One writer couldn’t wait for lockdown to end, so why did she feel so anxious after her first weekend out in the wild?
Last Sunday, I spent £15 on a breakfast burrito to be delivered to my flat. The delivery guy got lost and I had to put a coat over my PJs to venture down the street and find him. I thought that I’d either vomit on his shoes or burn like a vampire in the morning sun.
When I crawled back into bed, I felt too dizzy to eat the burrito (which turned out to be very underwhelming, as any £15 burrito would be). The day was so unproductive that I watched six episodes of The OC while remaining in the same fetal position.
I was too scared to check my bank account. I held my breath while checking my WhatsApp messages from the night before. I continued to only eat white carbs and not a single fruit or vegetable. And I definitely didn’t do the run I’d planned.
“Is this really the life I’ve been so desperate to get back?” I thought in the bath I’d dragged myself into at 9pm, still feeling like utter crap and dealing with The Fear that I hadn’t experienced in so long.
In some ways, the Bank Holiday celebrations that led to this obscene level of self-pity were everything I’d missed for so many months: getting excited while putting on new clothes and make-up, listening to music as I travelled into central London, meeting friends I’ve not seen in ages (Zoom doesn’t count), getting carried away with rounds of overpriced white wine, and just generally laughing my head off for most of the day.
But in regaining everything that I have missed so much, I’m starting to lose a lot of things that I now realise were so positive for me during lockdown.
Take, for instance, the fact that at the end of last year I built a routine of running a few times a week. Eager to spend more time outdoors and move my body, I focused on trying to do more exercise – and I actually fell back in love with running. But I’ve now sacrificed those endorphins and a clear head in favour of alcohol and the headaches that comes with it.
I’d also managed to finally take control of my finances. With nothing to pay for because there was nothing to do, I took pride in knowing that I hadn’t used my credit card in months. I bought a book about debt and planned a budget for the year. But now, with so many plans booked in for May, I know I’ll have to dust that trusty old card off by the end of the month, and I haven’t opened the budget since two pay days ago.
I’ve also found myself double booking plans, being let down by friends cancelling last-minute and stressing over the admin of arranging things to do with people. Sure, those video calls and walks in the park became mundane – but at least they were simple and required minimum effort. Why does meeting up with a friend in London always feel like a military operation?
I feel like I’ve had my fun for the month and would, quite frankly, like to hibernate in a self-imposed lockdown until I start to feel that itch for a ‘wild’ time again. I obviously don’t really mean that (I think…), but maybe that initial post-lockdown ‘blowout’ has made me realise a few things about the old life I missed so much.
When I spoke to my colleagues, it became clear that a lot of people have been navigating a similar wave over the last few weeks.
“I have The Fear mostly because of money,” shares Hannah*. “I feel like I just got out of my overdraft and now I’m just going to fall right back into it with no way out because everything is so expensive. But I just don’t want to stay home anymore – we all spent too long doing that in lockdown! I want to live the life that I already pay a lot of rent in London to live and, yep, that involves spending more money.”
Amy, who is naturally an outgoing and sociable person, has felt anxious that she’s become less fun than she was pre-pandemic. She adds: “I’m also hugely worried about all of the new ‘distractions’ and how that will affect my work, the exercise routine I’ve worked so hard to maintain and the savings I’ve also worked hard to keep going.
“Everything feels like a threat to this really balanced-self I somehow wrangled through lockdown: only drinking at weekends, making sensible financial decisions and being super productive. And all these social plans mean less time to work and write – as a freelancer, it’s something I have to be mindful of a lot.”
And Sarah* is choosing to expand her horizons very gradually: “I’m slowly reintroducing close friends who I have really missed. The Fear is paralysing at times though. I’ve noticed that, even though I was never too bothered about how I looked or what I wore pre-pandemic, a year of isolation means that even the thought of trying on new clothes or getting on the Tube is just way too much too soon.
“And, if I’m painfully truthful, the main fear is I’ll see someone I haven’t seen in a year and they’ll judge me – which is a yucky thought. I’m trying to deal with it, but in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m berating myself more.”
So, is this really the life I’ve been so desperate to get back? It was. But I’ve learned that my life ahead is a new one: I want parts of my old life back in moderation, along with the new, healthier habits that I’ve spent over a year realising are good for me. That doesn’t mean, however, that I should guilty for letting my hair down after a lockdown.
I might not save as much money now that I have more freedom, but I’ll certainly be more mindful about what I spend it on. I’ll continue to enjoy cocktails with friends, but I’ll make sure I don’t go overboard (too much). And I’ll continue to plan things to do, but without feeling pressured to say yes to everything.
But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I’m never spending £15 on a burrito ever again.