Lockdown musings, part 2: Feeling 2D

The country went into lockdown on March 23rd meaning we’re firmly into week 10 of not going to the pub, university being online, and standing 2m apart with masks on at the grocery store (that is one of the few terms I picked up when I lived in Canada and still can’t seem to drop from my vocabulary) .

Thankfully our Prime Minister gave us really clear instructions for the weeks and months ahead. (N.B: to clarify for any non-British readers, this sentence is comes caked in a thick layer of sarcasm).

It’s been 16 days since I stopped drinking alcohol – anyone who knows me well knows that this is generally a habit I adopt around important deadlines or exams (which I happen to have in 19 and 22 days – not that I am counting).

I hate working from home. I loathe staring at a screen for long hours – I much preferred my job working at starbucks standing on my feet all day and being able to talk to customers than I ever did my more ‘professional’ but far more mundane office job. It troubles me how my eyes are sore and my back hurts and my head aches at the end of the day. Our university (which I shall refrain from naming) has been incredibly unreasonable and unsupportive during this global pandemic, failing to communicate effectively and changing the goalposts whenever they deemit necesary (just this week they’ve changed how the marks of our streamlined 2-years-crammed-into-1 course will be examined, despite these examinations being a matter of days away at this point).

The worst part about it is that it’s totally taken over my life- I feel like all I ever talk about is exams and medicine and these stupid acronyms that dominate my thinking. I used to be a person who was interested in music, who read books, who liked to cook and bake and write and play, who had time for her friends because she valued her friendships.

Now I just feel two dimensional.

Whilst I look around and see others having more time to invest in friendships – even if this is over [insert preferred online video platform] – and to persue creative ambitions, here am I stuck rote learning about dural venous sinuses and the hypothalmic-pituary-gonadal axis.

For some reason I fear that leaving it there just makes me seem frustrated, bitter and angry (which although totally justified feelings only makes for a very dreary reading of this blog). In an attempt to try and counteract the rather bleak landscape that has been the last few months I started an Instagram account called 1yearofthankful which is just a way of being disciplined in finding something to be thankful for everyday – because there is always something to be thankful for. Here are some things (that haven’t yet made it to the ‘gram, but are true and important nontheless):

1. I have wonderful friends. Many of whom I’ve moved away from to do this course, sometimes making that choice even tougher. Some live ‘up north’, others in Sweden, Canada, Australia and beyond – which is ever so frustrating at times, but I wouldn’t be seeing them anyway in lockdown, so I guess that makes that simpler!

2. I’ve had the privilege of living abroad. This has not only blessed me with the aforementioned wonderful friendships, but those times have enriched me as a person. Living in a different country is somehow so different from travelling, and though I love both there’s something about having a whole handful of places that you can call ‘home’.

3. I was given access to a wonderful education – whether that be my family moving house to get into the catchment are of a comprehensive school that allowed me to have the healthy experience of a mixed sex school, without the inevitable pressure that the grammar school would’ve placed on me, or whether its the fact that the UK system allows you to borrow fees for university so that you don’t have to come from a rich family or rob the bank to be able to attend. I was able to do a bachelors and a masters whilst working alongside, but still making time to enjoy societies and sports. And, for some reason, I’m back at it again. (I still always get a kick from starting a sentence with ‘and’ because that education definitely taught me that starting a sentence with a conjuction was not grammatically correct!)

4. I have a body that is healthy. Yes, there are a couple of ailments that I’d not expected to have at this age, but I am able to play sport and do exercises and walk freely, and these points I frequently forget about until I am in ill-health, so for that I am very grateful.

I could go on, but the more I get into it there could be in excess of 10,000 reasons for my heart to find, so i’ll wrap it up with this last one:

5. I have wonderful parents, they are great friends to me. They have showed with  transparency an amazing marriage – one that is not easy but it worth fighting for every day. They encourage me often, pray for me frequently, love and care for the people that I do (and the ones I don’t!), and are supportive of me no matter what direction my decisions take me in; I know that this makes them a very rare kind of species.

Lockdown musings part 1: Stuck in the middle

Firstly, I don’t know if there will be a part 2 (or 3, or beyond… my indecision has reached an all time high so i’m just leaving myself open to the possibility) so you need not panic that you’ve just commited yourself to the equivelent of the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy or The Simpsons.

Covid-19 has led to seemingly everyone I know starting a blog, writing a book, having a cooking or baking instagram, learning a language, playing a new instument or simply just attempting to get through every series Netflix, Prime or Disney+ has to offer.

And then there’s me- just trying to get through med school. Not heroic because, well, not yet a healthcare professional, but equally not having the time to invest in a new skill, just

stuck in the middle.

We’ve been asked to train as health care assistants by the hospital whilst simultaneously being told by the university that we still have exams (which count) and are meant to be studying the same amount “as you would under normal circumstances”, which, when you’re doing two years of medical school in one is no easy feat. Also, nothing about these circumstances are “normal”.

So my solution was to give up entirely. Working from home without the resources we normally have seemed impossible, and after the year i’ve had (if you know me, you’ll know), this was just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. However, it turns out there’s only so much netflix and lying in bed that a person can do before they get bored and my threshold was about approximately five days (followed by a scramble to then make up on the work i’d missed).

All in all, here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • It’s better to be too busy than to not have enough to do (marginally)
  • Going outside every day for exercise, even if its just a five minute walk around the block, is essential for me; I know we’re all different but my two worst days directly correlate to not leaving the house, and I do not believe it is a coincidence
  • Getting out of bed (and actually making up the bed) is the only way to start a productive working day
  • The same applied to getting changed out of PJs
  • It’s okay to buy some terribly fancy ingredients if your home cooked meal is the main thing you look forward to in the day
  • Actually just watching one episode of a series each night, rather than bingeing the lot gives the programme some kind of inexplicable value and rhythm
  • It’s okay to miss hugs if you’re a tactile person (or even if you’re not)
  • Try to find something to be thankful for every day – there are still so many blessings to be found, acknowledging them is somehow the key to recognising them

And this one’s the kicker:

  • Do not worry about the things you cannot control (this one always reminds me of the serenity prayer: “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”) – much easier said than done

Can’t wait to hug you all, drink pints in the park, swim in a pool, go to the library, host a BBQ, go to a pub quiz – that’s actually in a pub, and dance the night away… but until then we’ll be staying home and staying safe and being ever more grateful for the NHS and the people we love and the shelter we have.

My pet peeve: “I’m sure you’ll be fine”

So it’s been a while since i’ve posted – mainly because instead of moving half way across the world and writing about travel adventures, or the ups and downs of my year of not drinking for charity, or trying to tick off a bucket list of things before my birthday, I’ve instead embarked on one of the hardest courses of my life that I can’t write about much (let’s just say that Adam Kay had to leave the profession before he got to publish his stories).

It’s probably a good thing because this blog would’ve likely just become a string of complaints. ‘Highlights’ of my last six months have included:

  • moving to London
  • having shingles and just being low-level ill for as long as I can remember
  • an extremely difficult housing situation
  • moving house again
  • switching from my friends being mostly type B’s to almost exclusively spending time with type A’s
  • bed bugs (and thus moving in out of my room numerous times)
  • really long working days
  • oh, and exams

One of the things that I’ve found most difficult about it is people saying “I’m sure you’ll be fine”. Mostly they’re strangers and they are exclusively saying it in response to me saying that I was concerned about upcoming exams (and not knowing all the other stuff that’s going on), but it’s become my pet peeve because, frankly, “how the hell do you know?” and more importantly, what if i’m not?

It’s like when we say “I’m fine” as a matter of habit. Like any habit it’s taking me a while, but I’ve tried to stop saying it when i’m not. I’ve started saying “I’ve been better but I’m talking to the right people about it” (i.e. I’m not here to offload right now to you, near-stranger, but I appreciate that you asked anyway).

So without trying to sound too preachy, the next time you tell someone that you don’t know that well “I’m sure you’ll be fine”, maybe just take stock and think, “am I sure? do I know this person enough to say this, or am I just saying it out of habit?”

The next step…

Despite me starting this blog as a way of keeping friends and family informed of my whereabouts upon moving to Australia three years ago, it continues to evolve and has taken on the sub-headings, “A year without alcohol” and “25 before 25”.

Yet still I find comfort in ‘writing things out’ during the transitionary periods. It’s like having a journal where you’ve forced yourself to edit out the drivel and nonsense.

Three days ago I took a train down to London to try and find somewhere to live. I’m starting a degree in medicine in twenty-five days. Obviously this cannot be the subject of my forthcoming blogs (If you haven’t read Adam Kay’s book; This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, a. you should, and b. He had to leave the profession of medicine and have a legal team look over every sentence before he was able to publish a single word of that). What I will do, however, is give sporadic updates of things that I’ve learnt – some of them will probably be about myself and thus sickeningly introspective.

Nevertheless, here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • London is lovely. But expensive. And enormous. (I knew these things before but looking for accommodation that is half the size and double the price; and having friends who live the best part of an hour and a half away, really solidified this).
  • Often important things take a while, so you cannot rush the process.
  • I’m more of an introvert than I let on.
  • I cry probably once every forty-eight hours
  • I usually cry at really trivial things, and remain far more stoic in important situations i.e. I didn’t cry leaving Manchester, but I will at any episode of trashy tv.

25 before 25: Not quite, but thankful despite

So this year has been busy!

I may not have completed everything I’ve set out to do on my list: a fair few are because they cost money – which i’ve not had a whole lot of this year, and the others are because everyday life got in the way. I’ll put the list down at the bottom, so you can see what I did manage, and just maybe i’ll get to the others before I turn thirty. But, there’s also a whole slew of things that I’ve done this year that i’d never have expected to. Here’s just a few of them…

  • Completed writing a dissertation whilst simultaneously having a full time job
  • Been hit by a car and lived to tell the tale (surprisingly, in one piece; it’s nothing less than miraculous)
  • Said goodbye forever to my grandpa, my uncle, and our beloved dog
  • Been around the other side of the world (Australia) for a wedding
  • Applied for medical school, had interviews, and got a place
  • Started playing in the band at my church
  • Had counselling until I felt it was no longer necessary
  • Left a job because it was really terrible
  • Was actually honest in a ‘leaving interview’ about all the reasons said job was terrible in the hope that it would be better for the next person
  • Spent a night in an airport because I’d missed a flight
  • Told someone what I thought of them, (even though it is very uncharacteristic of me to be that scathingly honest – and we’re still on speaking terms!)
  • Met, and made friends with, some absolutely cracking people

So despite the fact that I didn’t get to tick everyone of my goals off of my list, it’s okay because the list I had was quite arbitrary, and the things I’ve experienced have continued to change me – and I think that’s what it was always about in the first place.

 

(The Original List):

  1. Donate blood
  2. Have been to 25 different countries
  3. Complete a triathlon
  4. Have a phone free, social media free, television free week
  5. Eat a meal at a Michelin star restaurant
  6. Make Christmas dinner for the family
  7. Visit someone in prison
  8. Make a piece of art and sell it
  9. Go skydiving
  10. Have a vegan month
  11. Run a half marathon
  12. Drive a racing car
  13. Get a ‘grown-up’ job
  14. Get a tattoo
  15. Climb a mountain
  16. Learn how ride a motorbike
  17. Take a yoga class
  18. Raise £500 for charity 
  19. Apply for something I probably won’t get
  20. Go skinny dipping on New Year’s Eve
  21. Write and record a song
  22. Complete a master’s degree 
  23. Be able to do 10 pull-ups (I currently have no upper body strength)
  24. Give away a whole month’s wage to someone who really needs it
  25. Ask someone out on date

 

25 before 25: #18 – Raise £500 for charity

So… making a list of 25 adventurous and, in some cases, expensive things to do before your 25th birthday requires a fair amount of money and time – neither of which I have a surplus of. So far I have completed 11/25 and have blogged on 7/25. Not the best stats given that there’s roughly 3 months left! Nevertheless, I will continue.

There might be some mild alterations to the original list but raising £500 for charity is something I managed. Turns out that people thinking giving up alcohol for a year is much harder than a half marathon. I beg to differ!

You can still give to my JustGiving page to raise money for Home for Good.

 

25 before 25: #11 – Run a half marathon

#11 – Run a half marathon

I hate running. Absolutely loathe it. I find no joy in it whatsoever and am baffled by people who do. This one was a real challenge for me. 

Although this was some time ago, it’s still a favourite achievement because I have never been so relieved for something to be over (that and my MA dissertation).

Please don’t ask me how long it took me – it would horrify actual runners.

Here’s me; tired and sweaty, and the girl who cheered me over the finish line and made me the most amazing medal (much better than the one from the race).

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25 before 25: #10 – Have a vegan month

#10 – Have a vegan month

The reason for this one was mostly intrigue… could I be happy without chocolate, mac and cheese and steak for a month? (Obviously, that doesn’t constitute my entire diet!)

There were some things I really missed, like eggs and salmon, and other things that didn’t bother me at all, like drinking oat/soy milk. I enjoyed cooking a lot more and I feel like I now have loads of recipes and ideas of what to make when vegan friends come over.

Given that my favourite beer is a milk stout (Brewdog’s Jet Black Heart), it’s definitely not for me long-term though!

25 before 25: #13 – Get a ‘grown-up’ job

#13 – Get a ‘grown-up’ job

Today I had my first day at my new job. For the last few months since I left my job I’ve been lifeguarding. I’m not trying to say that this is a lesser job, but I now contribute to a pension scheme, and wore a nice blouse – that’s the kind of thing I mean when I saw ‘grown-up’.

I also got stabbed with a needle on my coffee break. It was the flu jab. Perks of working for the NHS, I guess!?

Just in case anyone was wondering, my official title is ‘Child Health Team Assistant’.

25 before 25: #1 – Give Blood

#1 – Give Blood (for the first time)

Donating blood was originally first up on my 25 before 25, however, it turns out there are numerous reasons (like being ill or on medication – as I have) which mean you can’t donate at certain times, so I gave up any hope of an order for the list. But, on Friday I gave blood.

I found out my blood type, it’s O+

I also didn’t faint! Which is normally what happens when they take blood, so I was pretty relieved about that (I find this very embarrassing because I’m not squeamish at all, so I’ve no idea how or why this happens).