An Appreciation Post for Social Distancing
April 30 2020 Gemma O’ Sullivan 5th Year
The day that the lurking coronavirus epidemic first became a reality for me was on St Patrick’s Day, which seems like it was a year ago at this stage. I have never been the type of person who would go to St Patrick’s Day events or celebrations: I’m a bit of a St Patrick’s Day scrooge to be honest. Yet, when I woke up on that Tuesday morning and saw photos of people in their pyjamas sitting on their couch in their sitting rooms, I felt melancholic. But the real shock came while watching Leo Varadkar’s speech on the news. The way he spoke directly to each citizen, giving specific thanks or gratitude made me suddenly start bawling crying.
I sat at the kitchen table in my dressing gown, staring at the TV in hysterics. My poor mother thought I had seen a ghost or something. But the strange thing is, I don’t dislike this quarantine life. Okay, that’s a lie. I love it! I live for this! I am allowed to sleep as much as I need, I can exercise daily and I can catch up on all the movies on my list on Netflix. Disney + has also been an added bonus during this period of isolation.
One of the best things to come out of quarantine for me is how much more flexibility and freedom I have to prioritise activities I enjoy. I’m able to have lazy mornings where I can cook myself some pancakes or have a full Irish. I can go on a walk before starting school work and can spend a little longer getting ready. Everything seems to be moving in slow motion. There is a lot less rushing around. All those little stresses, like trying to figure out what time the bus comes, are reduced. I have been able to spend a lot more time simply staring out the window or noticing little intricacies in my house. I think that this is the perfect time to take a minute to look out your window and watch how nature is still busy at work.
Naturally, when we spend enough time reflecting, we may discover a thing or two. I’m not saying we are all going to have an epiphany while staring at a pigeon in the back garden, but you might find a new activity you enjoy or reunite with a lost hobby. Personally, I have gotten into exercise – yoga, pilates, boxing, HIIT, flexibility, HIRT, strength training and the list goes on. I definitely didn’t prioritise exercise before these social restrictions were implemented. I would go for a walk with my friends or do a workout every so often, but no consistency. Since “lockdown”, however, I have just enjoyed trying different workout videos on YouTube or trying different fitness apps. I would encourage everyone, especially teenage girls, to try doing exercise for health purposes rather than for aesthetic purposes, because it is a lot more enjoyable. Now for me, exercise was my discovery, but if you are already an avid gym-goer, you could always try reading more, try a new instrument, get into art or do more gardening.
The majority of multinational companies have released advertisements publicizing their good deeds and explaining how they are “serving their community”. These ads all seem a bit corny, and usually end with some slogan about how we are closer together when we stay apart. When I first saw these ads I was a bit cynical and just thought that they were just some marketing ploy (which they are, don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t an essay on consumerism or capitalism so I won’t get into it), but there is some truth to these campaigns. I have talked to my neighbours and extended family more in the past few weeks than I probably would have in a whole year. Everyone seems to be more compassionate, open and welcoming. Whenever I am out walking in my area, more people are saluting each other and smiling to those that they pass. Some people are doing more than just the odd wave when they pass their neighbours. We have really seen the best of society with people offering to help the most vulnerable members of their communities – acts that wouldn’t have been feasible for individuals to do if they had been working 9-5.
Hopes for the future
At the moment, I am concentrating on our upcoming summer exams – emailing teachers Google Docs, powerpoints, pdfs and photos to submit my assignments. While it did take a second to get everything organised and work out why I was getting 100’s of emails from Edmodo at one o’clock in the morning, I think I have it almost under control. To be honest, I have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly the teachers have been able to adapt to this new-fangled online teaching age! Well done them! My hopes are that when we return to school some of the resources that have been so critical for us to continue our learning will be implemented as supporting material during normal school life. I know that some students have found this online school hell, but I think that by incorporating bits and pieces we have learnt during this experience into our typical school routines, that work will be a lot easier for us to manage our workloads.
After spending a bit of time reflecting, I have come to the conclusion that the reason I started crying during Leo Varadkar’s St. Patrick’ Day speech was due to pure shock. Similar to when a person may cry when they are proposed to, not necessarily happy tears, not sad tears but just pure shock. And while I have listed all the positive aspects of this experience, there are obviously different stresses and anxieties around it. Although it is helpful to try new things and keep busy during this period, I don’t think anyone is judging if you spend all day in bed, watching Netflix in your old pyjamas. At the end of the day, this situation is new to all of us, and there is no right way to spend your time. All we can really do is stay at home and hope for the best.