AS I SEE IT - It's Okay to Be Anxious About the Easing of COVID Restrictions By Maisie Holcombe

After a year without nightclubs, it is no surprise that people have bubbled over with excitement when Boris Johnson mentioned the prospect of being on the dance floor again (even if they are weirdly sticky). But, as many up and down the country begin to perfect their outfits for the 21st June, for some the roadmap for easing restrictions does not seem to offer that light at the end of the tunnel everyone else sees.

After doing Zoom quizzes in our childhood bedrooms on and off for the past year, it can be difficult to image chatting with strangers at a bar again. Our comfort blanket of the 'end call' button will be stripped away, leaving us exposed and without our duvets to hide under if our social battery decides to run out. The idea of making conversation with strangers seems particularly daunting given we've had just our household for company. You can't exactly make small talk about what they have been up to for the last few months. And yet, this is what we considered to be 'normal' life, a time where we thought of Corona as just a nice, cold beer.

The promise that 'normal' life is at the end of the roadmap may simply be terrifying for some. Everyone has dealt with lockdown differently so we cannot assume everyone is jumping for joy over the announcement. Yes, we all want to be free from restrictions, but that does not necessarily mean your friends will be straight round your house when these restrictions are lifted. With grief and unemployment rife in the last 12 months, some may have grown comfortable with their own space, developing new coping mechanisms which may not involve a cuppa and a slice of cake with a group of friends anymore. No, they are not ignoring you; we have had to learn how to survive the past year in different ways to how we did before the pandemic. 'Normal' life seems a lifetime ago, so we are bound to have adapted our lifestyle.

Not only have we adapted our home-life, we have changed the way in which we approach everyday-life. According to a 2009 study, it takes 66 days to form a habit and I think we can all agree we have lost track of how long we have been told to stay two metres away from people, so much so that social distancing is now a habit. The two metre rule is evidently engrained into our brains; whilst some may find it easy to find that off-switch, for others a slow transition from two metres, to one metre, to a slight gap may seem more manageable. Everyone has different boundaries. They are not being awkward. Respect will be fundamental to adapting back to our old life so if someone wants to sit a distance away from you during a catch-up, you should make them feel comfortable and honour that. Anyone could be feeling cautious until we learn to live with COVID-19, but that does not make them boring or a nuisance.

"Just because it seems like we have a way out of the pandemic does not mean we should stop checking up on those close to us; they may need support now more than ever."

If you are reading this as a young person who feels nervous to go out again, whilst all your friends are busy making 21st June memes, you are definitely not the only one. Katie Russell recently expressed her concern, as a young person, that she will likely not have had the vaccine when pubs and bars reopen in June. Being flooded with coronavirus news updates everyday, alongside daily death tolls, undoubtedly instils fear within us, with the dangers of coronavirus lingering at the back of our minds. It could be the case that you want to leave it a few weeks to see how places adapt to the mass influx of pub-starved Brits, and if that makes you the most comfortable then that is okay.

You might be thinking that no young person feels this way, but you only see what your friends want you to see. Think about how many times you have avoided telling your friend how you felt to avoid seeming 'weak'. A couple of times, right? The chances are that someone close to you is feeling exactly the same way as you may feel, whether it be nervous, excited or maybe a bundle of both. Just because it seems like we have a way out of the pandemic does not mean we should stop checking up on those close to us; they may need support now more than ever.

The point is, who says there has to be a certain way we should behave when everything opens back up? The last year has changed the world in ways no one ever imagined would be possible and, along with it, us as individuals have changed. Whether you can pinpoint it or not, we all have changed in some way; the person you were before March 2020 does not exist anymore. So, if you cannot wait for your drink back on the dance floor, a picnic in the sun with a friend, or simply just a relaxed stroll down the high street; do what fits you now, not the version of you from a year ago.


Created with an image by RyanMcGuire - "balloons party girl"