By Ellie Taylor
Talk of the government’s exit strategy has dominated the news in recent weeks. The other day, a tweet appeared on my timeline which joked about a sense of Stockholm Syndrome, expressing an anxiety towards post-lockdown life.
It is, for me at least, near impossible to comprehend the level of unknown I will face as lockdown eases. Try it for yourself: imagine graduating into a global recession armed only with an arts degree. Told you.
I began to wonder about my own, personal exit strategy. A roadmap which tells me how I might return to normal life, when life will probably never be the same kind of normal again. I cannot begin to imagine the big stuff – so my roadmap winds around the everyday, pauses at the insignificant, takes a detour into the inconsequential of post-lockdown life.
But when this is all over…
I will eat a slice of overpriced cake in a café. I will probably take a photo of it, too, and I will not feel embarrassed about it.
I will swim in a lake, and when the sharp stones hurt my feet as I wade in, I will grin and bear it.
I will squeeze my Grandad and kiss my Grandma’s cheek, and I will sit in their living room drinking Red Bush tea.
I will walk into Waterstones at 1pm and I will stay in there, looking at books, until at least 3pm. I will relish that smell and realise how much I missed it – the smell of new books and printed word.
I will pet literally every dog I see. Even the slobbery ones. I will even cross the street to do so.
I will lie in bed with my best friend, watching re-runs of Friends for the 50th time, not talking or feeling the need to fill the silence.
I will sit on a train; look out of the window as the countryside passes in a blur and enjoy the feeling of being suspended and in-between.
I will go to the theatre, and even buy some extortionate snacks during the interval.
I will put the kettle on, whilst one of my favourite people in the world dangles their legs from the stool at the counter.
I will take a late-night trip to the big Tesco, to buy breadsticks or chocolate or discounted ice cream.
I will, once again, know the stress of arriving on time as a person perpetually late to everything.
I will feel a blast of hot air as I walk off an aeroplane, and I will hear a language I do not know.
I will go into a takeaway at 2 o’clock in the morning and order some chips with gravy. I will eat them as though I have not been fed in weeks.
I will sit in the front seat of a friend’s car, grinning because I am in charge of the AUX cable and I know they are going to like the next song. We will wind down the windows and scream the lyrics.
I will walk into a clothes shop, and mooch around, not buying anything. Just doing that sort of vague nod at items of clothing I deem acceptable, and occasionally pausing to feel a satiny fabric.
I will shout the same sentence to a friend, in a crowded bar, 3 or 4 times. Then I will give up and accept that it was not that interesting anyway.
I will talk to people in the street, without treating them like some kind of biohazard.
I will know the mundane; the teeny tiny minutiae of normal life again – and I will cherish it.
Never again will I complain whilst I sit in a traffic jam, on the way to a friend’s house. Maybe, instead, I will smile at the driver sitting across from me. The weather forecast which promises rain will no longer make life ten times more miserable. The days of the week might slowly begin to regain meaning; Sunday evening will again hold that achy sort of sadness and regret – a feeling of not fully grasping something – which comes with the passing of the weekend and the anticipation of Monday.
Life after coronavirus is, all at once, a shining beacon of hope and a crushingly anxiety-inducing unknown. But life will resume: I will graduate, I will find a job, I will travel and I will probably move out of my family home. And when all is said and done, it will not be my graduation ceremony or my career choice or my monumental life steps that make up my life and the person I am – not really. It will be in the small things. It is always in the small things.