What I've learned from a year of lockdown

I expect everyone will be writing these pieces soon. So here's my cliché-ridden effort.

I've found this year to be... liberating. I can stay up all night, knowing I can roll out of bed and be instantly at work. I can be as social as I like - and I can decline invitations if I'm just not in the mood. I can read a good book over lunch, rather than hunching over my desk eating Pret. Or I can take a lunchtime nap. No going to a crappy pub, I can order in the exact beer and cider I like. No going to a fancy restaurant and only seeing a single vegetarian dish. No drunks trying to pick a fight. No out-of-order toilets on a long train ride home.

Do I miss physically being with my friends, and seeing new sights? Sure! But I'm aware of just how much I'm experiencing this pandemic on easy mode.

I'm immensely privileged

Not only am I still employed, but I have an employer who supports me. My wife and I keep each other mutually sane. Our house has a tiny scrap of garden, and enough room for separate offices and some exercise equipment. I don't have kids, thankfully, so haven't had to deal with the horrors of home-schooling.

I'm deeply aware of how our experience has been the exception, not the norm.

Preparation is key

I hadn't realised just how much of my life was set up in anticipation of this moment. In the before-times, 95% of our grocery shopping was done online. So we were already used to getting food deliveries.

We already had fast broadband - it was installed the day after we moved in. It is much faster than we need. But none of our colleagues have complained about our video dropping out.

Having moved house a few months before it all kicked off, we didn't have much of a local social circle. So while we missed friends, it was normal for us to chat with them online. My partner's parents live on the other side of the planet - so regular Skype calls were part of our routine. And we didn't have to spend ages teaching parents how to use tech.

Similarly, we both know how to cook food. OK, I'm not a gourmet chef, and sometimes dinner comes fresh from the microwave. But my wife is amazing so we're able to eat without too much boredom and repetition.

Working from home is pretty easy - when everyone else is doing it

I used to WFH a couple of days a week. It was always difficult when I was the only person dialling in to a meeting. Either I couldn't hear, or I'd be forgotten about, or the real conversation would take place after the meeting.

If anything, working is easier now. I remember the days of having to delay a meeting because there were no physical rooms available. Or having to wait for a security guard to scan all the guests before they could enter our offices. I'm not sure I'd bother travelling across London for a 30 minute chat any more.

Yes, there's always someone who hasn't worked out how to unmute their mic after a year of doing this. But that's probably better than being sat in an airless office trying to suppress a yawn.

I don't miss the things I thought I'd miss

Would I like to see a West End show? Sure! But I'm not sure I want to deal with long toilet queues, overpriced drinks, a freezing train back home - and all the other niggles of a night out.

Similarly, I miss restaurants. But I'm glad I don't have to shout above the music to speak to people, or wait ages for a waiter to bring me the bill, or accidentally eat meat.

I'm sick of seeing nothing but my immediate surroundings. But I no longer need to panic about whether there's a loo nearby, or getting lost.

I don't think I'm Hikikomori, but it turns out that I can function adequately without too much external contact.

Money can buy happiness

Netflix and Prime have saved our sanity. Not just the constant stream of distractions - but the ability to say "I am bored / frustrated / annoyed - let me buy my way out of it." The same goes for "treats" - whether it's an utterly superfluous bit of tech kit or a takeaway, money can bring a little dopamine boost. Sure, it is short lived, but it helps.

Is there such a thing as community?

I'm on nodding terms with my neighbours. Nothing more. No one around here set up a WhatsApp group, or anything like that. And, personally, I'm glad. I don't really want to know too much about my neighbours. I mean, I already have a pretty good idea of what they argue about (yay thin walls) - but it turns out that I just don't feel the need to get to know them.

Is that sad? It feels like it ought to be. But I have plenty of friends online. People I've chosen, rather then people who happen to live in the same postcode.

Exercise is boring and food is delicious

I tried Nintendo Ring Fit and found it dull dull dull. I got skipping ropes and weights and all sorts. Nothing stuck.

So I'm sat on the exercycle a few times a week trying to numb the pain by watching Taskmaster re-runs. I hate it hate it hate it. I get no exercise high. After a year I just feel sweaty, achy, and disgusting. But I'm doing it so my body doesn't rot away.

And where it has all gone wrong

I've had a few wobbles. Times where I've stared at my email all day without getting anything done. Evenings lost in a haze of crap films and salty snacks. Nights when I just can't sleep. I've had friends at Death's Door. I've stood in the shower for an hour wondering if it is worth getting out to face the day. I've screamed at the TV (and at Twitter). I fantasise about stretching out on a beach, sipping cocktails, with the promise of someone else cooking and cleaning for me.

And yet...

What have a learned from a year of lockdown? I can keep myself healthy and sane. I have the resources to entertain myself. I can write blog posts and code interesting programs and create art and bake cakes. I have a life partner who is as daft as me, and I love being stuck with her.

One thought on “What I've learned from a year of lockdown

  1. says:

    I don't enjoy exercise either. But I do love to ride my bike, and I did it a lot last summer. I take at least one two-mile walk a day now that the weather isn't right for the bike. Still, I've gained more than 10 pounds during the pandemic and WFH.

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