Letters From Lockdown 78: Gemma Laws

Dear Student Life,

I’m still waiting for that closure you promised. I don’t know why you promised it in the first place, since, for most aspects of life, closure only occurs in cinema, books and TV shows. Yet you won me over with the notion that three years would end in parties, photo opportunities, handshakes, tight hugs and the whole world at my doorstep.

Instead, I got sent away prematurely. And though my degree came in the mail months ago, part of me is still waiting for you to call me back for more time.

It’s tricky to draw the line between my nostalgia for you and my nostalgia for a pre-COVID world. Many of the treasured memories that we made are of scenarios that are currently ill-advised. They were conversations in crowded seminar rooms, coffee breaks in the library café, cheap cocktail nights in the city. If you had given me another term, it would not have been the same.

But that would suggest student life ended with the beginning of the first lockdown. We both know it was you that dominated most of that lockdown. My dissertation told me to get up every morning, and calls with course mates kept me sane and connected.

With this second lockdown, I no longer have you to rely on. Everything feels less certain than it did the first time around. Now all I have is my ever-fluctuating motivation to scroll through job postings. Oh, and my Nintendo Switch. Did I tell you I bought a Nintendo Switch after my degree certificate arrived? Some might think Animal Crossing is just a rebound after what happened with us, but I believe me and AC have a future together.

Both in and out of lockdown, my life is different without you. Back then, I was always too busy to check in with myself or find time for hobbies. Now I’m finally writing like I said I would – in part for portfolio-building, but mainly for myself. Some of the most important writing I’m doing right now is scribbling incoherently on pages that I don’t intend for anyone else to see.

I also get to be in the same city as my partner – something that you rarely let me do.

Is this coming across as ungrateful? To be honest, there were moments I wished our three years would go quicker. Going in I had high expectations, so the disappointment and frustration I felt at the beginning were inevitable. That had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with me. We both know the pressure you put on me did not do my mental health any favours. Yet it was your pressure that pushed me to confront it and seek help.

Besides, many more moments with you were spent learning, improving, growing. I’m proud of the work I put in, even if it is yet to take me anywhere. You helped me to value having independence from the city, the people, the structures that surrounded me for 18 years. I feared that returning to those surroundings would cause a regression. But now I know I underestimated the permanence of what we built. Even if we’re no longer building it together.

Most importantly, you encouraged me to trust in my ability to adapt. It’s taking some time, but I’m adapting to life after you, to a life where the ground beneath me is constantly shifting.

So I do feel grateful for you. And I do miss you, though for now, I refuse the temptation to look back with rose-coloured glasses. That would be doing a disservice to the time we had.

Thank you, and I forgive you.

From Gemma

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