Is returning to normal going to take as much adjusting as adjusting to lockdown took?
The UK is slowly returning to normal after more than a year of lockdowns, lifting restrictions, locking down again, changing minds, different approaches, and then finally, the amazing and long-anticipated vaccine rollout. But I have to wonder, will returning to normal ever feel normal again? What is normal anyway?
It’s been a really strange year. One I know we will all remember forever. It’s not like anything we’ve experienced before where you know you’ll eventually only remember certain bits of it, probably the most extremes. Like pregnancy, where you remember the absolute best and the absolute worst, but the bits in the middle kind of blur together. I don’t think that the year of covid is anything like that.
Reflections Of A Year In Lockdown
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the fear and absolute despair at the thought of having to homeschool my children. The first time around was pretty horrendous, with hardly any actual teaching or guidance or support. I remember sitting in my car crying and shaking a little, thinking to myself, how the hell and I going to cope with two primary school kids and a teenager who was due to write her GCSEs, all three of whom are bursting at the thought of being confined to the house. How am I going to teach them, entertain them, keep them safe and keep them happy? At the time we thought it was only going to be a few weeks, maybe a month.
That lasted nearly four months before they got a few days back at school, only to then break for the seven-week summer. More staying at home.
Then I remember the absolute terror and fear of sending our kids BACK to school! I remember knots in my stomach, trying to be brave for them, trying to manage their anxiety and their excitement. You see, it was September by then, and they were back to a new school year, a new teacher, and a new way of being at school: Bubbles, one way systems, hand sanitiser, new seating arrangements, new dining in school arrangements, but still no after school sporting activities.
In the end it was fine, they were fine. We only had one instance where one of my girls’ year group bubbles was sent home for a small Covid outbreak. I may or may not have overreacted at the time by whipping out my other daughter too so they both had another two weeks at home right before schools were due to break up for the Christmas holidays.
Travelling During A Global Pandemic
It’s December by then. Our long-awaited holiday to Dubai to spend Christmas with family was rapidly approaching and we waited every single day for that phone call or email from the airline to say the flights had been cancelled. You see, we booked back in February before anyone had any concept of the turmoil and changed world we’d be living in by Christmas. But that never happened. Even when we were standing in the airport on the day they were announcing London was a red zone. I remember standing in the check-in queue, watching the news screens, waiting for the gates to close, to be stopped from going, but it never happened. And the next moment we were landing in Dubai. And it was boiling hot and stuffy, and 02.00 am, but we were there.
If you want to know what a visit to Dubai with kids during a global pandemic is like, it’s amazing. Amazing because you are removed from your reality and thrown into a life that’s basically normal, except it’s better than normal because you’re on the holiday of a lifetime. A total escape from reality.
Return To Reality With A Bump!
Whilst it was an amazing holiday and I am grateful we got a break from the reality of lockdown life in the UK. Arguably, lockdown 3 in early 2021 was quite possibly the hardest of all the lockdowns. Homeschooling was kicked up a gear with structured timetables and daily online meetings. Was the entire nation not united by memes about “put your mike on” and “you’re on mute”!
One of the only things I’ll ever be grateful for during that time was that I really got to see how amazing my children are at school. But with that said, homeschooling two children in different year groups, with polar opposite learning styles, nearly broke me. I do believe that it put a dent in my relationship with my children.
Returning to normal, and when it came time to send them back to school there was no hesitation at all. Back they went, happily, excitedly, eagerly. We’ll always remember those days. Maybe one day, the scars will fade and we’ll be able to laugh about the tears, tantrums and too much screen time! Maybe. One day.
Freedom Of The Press? Whatever!
The amazing holiday aside, I couldn’t help but be angry with the UK government at the time, and the way that everyone in the UK was living in some kind of locked down, disorganised chaos where they seemingly had little to no control over infection rates, and the media channels constantly bombarded the general public with case numbers, horror stories, scaring everyone into their narrative, whilst elsewhere in the world, life was pretty much normal. I remember being angry when I realised that there were actually other things going on in the world, other than covid.
The news channels in the UK only ever reported on Covid & Brexit, because, let’s not forget that happened at the end of 2020 too. Whereas elsewhere in the world there was actually other news, that had nothing to do with Covid. It was then that I realised how almost controlled by the news channels and social media chosen narratives the public can be. Everyone thinks it’s only places like China and North Korea that control their population and censor what they are ‘allowed to listen to and know about. Yet, even in the United Kingdom, Great Britain, the West, the media control so much of what people hear, see, know and are exposed to. And it’s only when you step outside of that bubble, that you realise how much you didn’t know, and that the other perspective on the narrative you keep hearing is also valid and important.
My unpopular opinion: the travel bans due to covid have arguably caused more damage to the world than good. One of the best things about travel is that you are exposed to a different way of life, a different perspective of the world. I got a fair amount of ‘stick’ from people, (mostly Australian’s) who were horrified that we were travelling during a global pandemic, but in actual fact, there were hundreds of thousands of people travelling, holidaying, visiting loved ones across the world. LEGALLY! Because that is normal! Yet when your news channels only report one version of events and skew the narrative in one direction, you almost can’t blame people for their small-minded view of the reality out there in the world.
Anyway, that’s my rant on that. Moving on.
Vaccination Nation – Is this the road to returning to normal?
Despite my reservations about the vaccines and possible long term unknown side-effects, the UK has got an amazing vaccination programme in place and I’m incredibly grateful to be living in the UK now. The statistics and speed of the vaccination rollout are mind-boggling!
But … Immigration is so fricken hard! Over the past year, I’ve ranted and raved at having my freedom to travel back to my parents ‘stuck’ in a third world country where I expected Covid to wreak havoc and that I’d never get to see them again. The resentment and fear of having NO way to get to them have made me really bitter, really angry and made me feel really stuck, trapped. We chose to live away from our parents, but with the knowledge that they are only a plane ride away if they need us, or if we need them. When that freedom to get to them is taken away … it leaves you with a massive sense of despair.
My husband lost his mom recently (not due to Covid), in South Africa. He wasn’t able to go back for her funeral. Not because of the rules, he actually was allowed to travel back, but because of the quarantine hotel on this side on his return. It just added an extra layer of time off work, and expense that we just couldn’t do.
But you know what, my parent’s in Zimbabwe have already been vaccinated too. I was amazed, they simply walked into their local district hospital, queued in a socially distanced organised way, and had their vaccines. In stark contrast to South Africa and their disorganised delayed and slow vaccination programme. Anyway, I am hanging in there for the travel corridors to reopen soon and pray that my parents from Zimbabwe will be able to come to visit us in the UK soon. We miss them.
As for our vaccination situation, At the time of writing this, I am still waiting to be called up for my vaccine. My husband had his last week, but I’m still a spring chicken and too young. lol – I’m only 39.
When Will Normal Feel Normal?
Will the effort to travel make us appreciate it that much more or will it make it not worth it?
I turn 40 later this year. In normal times, I’d want to celebrate my birthday. 40 is a big deal. Actually, I wanted to go on holiday for my birthday, but I can’t see us travelling internationally this year. Not at this stage. And this brings me back to the point of this ranting post. Is it going to take us longer to readjust to ‘normal’ life than it took us to adjust to living in a pandemic?
Will it ever feel normal to book holidays without considering Covid? Without having to think about vaccinations, vaccine passports, airline travel, and return restrictions?
When will it feel normal that my children go to school and don’t see other children of other age groups?
When will it feel normal to eat out at a restaurant or go to the pub?
Will baking banana bread ever feel like something we want to do because we like it, or will it always remind us of the year where everyone baked banana bread because there was so much time to do so little else?
When will it feel normal to see that they have removed the one way stickers from the floors in the supermarkets?
Are masks and hand sanitiser here to stay? How will it feel when they take that away? If they ever do? Should they?
More than a year of living through a pandemic and I still have more questions than answers. What do you think? Do you think returning to normal is going to take as much adjusting to lockdown did?