I forced my colleagues to scrub every corner of their brains to come up with one new thing they’ve learned since the pandemic took grip of their lives. Feel free to lift one of these answers when your auntie asks you this exact same question on the Christmas family Zoom call.
NOT TO FIXATE ON THE PAST OR FUTURE
The other day, my therapist actually asked me “what I’ve learned” this year, and there was such a long, drawn out silence in response that I started coughing down the phone just to break up the awkwardness. I couldn’t think of a single thing. Not one. And she wasn’t helping me.
Now that I’ve had some time to think, though, I’ve realised that my reaction to her question probably says a bit about what the actual answer is. I’ve learned to not fixate on the past or future so much. During a pandemic you can only really think about the present day, because so much has changed, and so much is still up in the air.
For me, that's meant really scaling down my expectations. Instead of thinking, ‘What do I need to do before I'm 30?!’ I’ve started thinking ‘What should I cook today?’ or ‘Where should I walk?’ I know that sounds really dry and a bit “inspo post on Instagram”, but I am a lot happier living like this! IDK, maybe Eckhart Tolle was right! - Daisy Jones
HOW TO COOK
I’m an absolute sucker for eating fast food. When my local McDonalds didn’t open for takeaway during the first lockdown, I ordered Uber Eats to a local park in the catchment area of another Maccies that did. That I can and will travel to eat fast food hasn’t been a revelation to me, but the fact I can home cook every takeaway under the sun has.
BBQ wings so good they’re named “crack chicken” – here’s the recipe. In-n-Out burgers, but done from home, here you go. Salt and pepper prawns? Voila. Capitalism makes everything so easy that, without a pandemic, I’m not sure I would have faced up to the fact I adore fast food so much that I should probably learn how to cook it. Incredibly navel-gazey? Absolutely. Does my food bang? Fucking yes. - Ryan Bassil
REST IS ACTUALLY IMPORTANT
I’ve never been very good at resting. In the first lockdown, I convinced myself that I needed to run a series of never-ending errands any time I wasn’t working": doing a food shop or bundles of laundry, or cooking elaborate meals and making cocktails to share with my housemates. In the second lockdown, I learned how to punch needle as I FaceTimed friends or dabbled in home workouts, muting Chloe Ting so I could work through whatever episode of The Real Housewives I was catching up on.
Being still or doing one thing at a time once felt terrifying. But now, although I’m still slowly teaching my body to fully unclench when it comes to resting and actually give into it, I know that it’s OK to simply lay in the bath doing fuck all. – Nana Baah
LITERALLY EVERYONE IS A COP
“Are you really going for a Chinese?” said the friend. “Doesn’t seeing service workers in PPE take the shine off the experience of stuffing your face with spring rolls?”
British people love to criticise, a fact I’ve known since I joined my hometown's Facebook group. But it wasn’t until the rona hit that I realised quite how good we are at it. We love it like a national sport, and I get why. Pointing out the flaws of others makes your own feel smaller. But we can never know why people act the way they do.
Perhaps that guy was bulk-buying toilet roll because he ate some dodgy prawns. Perhaps that woman went to an illegal rave because, if she didn’t, she would have punched her flatmate in the jaw. Everyone I know has been trying their best with an extremely awful situation. Although, those people who wear their masks under their noses could try a bit harder. Not that I'm judging or anything. - Annie Lord
HOW TO KNIT
I knit now! Quite early on in the pandemic, my housemate started knitting, and I saw her doing it, got jealous when she finished a scarf, and decided to give it a go myself. I thought, at the very least, that it would be fun to add another activity to my rotation which, at that time, consisted only of: work, watching TV, looking at my phone while watching TV, going outside for a “run”, and sleeping.
I don’t think I would ever have learned without pandemic-induced boredom, but, who knew: making something with your own two hands is fun and rewarding! I’m not very good, of course, and my creations are often lumpen and a bit overly stretchy, but they are mine and I love them. I recently completed a blanket that took me months to make, and it’s my best achievement of the whole year. I will forever think of it as my first born child. - Lauren O’Neill
THAT LIFE HAPPENS OUTSIDE OF LONDON
Like lots of people, my income tailed off completely towards the beginning of the pandemic. I was racking up debt, struggling to live off Universal Credit and, worst of all, needed to save up money to pay my tax bill, despite the fact I was making close to nothing. Reluctantly, I decided to give up my room in London and move back home, temporarily, to my mum’s house in my hometown of Stirling.
I’ve written before about Stirling as somewhere I have a tortured, love-hate relationship with. But in the last few months, I’ve come to love the place, uncomplicatedly, to the point I feel I owe it an apology for having previously depicted it as a homophobic backwater. I’ve spent a lot of time walking the paths that lead up to the castle and, particularly on a foggy day, the city feels deeply mysterious. It’s not like Edinburgh, where the similarly ancient and pretty parts of town are filled with shit pubs and shops selling tartan trinkets. The sense of history feels profound, mythical, rather than something packaged for tourists.
My friends are sick of listening to me bang on about how great Stirling is. If I didn’t have a boyfriend in London (not to brag!), I’m not sure if I would move back. I’ve realised that I like Scotland in a way that I simply don’t like England. I no longer feel the impulse to escape; I no longer think of London as the place where real life happens. - James Greig