I’m sat at a desk - that isn’t mine - 30-ish days into lockdown (is it really that long now?). There are some dead wildflowers I picked when I was perhaps feeling a little more motivated in a glass vase next to me. (Really need to throw them out. Actually quite embarrassing how dead they are. There isn’t even any water left in the vase.)
Just a few moments ago, I lit a candle. Pulled out this laptop. Slapped myself in the face (metaphorically - not lost it quite yet). Filled a water bottle. Pushed, and then nudged, and then pushed my birthday cactus again (it’s now just on the right of me, and it really does need a name). These actions were my way of saying, “Right, get your act together and do something.”
So, here I am.
I’m Beth, your favourite local dungaree-wearing auntie who people invite to parties because she can be quite funny even if she puts her foot in it once or twice. Except, I’m no one’s auntie and parties aren’t a thing to be invited to anymore. You’ll know that, though.
Yesterday, I turned 21, speaking of parties no one can be invited to. It doesn’t feel all that long ago that 21 was so very far away and so very grown-up. For a large chunk of my life, I’ve gotten away with “wow, you’re so ahead of your age” for an abundance of things; my writing, my ideas, even my reading-age back in Primary School. Now, I’m realising I can’t rely on being ahead of my time for my age. Not because 21 suddenly makes me old or that having an office job at 21 is pretty common, but because I’ve begun to rely on it as an identity. The girl who did x, y and z when she was still just a teenager. Or, up until 48 hours ago, before the grand old age of 21. I’ve spent a lot of time using my age as a marker of my success, and this quarantine has really hit the big fat pause button on everyone’s plans and versions of ‘success’. It’s a big rethink.
Quarantine has been tougher for me the past week or so. I was furloughed at the start of this month, which handed me a sloppy ol’ plateful of time that I really haven’t known what to do with. Which is unusual for me. I always had some hobby, story, or project on the go. Self-motivation isn’t usually an issue for me. Yet, in the past almost-six-weeks (good lord it can’t be that long?!), I’ve struggled to do any of the things I’ve spent the last three+ years complaining I didn’t have time for.
Perhaps it’s due to the whammy of challenging emotions. Or maybe it’s being in a different environment - I moved to be with my partner and his parents for lockdown. I’m quite a homebody and the change of setting, not to mention just the entire situation we’re all facing, has really put me out of my usual “zone”. Sounds silly, but I miss my homemade weaves and cheerful plants and illustrations on the walls.
Outside of the Covid-19 situation, the past six weeks would have been emotionally challenging for me without a global pandemic to add to the mix. The death of a friend and mentor after a long cancer battle. The cancer-diagnosis of another friend. The potential scare in someone else. Work challenges. A lot of struggles with my own health (hey sensitive gut and sensitive skin and also being a really emotionally-sensitive person!).
I suppose I’ve been really worn out seeing all these posts saying we should use this time to better ourselves, all these quarantine-motivational videos. I think it’s really okay to just sit and be. I didn’t think that at the start, but I now get it. And I have to tell myself that too.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years trying to wrangle time, like it was a wild animal that could be house trained. I’ve fought to find spare shreds of time, chasing the moments before bed, wondering how many hours of sleep I really need, scraping the minutes up off the floor. Now that it’s here, unfettered time, staring me down, it’s actually quite terrifying.
So here I am. The eve after my twenty-first birthday, here, with the blank page. Not so much ‘using’ time, or ‘saving’ time, or ‘making the most of’ time, as experiencing it. Living in it.