When the UK entered lockdown, two months after it should have, I freaked the fuck out. And to be honest, rightly so I think. If I’d known what lockdown was going to really be like I’d have maybe freaked out about 20% less though, because all in, it’s not been as bad as I thought it would. I know some people who have loved lockdown, and some people who have literally required for our friendship group to break lockdown because their mental health was taking more of a pounding than anything the ‘rona could throw at them, and honestly, I respect and relate to the second group more. I’m sorry but if you are one of these lockdown dynamos we are just never going be friends. They’re like people who go to prison for white collar crime and think they’re going to use the time to read a lot of classic books rather than getting beaten in a cold shower. People are not meant to be cooped up , and I think we will genuinely look back at this time when we are old and our children complain about being bored and bust out the odd, Albert-Trotter-esque “in the great quarantine of 2020…”
For me, there have been some revelations. Firstly, it turns out, I’m actually not a huge people hating misanthrope like I’ve thought this whole time. I do still think that I am an introvert , in that socialising drains me, and the threat of becoming all-peopled-out is very real. Lockdown has made me realise there are tiers tho. If I had to red, amber, green it , I’d say Green is like, can cope with anyone and anything, Amber is only want to see or speak to friends and people I already know and like, and Red is full nobody-bother-me-not-even-the-cat. BUT, I am not a hermit, I need to socialise, and having that taken from me has made me think a lot about how much more I want to say yes to things in the future.
I guess my biggest revelation, is that my work/life balance is royally fucked. Now I know this is really common for teachers, and teacher burnout is a thing, but the off shoots of a bad work life balance are huge, in a way that I never ever could have imagined in a million years. The need to reprioritise myself over , well, almost everything actually because I’ve been sat squarely at the bottom of my own list for years, is vital.
Here’s a brief overview of the stuff I neglect because I’m all about that teacher life, and the commitments I’m making to myself to live better, and stop trying to pour from an empty cup. Because lockdown may have been some proper bullshit at times (like when I properly lost it at my IT engineer husband cos I could hear him typing, or when I shouted at everyone cos I couldn’t cope, or when I cried cos I miss my friends, or when I removed my own hair extensions and had to walk around looking like a little bald newborn baby chicken for a month…) but actually, fair play lockdown, overall I think you’ve served me well. The whole thing is still bullshit though and this should in no way be misconstrued as approval or support for anything this government has ever done – I’m a reckless optimist, not a fucking idiot.
Hydration and Nutrition– so apparently, I’ve been drinking about a THIRD of the daily recommended amount of water, FOR ABOUT 31 YEARS. What the hell? So, “what are the effects of drinking enough to maintain more than a small houseplant?” I hear you cry. WELL, friends, it turns out : quadrupled energy, clear skin (farewell adult acne, bane of my entire life), improved concentration, digestion, general clarity of thought. Seriously, someone needs to alert the papers. Oh, and also, eating three square meals a day? Brilliant. Cannot recommend it enough. Turns out eating like a raccoon because of my crazy schedule and aforementioned lack of energy, actually not that good for you, and had rendered me literally anaemic. How embarrassing, to be the stereotypical weak vegetarian. Really let the side down there. So long story short, three litres a day, intermittent fast til 12, a robust multivitamin and some vegan protein later, et voila. I am like the fully charged version of myself, and things can never get that bad again.
Sleep and Exercise – If I’m having a heavy week, these two things slip right to the bottom of the priority list. Well not anymore. If something has got to give, it can be a spreadsheet, or a set of marking, or lesson prep. It cannot be these two things. No more of what myself and a friend have charmingly christened a “4am Special”. 4am is only special if you’re getting up at that time to go on holiday. There’s nothing special about marking books at 4am. Also, if I don’t exercise I can’t sleep and if I don’t sleep I can almost not exercise, and then I end up in this horrible funk where I’m doing neither. Hell, I’ve been back at work for like, three days this week and I’m writing this at 5.4.5 am because I already slipped back in to binning off runs and now my body clock is drunk again. NO. NO MORE.
Mental Wellbeing – is another area I wildly neglect. You literally do have to check yourself before you wreck yourself. I was not put on this earth just to pay bills and worry. This past year (my NQT year) I’ve been so swallowed by my day to day, I’ve rarely had a minute to look about and register how I’m actually feeling. I would rather thrive than survive, and there is no way I can do that without making time for myself. Freeing up 13 hours of my day by not being allowed to go to work has been wild. The daydreaming time that has freed up has given my thoughts time to actually land and resonate, and things have been suddenly dawning on me left, right and centre. I feel like my self is like some sort of secretary I’ve been giving the brush off for weeks, like she’s trying to hand me a message and I’m like “not now Sandra, can’t you see I’m busy?” When the busy stops, it turns out those messages were actually important as all hell, things like : “hi, self esteem called, you’re massively internalising your line manager’s personal vendetta against you and it’s making you think you’re a shit teacher” and “ General Memo: you do actually love your bloody life and look how sad you are when all the things you moan about get taken away from you” or just simple things like “wow, not getting my hair and nails done has crushed my spirit, I am a shallow tart hiding behind a decent book collection”. I give the kids thinking time. Screw those guys, I need damn thinking time. Mental admin needs doing, therapy, meditation, not sure how I’m gonna do it but sitting and looking at your life is crucial. It’s made me think about how…
I didn’t really have a plan?! – Not sure how someone as Type A, freakishly retentive as me, reached 31 then sort of looked round and went “what are you doing?”.
I had dreams.
Now I have plans.
But that’s a whole other blog.