Isolation. Loneliness. Fear. I’ve seen and heard these words far too much over the past week. In a time of mass-uncertainty, I’ve felt upset as my friends and family worry about the wellbeing and health of others. One day in to self-isolation, one thing for me has become clear. Togetherness. Love. Hope. These are the words we should be focusing on.
Let’s take it back a few weeks. At the start of this month my trip to Milan was cancelled after an outbreak of Covid-19 in Lombardy and Veneto. It felt so alien, never did I imagine that their situation would be the same as ours a few weeks later. I heard stories of Italians uniting online as the outbreak spread further across the country, and saw videos of them singing and even playing sports from their balconies.
Very high technical sport is invented during the lockdown of #Italy
— Mr.Dong (@Dreamershuo) March 17, 2020
Despite their positivity, the fact they couldn’t leave the house and all public places were closed seemed so strange to me. Even then, I was disappointed my trip didn’t go ahead. I didn’t think it would expand further, so I met up with friends and planned girls holidays to sunny places by the sea to look forward to in the Summer, oblivious of how quickly isolation could hit.
Not long after my trip away was cancelled, my housemate fell ill. Our landlady messaged us saying she didn’t want to visit to inspect if he had coronavirus, which we laughed at, giving our housemate the new nickname of ‘Corona’. Covid-19 in our house? Not possible!
Last week, the virus was still an on-going joke. In the midst of Cheltenham Festival, I was offered a job in a newly opening restaurant and bar. Sat next to an Italian who also got the job, the interviewer laughed about his hometown suggesting he had Covid-19. The races themselves brought millions of people to my uni town and every bar and street was jam-packed of smartly dressed, drunken racegoers. People posted about the festival saying it shouldn’t have gone ahead, but people found it funny that it did. It didn’t feel serious yet.
I even went out on Gold Cup night. How stupid. Thinking now, it was probably the last mass gathering in the UK before stricter social distancing rules were officially put in place.
Now, it’s real. It’s a lot closer to home. I know people who have symptoms and some friends are choosing to self-isolate. My grandparents have been advised to stay at home. Jobs are uncertain and the economy is in a fragile state. For me, in the space of one week: the opening date of my new job has been delayed and it’s unlikely I’ll ever work a shift there, my university lectures and exams have moved entirely online and I had to make the decision to go back to Cornwall or stay. Now, almost 200 miles away from Cheltenham, I’m back in my family home along with half of my belongings, unsure when I’ll see my uni life again.
With this pandemic and large change of our day to day life so far, I’ve already come to appreciate how connected we are. It’s important to be careful not to spread the virus further and put more strain on the NHS but isolation doesn’t need to be a depressing time. My situation is in no way as bad as others and my heart goes out to those who are more at risk. Even in this worrying time for people, loneliness is the one thing we shouldn’t feel.
We can FaceTime best friends, stay in contact with grandparents when they feel isolated and talk to the family members we haven’t talked to in a while. I talked to my friend this morning for a catch-up and she messaged me afterwards saying: ‘That FaceTime was so nice.” Everyone is appreciating conversations more than ever because it’s all we have. Sure, it’s new. It’s different. It’s weird. Even though it still feels surreal, I’m already adjusting and valuing the efforts everyone is putting in to adapt in this unusual time.
The next couple of months could be very odd for everyone but I feel privileged to be with my family to isolate, together. I no longer feel sad. In my Dad’s words: “We have puzzles to do and beach walks to go on” and in times like these it’s the little things we need to start appreciating again.
All in all, we don’t know how long it will last, no matter how many times the Government will probably tell us that we’ll defeat the illness quicker than we first thought. We can’t be sure when it will end, but we know that it eventually will.
One thing that is for sure, even for those who live by themselves, as long as we can talk to people and stay connected we will never truly be alone.