Reminder: It’s Totally Fine Not to Have Achieved Anything of Note During the Pandemic
As I was going through the photos from our trip to Pittenweem last week, it suddenly occurred to me that, to someone just scrolling through my Instagram feed, say, it would probably look like we’d been having a pretty nice summer, all things considered.
You don’t really need me to tell you that’s not totally true here, do you?
I mean, sure, yes, we have had some nice days out: that much IS true. But, thanks to the cruel combination of Covid-19 and the typical Scottish weather, the fact is that I’ve actually spent most of my time over the last few months stuck at home, listening to folklore on repeat, and trying not to think too hard about the fact that Taylor Swift wrote and released an entire album during lockdown, but here I am, still struggling to find the motivation to crank out more than one blog post a week – if that. Like, THANKS, TAYLOR, way to show us all up, hey?
Is there a phrase for that, I wonder? Like, maybe Lockdown Inferiority say? Isolation FOMO? That feeling when everyone around you seems to be coming out of 2020 having written a novel / rebuilt their homes / trained for a marathon, and meanwhile you’re just over here congratulating yourself for having gotten out of your PJs before midday for the second day running? Because, if there’s not a name for that feeling, there should be. All of those posts about how 2020 has been the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill, or just slow down , enjoy the little things in life, and spend quality time with your loved ones, even, have left me feeling like lockdown’s biggest loser, because absolutely none of those things applied to our family: and probably not to a LOT of families, actually.
That feeling when everyone around you seems to be coming out of 2020 having written a novel / rebuilt their homes / trained for a marathon, and meanwhile you’re just over here congratulating yourself for having gotten out of your PJs before midday for the second day running
There was no time to learn new skills, power through that pile of novels on my nightstand, or even complete one single session of Joe Wicks’ bloody P.E. on You Tube. In fact, there was no time for ANYTHING at all: instead, the pressure to juggle full-time childcare with just-as-full-time working from home meant that we were frequently having to stay up long past midnight, just to achieve the bare minimum – clean clothes, answered emails, paid bills – that kind of thing.
Because of that, there wasn’t much in the way of slowing down or enjoying the little things – we were constantly either looking after Max, working, or attending to the household chores, and while yes, not being allowed to leave the house for four months DID mean the three of us spent more time together, I’m not sure I’d describe it as quality time, really.
So I’ve achieved absolutely nothing this year. Hell, I haven’t even learned anything, unlike all of those people churning out lists of the 547 surprising things they learned about themselves during lockdown. (Confession: I did actually sit down to try to write one of those a few weeks ago, but I got as far as, 1) I really don’t like being stuck in the house for months on end, and 2) Way too much detailed information about the world of Peppa Pig and friends, and I’m not sure either of those count, really…). Does any of this sound familiar to any of you? Anyone at all? Because, if it does, here’s your quick reminder:
It’s totally fine to have achieved absolutely nothing during a pandemic.
It really is.
In saying that, however, I have to confess that I’m saying it as much for myself as for anyone else, because, let me tell you, that Lockdown FOMO is STRONG: so strong, in fact, that I’m having a really hard time not feeling like 2020 has been a totally wasted year for us. I’ve achieved none of the goals I set for myself back at the start of the year, when I still thought that expensive new planner was going to come in handy, and that we might even need a wall calendar to go along with it, and help me keep track of everyone’s oh-so-hectic schedules. (Ah, the naivety of… well, December 2019, really.) There have been no new experiences for our family, (Um, not counting the whole “Living through a Pandemic” one, obviously. That WAS new…) no new pins on the map or stamps in the passport. Nothing that makes me think, “Well, this year wasn’t the best ever, maybe, but at least we got to … ” None of that at all.
It might not have been a year of slowing down, exactly – or not in the sense that most people use that expression – but it has been a year of standing still, and, as someone who is both goal oriented and regularly terrorised by the all-too-swift passing of time (I spent my 16th birthday alternately weeping into my pillow and declaring that my life was obviously going to amount to nothing because Sylvia Plath published her first poem when she was 8, and here was I, already 16, and with nothing to … actually, I’ve JUST realised where this train of thought is taking me, so I’m going to get off here, if that’s OK with you…), I have a hard time accepting that, and not feeling just a tiny bitter about all of that wasted time.
(I know someone’s going to want to tell me here that the time wasn’t wasted when I got to spend it with my family, but I guess my answer to this is that, had we NOT ended up dealing with a pandemic this year, I’d STILL have spent a lot time with my family, but I’d have been able to do it without the soul-crushing depression and heightened anxiety 2020 brought to the party, and I don’t care what you say, that way would’ve been better…)
But, of course, I’m not the only one who feels like that right now, so, as terrifying as it is to admit it, I think it’s time to cut ourselves some slack here. We can’t all be Taylor Swift, after all. Or even Joe Bloody Wicks. (I should probably point out here that I don’t actually hate Joe Wicks: I just hate the way he makes me see myself for what I am – someone who has absolutely no intention to get up half an hour earlier than she really needs to, in order to perform jumping jacks in her living room. Sorry, Joe.) (OK, I maybe DO hate him just a little…)
And, the fact is, this year has been hard, in so many different ways, for so many people, that I sometimes think surviving it is probably going to be the biggest achievement some of us can hope for right now. (Well, that and remembering to take the hair elastic off our wrists before someone takes photos of us. If you can do that, you’re doing better than me, at least…) So, take it from me:
If you’re surviving 2020, you’re doing OK.
Even if you’re surviving 2020 really freaking badly, and are just barely hanging on, you’re STILL doing OK.
If you’re surviving 2020 while comparing yourself to all of the people on social media who’re not just surviving, but who actually seem to be thriving right now, meanwhile, don’t worry: you’re not alone… and somewhere between those pretty little Instagram squares, there could be a completely different story, just waiting to be told. If ever there was a time to stop comparing ourselves to other people, this would be it: and if we can finally take that message to heart, I guess we CAN claim to have learned something this year after all…