“What am I meant to do with so much time? There’s nothing to do.”
When lockdown began, I did all the stereotypical things. I slept too much, I ate too much and I never turned off Netflix, but most of all I complained about the time we lost. Life had changed, without any consultation.
Can you remember when going to get a coffee with a friend didn’t feel like an out-of-this-world experience? Or when drinking pints at the local pub didn’t make you feel anxious? Or when you’d go to see your family without feeling the need to carry a tape measure in your pocket?
Everything I was used to doing stopped. Time seemed to be standing still. Nothing was happening. Of course, this resulted in me staying up late most evenings. I had nothing to do, so what was the point in sleeping? Then one morning I began to get philosophical. What had we lost exactly?
It dawned on me that you can’t really lose time. It’s not physical, is it? Time is something humans use as a guide to tell us when we should do things. We use it to fit us into the way society works. Time tells us when to wake up, when to begin our commute and when to go to sleep. It wasn’t time we had lost, but the structure around time.
Let me take you back a year. Jeez, I wish I had a GoPro tracking me that summer. I was so busy! I’d officially left full time education, I’d got my first acting job as part of a small cast for a Children’s Theatre piece. I was performing in new spaces everyday, meeting new audiences, making new friends. Everything was so busy. Days were going faster than you could believe.
In theory I was smashing it. I was 18, acting eveyday, hanging round with creative people all the time. I was living the busy, hectic, creative life I’d wanted. I had good opportunities, friends to go out with and a bit of money to spend.
Yet looking back, I’m not totally sure I was actually present. I mean of course I was physically present, but I felt really distant from myself. I had no control over my own days. I began to feel like a shell with a hollow inside. Nothing felt permanent. Everything was unstable. What was I going to do when all the things consuming my energy would come to an end? I was continually thinking ‘What can I do next?’
Then came the winter. Things continued to move fast. I successfully applied to be on Future Fires, got myself a job at the local chippy, and tried to settle down into post-school life. Earning money, seeing my friends and family, whilst trying to be as creative as possible.
I’m not saying any of this was bad; in fact, it was fantastic. Future Fires gave me the opportunity to view the arts, and my creativity, as options for a viable career. Which is great because there are only so may ways you can wrap up a package of fish and chips.
Then came lockdown, and like I said before, at first it felt like I had lost so much time. Yet actually I had just lost the structure, that was forcing me to run through everyday. Suddenly I had a lot of time to actually reflect on being a young adult. I paused to think about my life and what I actually want to do with it. Something I’d never actually had the time to entertain. There’s so much noise in the world. To much chatter. To much expectation. To much focus on things that don’t actually matter. I realised all of this was contributing to my anxiety and depression.
As structure faded, I slowly began to find peace. Funny that isn’t it? During a world pandemic I found my zen. I’m not saying I was bouncing off the walls with happiness. Just that well, I began to just exist. Began to realise that ultimately we are just animals aren’t we? And what do animals do quite well? They exist from one day to another; they don’t let life get too complicated. Somehow, somewhere I’ve (we’ve) forgotten this. We became cogs in this big structural machine, that doesn’t actually care about our mental wellbeing.
I’m not saying I’m not happy lockdown is easing up. Of course I am. I understand it’s been awful for a lot of people. There is also a part of me that is excited to get back to our usual social structures and get cracking with normality again. After all I’ve had my time out now, I’ve learnt more about myself and feel stronger for it.
I’m just saying I’m certainly not going to forget this ‘Lost Summer’. The summer where I lost my structure, gained some time and began to feel present for the first time in my life.
You can listen to the recording of this and find out how to submit your own Lost Summer story here.