TL:DR. Missing regular social contact is tough enough with a chronic illness, and the restrictions due to COVID19 has increased the magnitude & intensity of this for me.
This sort of follows on from my previous blogpost and is a bit of a moan about all the fun stuff that has been shut down understandably due to the outbreak of the Corona Virus. It’s also a reflection of the broadly solitary adult life I’ve led since I finished my A-levels – something told in I never found my tribe. The difference between then and now, or rather from just before I left to go to university to today, is that back then (mid-late 1999) there were times when I felt I had the world at my feet. But as I’ve mentioned before I didn’t have the mentors or the worldly advice of just what opportunities were out there.
On being angry with individuals and institutions who decided things for you, vs angry with yourself over your own choices.
The shambles over the 2020 A-level results that should have cost the Education Secretary his job (he should never have been let near public office following his sacking as Defence Secretary just over a year ago) have touched a raw nerve with the public the likes of which we normally only see once in a generation. With so many of us having had experiences of public exams, to see so many teenagers denied places at university over something completely outside of their control – first the closure of the schools & colleges, then being given results from an algorithm that favoured privately educated students, has caused outrage. There is nothing the young students could have done, and the results are so unfair for so many – and they can see that it is unfair in towns and cities across the country.
With all things media nostalgia for 1990s Britpop – the last time I can recall any collective hope for the future, it’s made some painful memories (plus a few more pleasant ones) unavoidable at a time when I was taking exams every summer. Between 1992-2002 I had one set of exams or another every summer. I still can’t see what benefit I got from it as an adult. It’s all the more surreal because I’m still in (or boomeranged back to) the town I grew up in, but the people from my childhood are no longer there, and neither are many of the buildings.
On holding institutions accountable
One of the reasons I got involved in local democracy after taking redundancy from the civil service in 2011 was because I didn’t want future generations of children and young people to face what I had to face. I probably failed in that aim, but Puffles made a few people happy. And angry! It also makes bad things that happened in my past easier to deal with. Taking the view that this happened not just to me but to others, that it’s too late for me to get any restitution, so all that’s left is to try and make things better for future generations.
I want, I wish, I miss…
- I want my health back, but I can’t have it back;
- I want my childhood back from the church, but I can’t have it back;
- I want my friends [too numerous to mention] back in my life, but I can’t have them back;
- I want my hope for the future back, but I can’t have it back; ….have you looked at what’s been happening to our climate lately?
And that’s not easy to deal with when chronic illness means your spoon supply is limited compared with much of the general public in getting things done day to day.
What running out of spoons looks like when you take on too much in the face of a chronic illness. Case study: Me. From May 2020.
I still have to keep group social contact to a minimum because I and my family fall within those with a raised risk and vulnerability to the Corona Virus. That means the various events, protests, and marches that I’d normally go along to are now out of bounds. Meetings online/on Zoom are not the same as being in the same place.
Remember the choral craze?
Actually, it’s been reported on and off for a decade – with academic studies like this noting the health benefits. Music, drama and the performing arts have been hit badly by the Corona Virus and the restrictions that followed. We can’t rehearse for a start. In June, a number of professionals in the field wrote that we must find a way to restart singing together. In recent times music rehearsals with We Are Sound music have often been the only group contact I have had.
I want, I wish, I miss…
I wish we could find a cure or a vaccine soon – actually both to the Corona Virus and to my own chronic illnesses! I don’t want to think/live as if it’s downhill from the age of 40!
I want, I wish, I miss…
It’s not just the collective endeavour and shared purpose of rehearsing and large public performances that I miss though…
- I also miss dancing – whether at gigs or with a partner at formal balls;
- I miss team sports – in particular football which I can’t recall having played since a few random matches at university;
- I miss rollerblading and rollerskating – I’ve still got my pads gathering dust;
- I miss the offline social media pub lunches we used to have in the early days of Puffles – especially the London ones;
- I miss working with others on local history – the archives and libraries are all either closed or are so restricted to make collective research all but impossible. (Meetings remain permanently on hold);
- I miss having a sense of hope and of some sense of a positive destiny about the future…and I miss having people with me on what should be a shared journey.
If we are to build back better…
Whether it’s the Children’s Commissioner calling for a root-and-branch overhaul of exams, to being told that the age of the office is over, we’ve go to have a future that’s far better than being inside our own little box, entertained by virtual reality, devoid of social contact and the natural environment. Sound familiar? Black Mirror.