A promise to be kinder

united-kingdomSo, I know that I mentioned it in passing in my last post, but I think it’s time to address the elephant in the room. If you’re reading this far in the future, then you might have heard about the Covid-19 pandemic. If you’re reading this on the day I publish this, then you’re probably like me, thinking wistfully of the time when we used to be able to go to places and do things. I’ve only left the house three times in the past… four or five weeks? And that was only to run the gauntlet at my local supermarket, trying to get enough food to survive while staying two metres away from people who suddenly seemed to have been driven insane by the desire to be very close to me for some reason.

Honestly, as a bit of an introvert, I don’t mind staying at home. Not really. Don’t get me wrong – it would be great to be able to go out and see my friends and family, and I miss them dearly, but with phones and the internet we’re never really that far apart. Even as a self-confessed telephonophobe, I’ve enjoyed those rare occasions when I’ve spent hours on the phone just talking about nothing with the people I love. The thing I’ve struggled most with is having so much free time. Of course, I’m still working my regular job five days a week from the comfort of my dining room, but there’s still an awful lot of time left over that I need to fill. I wish I could say I’ve been making a dent in the pile of books I’ve been meaning to read, or working on my Estonian vocabulary, or writing practice sentences in Welsh. In truth, I’ve eaten a lot of rubbish and started catching up on a lot of TV shows and films from my Netflix queue. The one thing about this whole situation that’s really been getting to me is the guilt.

I assume this is fairly standard fare, but brain seems incapable of letting me relax. I can’t truly get into a TV show without worrying about what I ought to be doing, and I’ve found myself almost constantly wracked with shame that I haven’t been more consistent with my studying, or found more valuable ways to be spending my time. If I go through a day without learning at least ten new vocabulary words in both Estonian and Welsh, or a new grammar structure in Korean, my brain can be particularly scathing. Even writing this blog post isn’t enough to mollify it. And the sheer stress of that is killing my motivation to do anything at all, so I find myself staring at a screen most of the time without having actually taken any of it in. As I’m sure you can see, this is a vicious cycle, and with the way things are going, it isn’t likely to end any time soon.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to make a pledge to be kinder to myself. Although it’s for me, I do hope that someone else out there reading this might be able to recognise a bit of themselves in what I’m saying. Ignore those people who tell you that you need to take up a new hobby or write your first novel during quarantine. Those people aren’t real, they’re all assembled in a factory on the outskirts of Milton Keynes for the express purpose of driving up sales of alcohol and confectionery from disillusioned creative people. What we’re all going through right now is unprecedented, and it’s enough just to stay at home in your pyjamas watching Gilmore Girls for the seventeenth time. We’re all just doing the best we can. If you feel like practicing Japanese kanji, go for it! If you’ve had a great idea for a short story you just have to get down on paper, be my guest! Just know that if you’ve been sitting on the sofa all day scrolling through Twitter and listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks (as narrated by Stephen Fry) for the third time this week, that’s absolutely fine too – and tell that nagging voice in the back of your head to mind its own damned business. Because even when it’s telling you you’re not doing anything worthwhile, you absolutely are – you’re surviving. And right now, that’s all we can ask.

As always, you can find more of my antics on Twitter and Instagram. I hope this helps at least one person, as I hope it’s going to help me. And if you are struggling, please feel free to reach out – I’m by no means a professional but I’m happy to lend an ear. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next month.

– J.

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