Stop. Take A Breath. Look Around. Remember.

On March 23rd, 2020, the UK went into it’s first Lockdown. The decision came at least two weeks too late. The lockdown was initially meant to last three weeks. It lasted three months.

On that first day of lockdown, I started posting daily on Facebook. I wasn’t sure how I would cope with the enforced isolation, so I wanted to reach out to people, and to give my life some routines to follow. I numbered the days as I went, which is how I know that last week marked 500 days since this whole mess began. 500 seems like a significant number, and it’s worth taking stock of where we are and what, if anything, we’ve learned.

In March 2020, everything just stopped. The endless grind of the working world, trying to get ahead, or at least trying not to fall behind. Keeping up with work obligations and social obligations; it all stopped. And after a few days of ‘what’s going to happen next’ anxiety, we all took a breath. And then another.

For years, I’ve been seeing stories and memes about the importance of ‘Self-Care’ and ‘Me time.’ Unfortunately, when you’re just trying to keep up with the rent and the bills, and occasionally have a night out with friends, ‘Self-Care’ seems like just another thing your failing at. But the lockdown gave us time. It was the mental health break we all refused to acknowledge we needed.

With some of the social pressures removed, I’ve had time to really look at things. So here’s a few things I’ve learned, things I hope I don’t forget.

There are two incredibly destructive thoughts in modern society. The first is “That’s the way things are, we can’t change it.” The second is “That’s the way we’ve always done things, we don’t need to change it.” Over the lockdowns, all around the world, billionaires got richer, while the working and middle classes struggled to stay afloat. The wealth gap has widened beyond anything in previous generations. Usually, those at the bottom are too busy and too tired just trying to keep a roof over head and food on the table to even think about it much.

Now we’ve had time to think, and we’ve seen the result; many workers refusing to return to low wage jobs that put them at risk of exhaustion, Covid and abuse from Karen’s. Low wages for wait staff, retail workers and the rest of the service industry have always been condoned as the jobs were described as ‘unskilled labour.’ The thing is, ‘unskilled’ doesn’t mean unnecessary. There’s a new term to reckon with now; Essential Worker. We need people to stock the shelves in supermarkets more that we need marketing consultants.

I think the pause in professional sports (another extremely overpaid career) has let us all pay a little more attention to the news, because we’re not immediately distracted by ‘the Big Game last night.’ People started to pay attention to ALL the incidents, often caught on camera, of Black people being harassed and killed by the police. We couldn’t look away, because there was another version of the story happening to another innocent person wherever you looked. And that’s led us to look back at the history and acknowledge that even though the history books are written by the winners, what they did was wrong.

When all the people stopped to take a breath, the Planet was allowed to take a breath as well. And it didn’t take long for some things to improve. With no motorboats cruising through, the Venice Canals cleared to the point you could see Jellyfish swimming through. Air Quality improved in every city with a lockdown. You may not have even noticed the smog until it was gone and you realised “Oh, this is what fresh air smells like! It’s nice to take a deep breath without coughing.”

Sadly, those small improvements disappeared faster that they appeared and now, according to the UN, it’s ‘Code red’ for humanity. And with wildfires in Greece, Italy, Turkey, California, Canada, Brazil and Australia (and I’m sure I’ve missed some places) now common, and flooding throught the UK and continental Europe we can’t deny Climate change is happening. According to the UN survey, we can’t deny that it’s humans causing it. And we can no longer say it’s something we’ll deal with later, because we don’t have a lot of ‘later’ left.

The most countries have re-opened lately, to varying degrees, and we’re all back on the daily grind of trying to get ahead, or at least not fall behind. And honestly, it feels like the ground is more slippery than it was before. But now that we know all these things, that we’ve thought about all these things, we don’t forget these things and maybe, just maybe, we put a little effort into changing them.

500 days ago was March, 2020. I don’t know where we are in this chapter of history, beginning or middle. I know it’s not the end. In the hopes that it’s the middle, 500 days from now will put in December 2022. Let’s all hope it’s a very Merry Christmas.

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