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Lockdown
MESOPOTOMIA: HOME / Lockdown
Lockdown

“I won’t be able to take your offer due to covid reasons,” I replied to the manager of a not-for-profit organization. I applied for a social worker job, where I would be working with people struggling with addiction and the risk of getting infected with corona virus is very high. Because I live with my mother, who is uncomfortable with such a high probability of risk, I had to turn the job down. I guess back to working from home it is.

A few days later, I chat with a friend of my dad’s about a possible internship. She is a play therapist and since I want to be an expressive arts therapist, I figured she might be a good person to talk to. However, due to the current situation, she barely works and has little to offer me, besides a few contacts, an apology, and empathy for my frustration.

As a young adult in my mid-20s, finishing university and having more time, energy and skills than ever before, I feel incredibly frustrated with the situation: instead of taking on interesting jobs, internships, travelling, and volunteering, I am forced to stay inside and find something to do. I have roughly six months of lockdown experience, living in one of the worst countries in the world, in terms of the daily cases of infected people.

At the end of March 2020, I took a repatriation flight from Montreal to Prague, where I grew up, to spend time with my family, especially with my grandmother who was battling cancer at the time. (Fortunately, she recovered from it!) I planned to stay a few months only, but finding out that my university classes will be online, I decided to stay in Prague, having no reason to go back to Canada. I have been here for nearly a year and I must say that being in lockdown in this country is nothing short of excruciating. The Czech Republic has handled the pandemic absurdly poorly, leaving us in a strict lockdown since October of last year.

The covid-19 pandemic and its consequences has affected everyone on some level, but the increase in experiencing negative emotions is jarring. Psychologists and other workers in the mental health field are in demand more than ever. Therapists say that the world is experiencing collective trauma. It seems that we are all sick of this pandemic; individually and globally. Living in our tiny Zoom screens, communicating scarcely with other human beings face-to-face and constantly checking the news, only to find very little has changed, this pandemic is bound to create some discomfort. Lack of motivation, restlessness, boredom, loneliness, frustration and anxiety are just a few emotions I have heard my friends and family struggle with. Personally, restlessness, frustration and loneliness seem to haunt me the most.

More than once have I heard someone refer to these days as “Groundhog Day”. If you haven’t seen this classic 90s comedy, Bill Murray wakes up one day, having to relive the same day over and over again. And lockdown is starting to feel like this: every day seems the same, because we are all forced to stay inside and unless we are able to create nuance in our day-to-day life, our days become quite similar. This can create a sense of boredom, restlessness, dejection and other feelings. I wake up every day, go for a run (usually the same route), shower, do my homework, attend classes (over Zoom, of course), watch some Netflix and go to sleep. The next day looks the same. Occasionally, I do yoga, play guitar and sometimes I read. Other times, I video chat with friends in Canada. Either way, my days are very similar and sometimes I wake up feeling so down, I go back to sleep, just so that I can avoid the monotony. The obvious solution to this problem would be to create some novelty in my days, so I’ve ordered some yarn and decided to knit a scarf for myself.

But in all seriousness, if you are struggling to find some joy, excitement or motivation in your day, try and find something new to do. Is there any skill you have always wanted to learn? A book you’ve been meaning to read for a while; or a book you’ve been meaning to write? Is there a job, project or internship you can do from the comfort of your home? If you’ve tried everything and nothing really works, do something completely extraordinary. A few months back, my friend and I skateboarded to a castle nearby, climbed to the window of it, which was elevated on a tiny, rocky hill, and broke into a castle. Was it scary, reckless and stupid? Yes. Did this experience enrich my lockdown days? Absolutely.I had an experience unique to that particular windy Thursday that I will remember fondly. All the other lockdown days blur together. If there is any time to try new things, learn new skills and pick up new hobbies, it is now. We will never have this much time on our hands again.

As a consequence of this pandemic the world is changing and some say online learning and working from home may be the norm for the next few years, if not permanently. As depressing as this is, there is little we can do about this fact, except to adapt. Personally, I am still holding onto hope that I will be able to do an in-person master’s degree in 2022, but if the option is not available, I will have to do it from home. So, while I am sitting in lockdown with my Bachelor of Arts, looking for jobs, I may as well engage in some online learning and workshops, even if I won’t be doing a master’s, because if the pandemic has brought any positives, it is an increase in online education that is accessible to all. Talks, workshops, classes and seminars are a big hit right now. So, if you have nothing else to do and you want to pump up your resume, or learn for the sake of educating yourself, browse Facebook and you will find an online event very quickly.

Next to struggling to find a job, the consequences of social isolation are negatively affecting our lives. Having connection with others is crucial, because, at the end of the day, you may still be struggling to find a job or have to process other consequences of this pandemic, and this is easier to do when you have someone to talk to. Some of us live with roommates, family members or partners and some of us live alone. Some of us are surrounded by others and feel lonely, while others are perfectly content on their own. Regardless of what our personal situation may be, human connection is crucial to our well-being. People are social animals and forcing them to stay couped up inside and avoid others goes against human instinct to socialize. Friend hangouts turned into video chats, phone calls and texts, as if we did not have enough screen time working or watching lectures. Personally, I enjoy sending voice memos to my friends in Canada and getting their voice memos in reply. It’s much more intimate than sending texts, because you get to hear the other person’s voice.
While we cannot hug each other, go on dinner dates or simply grab coffee with someone (at least not here in the Czech Republic), socially distanced walks are better than having no social interaction. If that isn’t possible, a phone call or video chat works well, especially if you want to reach out to your grandparents, who maybe struggling with loneliness, anxiety and fear more than any of us. Check on them and see how they are doing; if they are vaccinated, you may be able to give them a hug sooner than you think.

Being in lockdown presents immense challenges, both socially, emotionally and practically. While this reality is difficult to navigate and can encourage dejection, hopelessness, depression and loneliness, this situation – unfortunately – is outside of our control and the only thing we can control is our reaction to it. So, even though it sucks to work from home, do a degree online, or be unable to hug your friends, do the best you can to mitigate this crisis. While it is unpleasant, it will not last forever; maybe just the next six months to a year.

Rosalind Fleischer-Brown is a fifth-year psychology and English student at the University of Alberta. She published two books for the Antarctic Institute of Canada and translated a children’s book from English to Czech. She also published a literary essay in the Glass Buffalo and published several articles in The Gateway, the University of Alberta’s magazine. She is currently living in Prague with her family.
Faculty of Arts, fleische@ualberta.ca
Austin A. Mardon is a fellow(hon) of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of Canada. In his youth he was part of a NASA expedition near the South Pole recovering meteorites.
Catherine A. Mardon is a Dame Commander of the Papal Order of St Sylvester and with her husband a ten-minute audience with Pope Francis. She is a retired attorney.

John Dossitor Health Ethics Centre, Faculty of Medicine, dossetor.centre@ualberta.ca

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