Where Do We Go Now?

Over the past year, we’ve learnt to accept our situation and follow the rules dictated through a screen, to be scared of the outside, of the other, of ourselves. We’ve learned to become responsible, quiet, careful, overthinking and overworking yet numbing our brains. Some felt guilty for not using this given time productively, but how can we thrive in such an unhealthy situation? I know we don’t have a choice; there is a global pandemic. Although it hasn’t only been a threat to our physical health.

I didn’t catch Covid (I’m touching wood as I’m writing this down), yet my health has been affected in other ways I had never dealt with before: episodic anxiety, losing focus, missing the people I love so much it aches, the uncertainty of things getting me out of my mind and not in a pretty way.

We’ve graduated with no job opportunities. We stayed in university but mostly in our rooms with blurry faces on a Zoom screen. We got our A-levels and wondered if uni was worth it in times like this. We haven’t seen friends, lovers and family for months or we’ve been through tough times with them. We’ve celebrated birthdays through a screen and gave virtual toasts. We’ve missed out on so many things. We’ve forgotten how to party and what it’s like to not stick to a perfect busy schedule from which we tick off the days. We’ve spent months telling ourselves the same song: tomorrow will be better.

For most of us, we’ve forgotten how to be young. We’ve become too serious, too intense. At least I did – yet, don’t get me wrong, there are many things in my life that I take seriously – but this seriousness needs a balance that wasn’t there, or barely.

Yes, it is hard for everybody – though on very different levels depending on who you are and what your background is – but lockdowns have grandly affected young people. This has been supported by doctors and researchers: the proportion of adults experiencing loneliness is highest amongst young adults aged 18-24. Many children and young people […] have been affected by lack of physical contact with their friends, families and peers, and the boredom and frustration associated with a loss of all the activities they have been used to taking part in.

Also, our brains are still teenagers (yeah, sick, right ?). It keeps developing until our mid/late twenties in ways that will shape our adult brain. The brain undergoes a “rewiring” process that is not complete until approximately 25 years of age. This discovery has enhanced our basic understanding regarding adolescent brain maturation and it has provided support for behaviours experienced in late adolescence and early adulthood.

Those years are crucial and you cannot go back on them. The things that we experience now are fundamental in our transition to adulthood. Yet we’ve spent months indoors and a whole year with stressful guidelines and absolute uncertainty.

My point is, it will be urgent for our health to find back our young and carefree selves. As soon as the situation allows it – and if it feels needed – we owe it to ourselves to be less responsible again, to mess around, to travel, to try new things, to be obsessed with something for a week and then find another short hobby, to take risks, to show up to an event or go over to your best mate’s place for a night in, to let down the schedules and the Zoom meetings for a bit and give room for what is truly essential to a good and healthy life-balance: to live and experience.

Even though we’ve been told for a whole year that life is about work, trust me: it isn’t.

Image courtesy of Karen Zhao.

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