise that a significant part of the dread I felt at the beginning of the lockdown was a fear of change. And fair enough. Over the course of 2020, the entire world has collectively experienced visceral changes to the way we live our lives. These changes have been beyond our control and drastic. Easing lockdown itself presents another major change in a relatively short period of time. Like in March when our fast-paced lives were put on pause, we’re now to emerge from months of isolation ready to pick things up right where we left off. And what’s more, we’re meant to be celebrating the fact that the virus has been suppressed and that we can return to the ‘old normal’.

And so I’ve slowly come to realise that it’s perfectly fair to feel worried about the lockdown ending (just as it’s equally valid to feel the complete opposite!) Of course it’s nerve-wracking to live in a time where everything is still deeply unsettled (and unsettling!) as a result of the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. Even though things seem to be getting better, we must continue to be kind and take care of ourselves and each other. Keep checking-in with those around you and remind yourself that it’s ok not to be ok.

Written by Abbey McGugan