Flash forward 12 months, and while the success of the vaccine rollout has given us more to be hopeful about, the arrival of the Omicron variant – and the sudden surge in cases it’s responsible for – has given the world a very ‘March 2020’ feel all over again.
Now, instead of getting ready for Christmas and looking forward to plans with friends and family, we’re anxiously waiting for PCR test results and cancelling parties at the last minute.
I hadn’t quite realised just how much hope I had pinned on being able to see my friends and family after the chaos of last year’s Christmas, and now that many of the events I was looking forward to could be at risk of being cancelled or scaled back, I’m feeling at a loss.
The only difference between this year and last year is how I’m processing it all. Last year, I felt a lot of anger and disappointment – even though I knew the restrictions were necessary, I still experienced the kind of ‘this isn’t fair’ outrage that comes from having the rug pulled out from underneath your feet. Sure, I felt a sense of sadness about it all too, but the novelty of dealing with such an unprecedented situation at least gave me the motivation to try and ‘make the most’ of the circumstances.
This year, however, things feel very different. Instead of feeling angry or upset about everything that’s going on, I just feel extremely deflated. There’s a sense of listlessness about it all – everything just feels incredibly flat and a bit rubbish.
That’s not to say I haven’t been trying to be cheerful – I’m still very much a Christmas person – but there’s been a noticeable shift in the atmosphere both on and offline that’s been hard to ignore. Just take a quick scroll through Twitter and you’ll see what I’m talking about: everyone’s finding things a bit harder to deal with at the moment.
I want to caveat all this by saying I know that my disappointment at my Christmas plans being cancelled isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and that the front-line workers who are dealing with this pandemic are the ones who deserve to complain.
But I also want to acknowledge that the situation we’re currently facing definitely isn’t easy, and it’s OK if you’re feeling a little hollow and deflated about the possibility of your Christmas plans being cancelled.
The emotional rollercoaster we’ve all been on over the last 21 months is unlike anything any of us ever imagined we’d face, so we shouldn’t judge ourselves for feeling upset, angry, empty or too tired to know how we really feel at all.
The rise of the Omicron variant is a reminder of a truth many of us have been trying to avoid: that the pandemic isn’t over, and no one really knows when it will be. It’s hardly surprising that we’re all feeling a bit down right now.
However, I don’t want to be a complete Debbie Downer. It may not feel like it, but we’re in a much better position than last year – the vaccine rollout has been a success, more and more booster jabs are being administered every day, and early reports suggest that Omicron may be a milder variant than the previous ones.
Christmas isn’t completely ‘cancelled’ either: even if our social plans end up being postponed or pared back, there are still so many aspects of the festive season to enjoy – and we have our experiences from last year’s celebrations to take inspiration from, too.
If anything, I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s OK to feel disappointed that things aren’t happening as we might have hoped.
After the chaos of the last two years, it’s only normal to feel deflated by the news that things might not be able to go ahead; being sad about possible cancellations and understanding why they need to go ahead are not mutually exclusive feelings.