Forever Amber: UK influncer

Reminder: It’s Totally Fine Not to Have Achieved Anything of Note in 2020

green Zara midi dress

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.

purple thistle in field of heather

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…)

red hair and purple heather

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…

Forever Amber, August 2020

COMMENTS
  • May

    REPLY

    I felt this in my bones. I know lots of people who picked up new hobbies, started exercising, kept living as if nothing was happening. I, meanwhile, am struggling to manage the two classes I’m taking in college and all the housework, have already spent an entire week with different headaches and before that a week of wrist pain because I’ve been sitting on a computer ten hours a day six days a week since march, and feel like “my best” is awfully close to “bare minimum”. I try to remind myself that if there’s even been one year where I should be more lenient with myself it’s this one. Others may be thriving (or look like they are), but some of us really don’t have the emotional stability to go through this year like it was a regular one. And that’s ok

    August 27, 2020
  • Amy

    REPLY

    Very well written and stated! I’ve definitely been telling myself that survival = winning and that’s all I have to do.

    I’m glad that people were able to learn more about themselves, but I am like you, I didn’t learn anything much new about myself. I think it is a feature of people who overthink everything (and maybe anxiety!) to know themselves well. It also might be a shielded group vs general population thing too?

    Good job surviving and here’s hoping we all keen doing the same!

    August 27, 2020
  • Emerald

    REPLY

    First of all, what wonderful, colourful photos! Secondly, anyone or anything who/that makes you feel as if you should be coming out of lockdown having written your PhD thesis (for example)… sod ’em! Excuse me Anglo-Saxon, but it’s rubbish to judge others and worse to judge ourselves. How helpful is it to hold someone else up as an example when they could be living a completely different life or have different issues? Admittedly I’ve made the most of lockdown and have done lots of things I hadn’t gotten round to beforehand. I’m grateful for the time and grateful that I’ve been in a good position.

    August 27, 2020
  • Anna RIDDELL-ROBERTS

    REPLY

    All of this Amber! Same! But also can I add a layer of really unhealthy envy at the people who have been furloughed (which of course comes with all its own worries) on their own (which of course must have been really hard at times) who looked to me like they were having a free five month holiday to find themselves, catch up on every book on their To Read pile, clean and organise their house top to bottom and revel in the sunshine with a nice cold glass of something?! Because as you say, that all comes with its own challenges and isnt’ all the rosy picture it may seem, but at times it didn’t half seem like a paradise to me – which then of course adds a whole other layer of guilt about the fact that I was wishing away spending time with my family! Ugh. I think there are no wins in 2020. Or very very few anyway. Let’s just hang on in there a few more months and then put all our eggs in the 2021 basket, yeah?! xxx
    http://www.makelifesimpler.co.uk

    August 27, 2020
    • Laura Steel

      REPLY

      Definitely agree with this! I feel luckier than most because I’m happy spending time alone, and if I’d been furloughed I would have LOVED having time to read and potter and go on walks… but my work has been even MORE busy during the pandemic and 70-hour weeks are normal at the moment. I rarely have enough energy to do anything in my limited free time except aimlessly browse the Internet.

      August 27, 2020
  • Maren

    REPLY

    Feel exactly the same, but hey: we survived a pandemic, a totally new challenge for everyone of us! It is and was hard and we have to be kind to ourselves.!!! No judgement, no comparison! We are all different! Let’s see the good things: came through your blog yesterday and absolutely loved your pictures & thoughts 😘

    August 27, 2020
  • Brenda

    REPLY

    Lol, I JUST said that Folklore was the best thing to come out of 2020 so far. Other than that, I don’t really think I accomplished much of anything either. I haven’t even really done the reading that I thought I would. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was really busy at home because EVERYONE was home and I felt like I spent a lot of time just cooking and keeping us in groceries. I cleaned out a few boxes that were in storage, so I guess that’s an accomplishment. Other than that, it’s been the usual hamster-wheel but I feel like I am in a different cage! Lol!

    August 27, 2020
  • Mary Katherine

    REPLY

    OK, so I had to Google to discover that Folklore is the new Taylor Swift album, and that you weren’t just into “folklore” – and you thought YOU were out of it – HA!
    Actually, (Ah, the naivety of… well, December 2019, really.) is the best line I’ll read ALL day, I know it. I think the same thing while looking in my closet (hope I can still fit in all these clothes if I ever get a social life again).
    And, you did NOT kill either Max or Terry, OR your horrible neighbors.
    And the heather is STUNNING in these photos! Those are the dreams I have of Scotland, not the pubs with sticky carpets and fruit machines.
    And lastly, we all know what we put in Insta is total rubbish.
    Keep up the great work, sweetie.

    August 27, 2020
  • Myra Boyle

    REPLY

    I think dealing with the anxiety and enforced house arrest is enough for anyone to deal with and you’ve done that well and kept Max as entertained as much as possible.

    August 27, 2020
  • Nicola

    REPLY

    Hard agree here! There are some ways I’ve really thrived in lockdown. I LOVE working from home and hope my office maintains it long-term. I don’t miss my social life because I never had much of one to begin with. But I also haven’t come out of lockdown having written a novel or anything like that, partly because I haven’t actually gained that much time (I’m still working a normal schedule, so I’ve only really saved about half an hour a day of commuting time, time that I used to spend scrolling social media on my phone on the bus and now am as likely as not to spend glued to the news on my computer instead), and partly because the time I have is spent with much more anxiety and general worry over the uncertainty of the future. My husband and I haven’t seen his family, including his elderly granny, in over a year, and we don’t see that changing any time soon (they live in Scotland; we live in Canada). And that inability to plan for the future makes time seem to stretch and warp, so a day feels like it flies by but a week takes an eternity. It’s not like I’ve taken a 5-month sabbatical to nurture my creativity.

    August 27, 2020
      • Nicola

        REPLY

        Right?? Don’t get me wrong, I’m tremendously grateful that both my husband and I have jobs that could easily transition to working from home and that we’ve suffered no loss of income, as many of our friends and peers have, while still being able to stay safe at home. But I don’t think I’d be much more productive in lockdown if I’d been laid off, because instead of spending 8 hours a day at my desk hard at work at my day job, I’d be spending 24 hours a day worrying and fretting and budgeting and re-budgeting and trying to make everything add up (I’ve been unemployed for an extended period of time. I didn’t get a novel written then, either.). And I *certainly* wouldn’t be more productive if I was a key worker, or if like you I had a toddler who was now at home all the time.

        August 29, 2020
  • Alice

    REPLY

    I think as well as a shielded/non shielded difference I think there was also a key worker/non key worker difference. I certainly found it frustrating to hear about people doing home workouts and baking when I was still going out to work, paying more for childcare as the preschool closed, and struggling to have time to queue for the shops. Whilst also fearful of bringing COVID home from work and having to care for my 3 year old in a small flat while unwell myself.

    (Luckily we didn’t catch it, but that was a big fear at the beginning.)

    August 27, 2020
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    Right at the beginning of our lockdown there was a meme that did the rounds about how Newton invented calculus during quarantine for a plague back in the day. OK no pressure then! I DID have a LOT more time on my hands, because in ‘normal’ life I am a production manager, and our factory was shut for 5 weeks during lockdown, so all I had to do was keep an eye on emails and that was about it. I also did do more exercise than I normally do, mainly because going for a walk was the only reason we were allowed to leave the house, and I had to get out or go stir-crazy. But other than that, I think the only thing I learnt during this year was that eyesight starts to deteriorate if you watch a screen for 12 hours a day, haha, so now I’m trying to remember to take regular breaks. I did think about taking a course or something at the start of lockdown, just to give me something to do, but then I decided I didn’t need the extra pressure of meeting deadlines when I have enough other things to stress about right now, and cut myself some slack. I don’t care what others are doing, I do what’s best for me.

    Oh, I did actually learn that even though I’m an introvert who normally avoids social interactions, I do actually need SOME interactions. I guess I just normally got my quota when I was at work, and couldn’t be bothered seeing anyone else after I got home. Turns out that being at home by yourself for 5 weeks, I do actually start craving someone to talk to, face-to-face! Oh, and I really hate Zoom meetings 🙁

    August 28, 2020
    • Lisa

      REPLY

      Thank you for this post! At the beginning of the pandemic I really thought I was gonna make ‘the most of it’ but I didnt achieve anything (and i don’t even have kids so i don’t really understand what I’ve been doing). Hang in there!

      August 28, 2020
  • Elaine

    REPLY

    This is a brilliant post and I feel all of it! Of course you have done a great job Amber – you have a two and a half year old – they are HARD work – plus the worry that your husband would catch this terrible disease is just about as much as anyone could take. I had two teenagers and two adults working from home – head full of wool so no major breakthroughs in how best to spend my life! I am an introvert too but even I had trouble with the lack of social interaction so things must have been awful for more sociable people! The only realisation I had was is that even more time at home doesn’t make me clean more or read more or do more – just have more negative thoughts and eat more – and that I hate talking on Zoom calls!! On a side note though I do want to say something about furlough. It would have been great for me but my friend is alone after being left by her long term partner of 25 years. She now lives in a tiny flat and the only thing she had keeping her going was her work. She was furloughed for 10 weeks and didn’t see one person except the people in her local supermarket for this whole time. She has been back at work now (from home) for a few weeks and obviously as soon as we were allowed to have “social bubbles” in Scotland she has been in ours and we see her regularly. She read lots of books, even did an hour of pilates per day and a huge walk on her own every day – this didn’t however stop her from feeling like she was on the edge of a complete nervous breakdown and it took ever ounce of her being not to start drinking gin at 9am. So I always spare a thought for people on furlough – for some it may be like a spa holiday but for others it is like being in solitary confinement in prison. I don’t think there have been any winners in this pandemic – my sister and niece both worked constantly in hospitals directly with Covid patients and that was a hard slog for them physically and mentally too. I had to go physically into work for most of July ( I work at a University and we had to check and produce 6000 parchments to mail to all the graduating students who were not able to have a ceremony or any public celebration of their hard work) and practically bathed in hand sanitiser before I entered my house again. There are no right or wrong ways to deal with this pandemic – the fact that we are all just getting through it day by day (even if struggling massively) means we are doing just fine and we should try and be kind to ourselves no matter how we managed. Oh, and your pictures and words on this post are absolutely beautiful – so you definitely have achieved a lot – you have made people feel less alone and you have given us something lovely to look at, you should be very proud of yourself. xx

    August 28, 2020
  • Emerald

    REPLY

    By the way, thanks for the heads-up on Folklore. I am listening to it right now and it’s wonderful! I do like a rest from The Clash from time to time (though my other half may not agree!).

    August 30, 2020
  • Holly T Hiatt

    REPLY

    I’m sure it’s already been said-but I’ll say it again. You have kept a little human alive and thriving. Good job mama!

    September 2, 2020
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