Life

Coronavirus: the pandemic ruined our timelines and it’s okay to be upset about it

You’re not where you thought you’d be right now, and that’s okay. There’s a shared frustration at how coronavirus derailed our timelines and ruined our life plans. But we can at least take small comfort in being all in this mess together.

How honest are you with yourself? I’m not great at it. So much so, in fact, that throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic, all I’ve done is tell myself that I’m okay when it’s been blatantly obvious that I’m not. So let’s give it a go now.

To put it quite simply, friends, I’m annoyed. I’m wildly frustrated by everything the Covid-19 outbreak has taken from us all. The big, blatant reality is almost too stark to swallow and overwhelming to process - hundreds of thousands have lost jobs, lost loved ones, lost lives and lost hope. But it’s the smaller, immediate and personal hits that seem to niggle more readily. 

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As women, we tend to orientate our lives to timelines set by the generations before us. It’s not great. It’s often detrimental, in fact, but it’s prevalent.

We grow up absorbing mantras about hitting certain goals before the age of 30finding a partner while we’re ‘in our prime’ or ‘before all of the good ones run out’, and to have kids before our bodies are less able to carry them. The inherent pressure to achieve, enjoy and progress within society’s rigid guidelines is at the core of so many of our lives – and it’s only magnified by our ability to monitor and compare against the rate friends and peers hit their own milestones (thanks, social media).

So where does something like a catastrophic global virus leave us? Uncertain about the future and gutturally unsettled by watching the plans we’ve been taught to depend on being ripped from beneath our feet. It’s disorientating and nerve-racking, but we can at least take solace in the fact that we’re all going through it together. 

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Our timelines have been shaken collectively and personally, and it’s a bit trickier to feel grounded by the things we’d prepared to tick off in 2020. But (generally speaking) putting things on hold doesn’t mean they’re off the agenda forever. We can still dream and plan and look forward to reaching familiar goals and discovering new ones on a different, more flexible timeline. 

For now, let’s laugh heartily at the “My plans vs 2020” memes as they continue to roll in over the coming weeks, and remember that even though we feel far from the paths we’d laid, we’re all aboard this wild, confusing ride together. It’s a small consolation for the disappointment of a missed wedding, graduation or birthday, I know. But, hopefully, you’ll find some comfort and solidarity (and perhaps even some relief) in these stories of the grand plans some other women are learning to grieve right now, too.

Lauren: “I’m living with my parents again”

2020 was meant to be the year I finally moved to London. Having spent the last year and a half living with family and coming home to my parents’ house at the weekends, I was excited to finally have my own place. 

I imagined days filled drinking in the pub with my mates, wandering around London with my boyfriend and being able to come and go whenever I pleased. At the beginning of March, my friends and I had even started considering which areas of London we were interested in – the plan was to be moved in by mid-April.

A woman looking out her window

But then the pandemic hit. Instead of moving out and claiming my newfound independence, I’ve moved into my parents’ house full time. Don’t get me wrong – I’m lucky to get along with both of my parents and enjoy living with them – but all the dreams and hopes I had for 2020 have now been quashed, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that moving out will not be an achievable goal for some time.

Felicity: “When am I meant to have a baby now?”

I’m in my early 30s and got married last summer. I’ve been answering the following two questions ever since: how much did it cost? And, when will you have a baby?

The first question brings me nothing but joy because I worked really fucking hard to keep the cost to a minimum but the baby question scares me to death.

So, when asked the dreaded question I would bounce back something like “Ah, not yet” and then meet their eye with a strong silence. It tends to shut down the conversation but if I’m being completely honest, it’s something that’s played on my mind for years.

I’m well aware that medically, my body clock is, ahem, ticking. But last year, just before getting married, I took a new job and reached a really important point in my career - so I wasn’t rushing into anything. “I’ll think about it in 2020,” I said to myself and my husband, who isn’t too bothered either way.

Along comes 2020 and, BOOM, suddenly we’re in a pandemic and my “Oh, I’ll think about it at some point” conversation has come back to bite me on the arse. Gone is the freedom of planning my career around potentially starting a family - who knows what a normal working life will look like in six months, 12 months? And gone is the timeline I had in my head for my life.

What I really want is for someone to tell me what’s best, because I can’t quite get to the bottom of that right now. (Answers on a postcard, or slide into my DMs!)

My plans 2020: couple holding hands

Jazmin: “I was relying on meeting new people this summer”

I was excited for a single summer. Last year it was derailed by a toxic man on a mission that I didn’t care to follow and I couldn’t wait for 2020 to be my year - one defined by being happy flying solo and having sexy free reign over my time and actions.  

Now, of course, my perspective is totally warped because I’ve been thrust into a completely different dimension of ‘being alone’. I’m still very single but the rush and autonomy of finding new friends, crushes or potential flings has been taken out of my hands, forcing me to think about what I want in a different way. 

I’ll entertain online dating as a pass time but I don’t really want to play the game. It’s too hard to read people. At the moment, I’m struggling to read whether I now want a (healthier) relationship after this enforced, unsexy single summer comes to an end or if it’s just a matter of the freedom to interact with people in real life being something I didn’t realise I needed so significantly. 

I feel cheated out of being able to discover this in the way I intended though, which feels very strange to admit. I was braced for a few months of excitement and possibility and instead, we’ve been lumped with uncertainty. 

Chloe: “I lost the best year of my life” 

I had high expectations for 23. On my birthday, when everyone asked how old I was, they responded with how jealous they were; that 23 was the best year of their lives. “How lucky I was to be a grown-up, but not grown up enough to have to act like a grown-up.” I took that personally and set my goals for the year to work hard and have as much fun (as my finances allow) as is possible.

Now it feels like the two most important things I wanted have been stripped away. My career progression and, well, freedom, have now been restricted.

I’ve seen other people achieve their versions of success within lockdown and I’ve felt sour. The happiness I have for those announcing pregnancies or celebrating engagements in quarantine is shadowed by jealousy.

Not reaching those milestones myself isn’t making me sad. I have my own goals, and right now I don’t want a baby and I never want to get married. It’s more to do with watching someone else achieve and move forward while I feel frozen.

I know that I am young. I know that I have many years ahead of me to make fun mistakes and take leaps forward in my career. I know that for the worst thing to have happened to me since coronavirus struck is having a slightly blurred vision of my future and an inability to party with my friends. But I can’t help but feel sad for losing out what everyone told me would be the Best Year Of My Life.

Megan: “My relationship is on hold”

After two years of being totally and utterly single (I did a man cleanse after a particularly shit breakup), it felt like everything fell into place when I met my boyfriend in August 2019. We’d been friends at school but hadn’t seen each other for 10 years. There was instant trust, respect and comfortable communication between us that meant our relationship moved quite quickly.

Within five months, in January 2020, I’d moved out of London and in with him in Brighton. We had our own home for the first time and were looking forward to a year of adventure and getting to know each other’s families and friends. We thought engagement was also on the cards sometime this year.

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Obviously, entering lockdown put everything on hold. I’m unable to explore the new area I’m living in and we’ve been stopped short of building a life here. There are even things like not being able to have our living room re-painted (which I’m particularly impatient for as we’ve chosen the most gorgeous pink) and ordered furniture being stuck outside the UK.

But, most importantly to me, we can’t attend any of the weddings, baby showers or birthdays we had planned this summer. It was here that my boyfriend would have been able to meet my friends and make those connections with the other important people in my life.

Of course, we don’t have to get engaged within a certain timeline but I had always imagined the person I marry being well-loved by my pals and parents, and that process would have started happening now. I don’t want a wedding where the people I love the most are introducing themselves to the groom for the first time. These are all very small problems in the grand scheme of the world right now, but I do feel as though life is being put on pause.

Images: Getty 

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