Coronavirus Tales - What a Difference a Year Makes
As we pass the milestone of a year since the first lockdown, I’m taking the time to reflect on what has been a tough period both personally and professionally.
When the first lockdown hit in March 2020, I very naively thought this would be a matter of weeks and things would be ‘back to normal’. A year later and we can see a glimmer of hope, with the rollout of vaccinations and the unwavering efforts of all the people who work tirelessly to give us a chance of some sense of normality. I’m under no illusions though, we are not out of the woods just yet!
Looking back 12 months, I was almost a year into a new role and really enjoying my work. We were about to embark on some innovative work that would open up so many opportunities for people – sadly the pandemic changed everything. Being furloughed was a very odd experience and those who know me would recognise I’m not one for sitting around doing nothing. It’s in my DNA to be busy and although I’m used to working at home, that’s normally coupled with travelling the length and breadth of the country. I just enjoy meeting people and learning from their experience to help improve my knowledge and understanding in what is an ever-changing sector.
In September everything changed and I found myself in a position I’ve never experienced in my working life; I was to be made redundant. To be clear, my employer did absolutely everything to avoid this and I’m very grateful for their efforts in doing so. Sadly the inevitable happened and I was made redundant in October. It really was unchartered territory at this point, looking for work in a sector that had so many good people already in the same situation. I reached out to friends and colleagues and I was blown away by the support that came back. It’s often said that you find out who your friends are in times of need, this was certainly the case and I’m forever grateful to everyone that helped and supported me this last year – they all know who they are. Fortunately I’ve continued to work since and feel very grateful to have the chance to do so.
Every day is the same as I take the short walk from the bedroom to the spare room, switch on the laptop and immerse myself in what I can only describe as a cocoon – my own personal bubble where from 9-5 I just vanish and I don’t physically see a soul. I’m not going to lie, it is lonely at times and especially as I’m so used to seeing people day in day out. Is this a peek into the new normal? I certainly hope not…
The impact of redundancy, not being able to see family and a complete change in daily routine has without question affected my mental health. It felt like there was no release from it and in some instances I couldn’t see an end to the restrictions we all faced. I’m sure I wallowed in my own situation briefly at times, but with sharp reminders all around me that I had nothing to complain about I just had to keep moving forward.
Like many people we’ve had the kids at home and tried our hand at home-schooling, which has been an experience in itself – I really take my hat off to teachers! This placed an additional strain on family life, as I’m sure it has for so many others, not just for us but the kids too as they couldn’t see and play with friends. I’m so proud of how they’ve coped. Not being able to see elderly parents has been incredibly tough and something I’m sure none of us could prepare for. My mum has always been my rock and not being able to give her a hug has been so hard. I count my blessings that we’ve not lost anyone close to us, but I have good friends who have and it’s been heart-breaking seeing the pain they’re in and only being able to offer words of comfort over the phone.
What have I learned?
I’ve learned to embrace exercise, yes you read that correctly! Going for run with music in my ears gives me a small sense of freedom, even for a short period. It helps me to block everything out and focus on my own wellbeing, which I’ve found so useful. I’m pretty sure my legs would disagree as the aching and tiredness kicks in – but I suppose there has to be some trade-offs!
If the last year has taught me anything it’s to take each day as it comes, take nothing for granted and to be there for each other. I know that being there for someone, even on the end of a phone, is so important and can make all the difference in the world. A close friend reminds me of this and I’m in awe of what she’s had to cope with on her own, I just wish I could do more for her. I suppose my message to anyone is to reach out for help if you need it – there’s lots out there. There’s no shame in admitting you’re struggling, I think quite the opposite in my experience. I’m lucky that my girls and my wife keep me on my toes and believe me there’s never a dull moment in the Rowley house!
These are just my thoughts on the last year and I know my situation bears no comparison to the life-changing circumstances some people find themselves in. My heart goes out to each and every one of them.
About the author: Richard Rowley has worked within criminal justice for over 20 years in public, private and voluntary sectors including prison, probation, housing, community and resettlement roles.
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Images courtesy of @comparefibre and https://unsplash.com/@kylebushnell