On shifts and changes in the midst of unprecedented times

We’ve been living through a global pandemic for two years now. Two years of ‘unprecedented’ times – it’s safe to say we are all becoming quite exhausted living through major historical events.

For many, these unprecedented times have also been a time of ‘nothingness’. Lockdown after lockdown; existing within the same four walls; online working and endless video calls. Our social lives shifted – extroverts struggled without plans and an outlet for their social energy while introverts felt a sense of relief at being able to step back socially without offending or letting people down. Yet, through it all, lockdowns continued. The ‘nothingness’ continued. Long-term, established, settled relationships were put to the test as the balance and the varied input of everyday life was replaced with continued monotony and spending all day and night in the same space with the same face. New, burgeoning relationships were stripped of the opportunity to build into something more significant. Essential workers were faced with difficult choices between the need to continue working and their desire to protect their loved ones. For those who lived alone, the ‘nothingness’ started to transform into loneliness.

We celebrated victories as medical science discovered treatments for the virus that had so swiftly taken hold of countries and rejoiced when vaccines were developed and rolled out. Borders began to open again and we saw families and friends being reunited. Then we despaired as new variants were being discovered and, predictably, politics took precedent over public health.

Two years later, we are still in this endless Groundhog Day. I was talking with a friend recently and, as we reflected on this dark timeline that we have found ourselves in, we both remarked that we would love to be stuck in the boredom of the everyday mundane for a while rather than worrying about switching on the news every day lest we are faced with yet another slice of the terrifying extraordinary events that have become the theme of our lives.

Sometimes I look back at the last two years and I feel like it is just a blur. So little and yet so much happened. It’s safe to say our lives will never be the same and, in many ways, I don’t want anything to return to the normal it was. ‘Normal’ was effectively what led to the chaos of our last two years.

Personally, this year held many shifts and changes in my own life. As you can see, I have not written here in a number of months but that doesn’t mean that life has been quiet.

In the midst of this pandemic, I relocated from Hanoi, Vietnam back to one of my favourite places in the world: Arusha, Tanzania. While a truly beautiful part of the world, I did struggle to settle in Hanoi. I found myself missing the community and support that I had found previously and, after recognition of my deteriorating mental health, realised that freefalling into another unknown place was not the right thing to do. As a great believer in the saying “What is for you won’t go by you…”, a promoted post at my previous school in beautiful Tanzania came up at the right time. I do believe there was a guiding hand at work making sure that my next move would be one that would bring me back to the girl I once was.

Due to ending my contract in Hanoi and teaching virtually, I also had the joy of spending a full two months at home this June and July with my family after being unable to visit for nearly two years. This meant that, after two years of video calls, I had a chance to spend time with my precious Granny who, just a couple of weeks after I moved back to Tanzania, closed her eyes one last time. Our beautiful family Matriarch is deeply missed and our family will never quite be the same again. But how thankful I am for that last visit, that last cuddle and kiss, and that last ‘I love you, darling,’.

The pandemic has taught me a lot about myself, my mental health, what is important to me and what to prioritise. It has taught me the value of time to myself but also the importance of community. It has helped me to understand other people, recognising how everyone ‘copes’ in crisis, how our own actions or reactions can impact others too. The phrase ‘No man is an island’ resonates in my head as we approach the end of this year. In spite of the isolation of the past two years, every decision we have made, and continue to make impacts everyone around us: whether we wear a mask, wash our hands, keep our distance, get vaccinated.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
– Aesop

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