There’s a quote going round on social media at the moment which is quite zealously dividing opinion.
It essentially implies that if you’re not using the lock-down period to pick up and perfect a new hobby or skill, you’re not making the best of the time.
I completely understand why some people love the quote.
And I completely understand why others hate it.
So to me, all that quote successfully achieves is to highlight that though we are all experiencing the same pandemic, how we are able to cope and react to it differs massively from person to person, and isn’t the sort of thing that can be compared or judged. Universal standards really cannot be set on how to live your best “lockdown life”, no matter what any quote, meme or inspirational speaker has to say.
Remember back in science class, when we were taught the concept of a “fair test”? Examining two elements to identify their differences only had value when all of the wider conditions were exactly the same, otherwise there was no point in carrying out the experiment. The same logic applies here.
If you have been made redundant from your work, or you live alone, or perhaps you are just generally feeling a massive sense of anxiety from the pandemic, then learning a new skill or developing a hobby is a really effective coping mechanism. It distracts your mind from the fear and the worry, and gives you a timely confidence boost. Seeing – albeit on screen – your fellow classmates from your online language course can help you feel less alone, and composing music on an instrument might make you think that little bit more positively about the current time.
On the other hand, if you are struggling under the pressures of full time work, in services where demand is at an all-time high due to the pandemic; or you are having to juggle a job with homeschooling your children; or your living circumstances generally don’t dictate any time to focus on a new hobby, then I can also understand why instructions like this might seem like a bit of a sucker punch. Life is much busier and manic than normal, not the opposite!
Either party may feel that the other one is better off.
Jobless people who live alone might give anything to experience the lock-down with company, or to have a job that is clearly necessary and valued when their own has been rendered just the opposite – and taken away their financial security in the process.
They’d probably trade their new skill for a salary without hesitation.
Likewise, those struggling with working overtime or having to educate their children might love to be able to have the time and facilities to be doing something good for themselves. They probably see photos of people relaxing in the garden, or making “lasting family memories” that contrast heavily to the lack of harmony in their own homes, and start resenting their career choices or the fact they might not have as a great a relationship with their family as the people in the photos do.
They’d probably trade their career for time without hesitation.
I could go on with examples such as these; the reality is that this situation has confronted each of us with a myriad of different effects, issues and concerns.
Nobody should be made to feel that their approach is “wrong”. This is an unprecedented situation. There is no set of instructions to follow on how to cope with it, and there is no exam at the end from which you’ll be graded on what you did or didn’t do or learn. The illness itself, and the social distancing, affect us all in very different ways. Not only that, but the catastrophic, zig-zagged nature of it all make it even harder to deal with it in a consistent way.
One day you might be feeling really focused and complete a bunch of life admin and enjoy quality catch-ups with friends. Other days you may just want to sit and sob and – as much you miss your family and friends – you simply may not have the energy to speak, even to them.
Both of those things are fine and natural. This is not the time to have high levels of expectation.
The only approach which is universally “right” is the one which acknowledges the gravity of the situation and how it’s impacting within. To accept that there will be up days and down days and to follow your feelings accordingly, gaining comfort from whatever you might feel at the time, whether that’s something with a clear purpose or focus, or just staring out the window counting leaves.
And to always keep in mind that it’s not the same for everybody, so perhaps think twice before believing that that meme, quote or inspirational speaker’s video will work for everybody else too. Perhaps think twice for judging the ways in which other people are coping, and what they are choosing to do with the time, or assuming that they must have things better than you do.
We may all be experiencing the same pandemic, but the specific challenges dribbling down from it vary for us all and we are not always privy to what those are. This is not a fair test. To some this may seem a holiday; for others, most particularly those who have lost somebody to this horrendous virus, it’s a living hell.
Now is not the time to judge or to hold expectations; only a time to keep yourself safe, and keep an eye on those around you, as they all fight individual battles.