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2020 Was Awful. Here Are Five Things Which Aren’t.

I believe Dumbledore once said ‘Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light’. Well, 2020 was like a year long power cut.

There is no escaping the fact that it has been a difficult year. For many people, it has been a year of change and uncertainty. Of financial and emotional instability. Of grief and of loss. The phrase ‘unable to catch a break’ comes to mind.

When faced with what seems like a never-ending tunnel of darkness, pain and misery (I promise this’ll get more light-hearted just bear with me), it is important to reflect on some of the more positive moments from this year. They may have been somewhat overshadowed by the doom and gloom of natural disasters, global pandemics, and painstakingly questionable politics, but they did happen and are therefore worthy of celebration. Not only worthy, but necessary, as when life is at its most trying, we must hold on tightly to those small moments of positivity. So, with that being said, here are 5 positive things to come out of 2020. You may disagree with me, but really, what is the point in that? This year has already been trying enough. Don’t be difficult…

Reunited Apart- Josh Gad’s Youtube Series

American actor Josh Gad began a series on his YouTube channel where he virtually reunited casts of famous films. We’re talking Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…some real classics. His video with the Lord of the Rings cast now has over 5.7 million views, and also raised lots of money for charity. As a real film buff, Josh Gad excitedly sits and welcomes in cast members and asks them questions about the filming process, and then gets the actors to read parts of the script. I would highly recommend giving the series a watch. It was monumental to have the casts of these films reunited, albeit virtually, and provided a bit of life relief during the trying summer months.    

Banksy

From a densely populated student area of Nottingham, to the London tube, Banksy’s graffiti works have popped up all across the UK and caused quite the stir.  His coronavirus inspired artwork on the underground was promptly removed but showed him supporting the notion of people wearing masks, and pieces also cropped up in Southampton General Hospital, celebrating health care workers. I think it speaks to the escalation and importance of a situation if Banksy considers it worthy enough to create artwork for. With tragedy and sadness comes the opportunity for artistic exploration and expression, and Banksy has epitomised this this year.

David Attenborough

If any person could salvage some good from 2020, it was going to be this man. David Attenborough joined Instagram and broke the record (previously held by Jennifer Anniston) for the quickest time to reach 1 million followers. He is the social media influencer we never knew we needed, and the one who will be able to reach millions of young, impressionable teenagers, to educate them on the climate crisis and amplify the conversation about conservation online.

Space X

On 30th May, Space X launched the first commercial space craft. Now I don’t know a lot about space, so I won’t go on too much. However, the launch of the Dragon rocket was pretty cool, and was a massive step in the start of private space exploration. It is quite mad to consider what we may see achieved in our lifetime. I already feel old and out of touch, and I am only twenty-two.

A Tik Tok Musical- Ratatouille

I must say, this is one of my favourite things to come out of 2020 (disclaimer- of course, finding and successfully administering the Covid-19 vaccine was impressive. But prepare yourself, because this is pretty ground-breaking.) The creation of Ratatouille the Musical, on the social media app Tik Tok, shows the determination, talent, and drive of the younger generation. After an initial video, proposing a musical adaptation of the 2007 Disney animated film Ratatouille, people began writing musical scores, creating choreography, set designing, merchandise branding, the list goes on. And before you know it, a Tik Tok community has created a collaborative musical which has been recognised by famous figures within the musical theatre sphere, and has now secured its own Playbill, with the Broadway production company Seaview putting on a digital event to premier people’s Tik Tok creations. What began as an internet meme is now a fully recognised musical spectacular, and if that doesn’t save 2020, I am not sure what will.

While it may seem trivial, and obviously doesn’t hold the importance of most things currently in the news, things like a musical made about the film Ratatouille DO matter. Not only does it showcase the talents of people within the art and entertainment industry, who have been forced to concentrate their skill set online, but reminds us that humans really are quite resilient creatures. When faced with unprecedented (surely the word of the year?) events, we carry on. And not only that, we make a collaborative musical on Tik Tok. So, I think that is surely worthy of celebration.

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Lockdown 2.0

It has been 8 months since we first huddled around our tv screens and heard that the UK will be entering a national lockdown. I remember a sense of disbelief. How can they do this? Do I need to leave University this evening? Will they be closing the motorway? Will I get a fine? While these questions may now seem slightly ridiculous, at the time they were very genuine concerns. The word ‘unprecedent’ has been thrown around repeatedly by politicians and famous figures, but it really is the perfect adjective for the World we (still) find ourselves in. One of uncertainty and unpredictability.

It seems only a few weeks ago that the era of online zoom quizzes and street parties were upon us. Where a video of celebrities singing ‘Imagine’ reminded us mere mortals that hey, even the elite rich are affected during these troubling times. Where social media was filled with banana bread recipes and home work-outs. It seems almost like an alternate universe we all experienced. Time has moved so incredibly slowly, and yet somehow, it seems like I have blinked and we are in the concluding months of 2020. So, as we find ourselves in a second national lockdown, here are some of the tips, tricks, and lessons learnt from the first lockdown which I shall certainly try and implement this time around.

The first is to be more patient. With myself, with others, and with life generally. I found myself in an unusual situation with the first lockdown, where I was completing my undergraduate degree and in the most intense moment of my academic life thus far, yet all other areas of life were halted. I really struggled with this. Things which were seemingly mundane and taken for granted, like popping out for a coffee, or to delivery shopping to my grandparents, I suddenly craved so intensely. I became quickly impatient that I could not do these things, which was obviously completely useless and rather unproductive.

The second is to put less pressure on myself to be productive. The prospect of having an expanse of time where socialising is not a possibility instinctively made me believe that this was gifted time. Time which must be spent wisely and efficiently. Time which I must not waste. I found myself feeling guilty if I slept in some days instead of going for a run. Or if I simply had an afternoon reading rather than reorganising my room for the 10th time. Basically, I saw lockdown as a collective ‘task’ to be completed, which I retrospectively think was a really unhealthy approach. I think it is important to remember that just ‘getting by’ each day of lockdown was impressive. If you can manage to work your daily routine into a lockdown life then that is wonderful. If you can do additional tasks or learn a new skill with the extra time you have then that is also wonderful. But simply getting from one day to the next, I think, is equally impressive.

Perhaps the most important lesson which lockdown taught me is the power and importance in human relationships. The communication I had with my friends during March and April this year was better than it ever has been. Probably because we all had nothing better to do. You couldn’t really say “sorry mate I’m actually out at the minute we can catch up soon!”, because well, most people were at home. But myself and my friends communicated and shared our lives and emotions with each other more over those months than we had in quite some while. I yearned for human contact, even if it were through a screen. I wanted to feel close to people, probably because we knew we couldn’t be. It really made me appreciate the people I have in my life, and encouraged me to reach out to people more often. To check in on them and their mental wellbeing regularly. This is something I will be carrying through this second lockdown, and really, life more broadly.

So while the prospect of more weeks spent in a ‘locked down’ nation is undeniably daunting, I feel somewhat calmer and better mentally equipped than beforehand. That isn’t to say it’ll be easier, only time can tell that. But while trying to be more patient with myself, accepting the lack of control I have over life currently, putting less pressure on myself to be constantly productive and successful, and speaking regularly with friends and family, I am hoping that this ‘winter lockdown’ can be as good as it can be. If I come out of it having learnt a new skill, or eating really healthily, or being totally in touch with myself and my emotions, then brilliant. But if not, well, that’s okay with me too.

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I love autumn. I love the crisp air. I love long strolls over crunching leaves, the splattering of maple and burnt orange on towering trees. As it chimes midnight on August 31st, I feel a sort of rebirth. I can breathe a sigh of relief. The stifling summer months have finished, and the comfort, security and festivities can now begin. I realise that not everyone will share my opinion. Actually, I expect lots of people to strongly disagree with me. And I completely understand why. As days get shorter and we are met with cold and drawn out evenings, there is a tendency for low moods to creep in. To feel flat, perhaps isolated, and, well, a bit sad.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often known as ‘winter depression’. The symptoms include, but aren’t limited to, a low constant mood, irritability, troubles with sleeping and a feeling of worthlessness and despair. Whilst not experiencing SAD myself, I have struggled with other mental health disorders, and something which has always frustrated me beyond belief is people’s ability to undermine others’ emotional well-being. The phrase ‘cheer-up’ is thrown around so flippantly, and it can be incredibly harmful. There is a massive difference between feeling a ‘bit down’ and suffering from a mental health disorder. 

When struggling with your mental and emotional health, you can feel incredibly out of control. Somehow overwhelmed and underwhelmed by life at the same time. Life seems to just happen to you, rather than you actively living it yourself. To be trying to come to terms with your emotions is challenging enough, so to then receive comments from people which suggests that you are choosing to feel this way can be heartbreaking and completely deflating. The analogy that is often used is that if you suffered a broken bone, one wouldn’t expect you to simply ‘get better’. You would not be told that medication is ‘unnecessary’, or that seeking professional help is ‘attention seeking’. You would need time. You would need help. And above all else, you would need to be treated with kindness. The same must apply to mental health disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

So, as the darker evenings draw in, it is important to remember that despite what Andy Williams says, it is not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. It is crucial to be kind, to be patient and to seek help unapologetically if you need it. 

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Let’s Get Acquainted…

Most blogs I have read involve an introductory post from the author, so consider this our formal introduction. Imagine me awkwardly leaning in for a hug when you’ve already put your hand out for a handshake. Imagine me laughing it off and quickly changing the subject. You then ask, “so…what do you?”.

I don’t know many people in their early twenties who like this question. This is probably because most people within my ‘circle’ are either studying, recently graduated and job hunting, or embarking on a creative career with blooming employment prospects (this is ironic, hence the italics.)

Whenever people ask me that question, I have always had the fall back of education. I studied English as an undergraduate at the University of Nottingham and graduated in July. I have since embarked on a masters in Journalism at the University of Brighton. Therefore, I am saved from the judgement of not having found my dream job immediately after finishing my studies. The pressure to seemingly have your life somewhat together after finishing university is incredibly overwhelming. Hence why I chose the postgrad life. Well, actually that isn’t true. I have always wanted to continue in education for as long as possible. I enjoyed school. I still enjoy learning. And I am fortunate enough to be able to progress academically here within the UK, which I know is not the case for everyone.

When I tell people I studied English, it is inevitable that they ask “ah, so are you going into teaching?” To which I reply, “haha no, I hate children” (untrue, but prevents more questions as they feel a bit uncomfortable.) The truth is I have always just loved to read. And to write. Therefore studying English seemed like a ‘no brainer’ for me. The decision to go forward with Journalism as a masters course was harder, and it was a close call between that and Creative Writing. But one is easier to do and share in my spare time, and the other lends itself to have some academic backing and qualification.

So, I suppose that is where I am currently. Fortunate to be in education and creating a blog to document and share my thoughts. 2020 hasn’t been a great year for many people. For me, it has certainly been eventful. It has taught me to just go for things. Life is too precious, and too short, to hold back on your goals and aspirations because of a fear of failure. So this is me, trying, possibly succeeding, to give 2020 a purposeful and positive end.

*insert inspirational quote here*