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Lockdown easing: is it OK to feel optimistic at this point in the pandemic?

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Hollie Richardson
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Lockdown: is it OK to feel optimistic?

As the emotional rollercoaster of the pandemic continues, Stylist writers discuss the idea of feeling hopeful. 

A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook notification took me by surprise. My friend from home had posted on her 30th birthday event page. The mini-festival she’s been organising is meant to take place in June. “I’m still gonna plan my party for this date,” it said. “I’ll possibly have to postpone it a bit but am staying hopeful that we can go ahead!” She then asked where we’d like the minibus to drop us all off at the end of the night. “Leeds,” I tentatively replied, feeling very weird as I typed.

It made me think about something I’ve not really thought about over the last eight weeks: the future.

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I remembered the other 30th birthday party I’m meant to be going home to Leeds for in late May. And the wedding I’m supposed to be flying out to Seville for in October. Then there are the smaller but equally exciting things, like gin cocktails in my friends’ gardens, the rescheduled weekend away in the English countryside with my old flatmates and simply sitting in London Fields with a book.

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But as soon as that warm, fuzzy feeling manifested into a broad smile, I quickly quashed it. Who am I to feel optimistic about the future during this pandemic? There are still so many people needlessly dying. Not everyone gets to think about tomorrow. There’s still a chance I catch the virus – I might even have it. We have no vaccine. Easing lockdown is going to be a long, arduous process. Everybody is having to postpone their lives for an indefinite length of time at the moment.

Lockdown: have you been thinking about the future?
Lockdown: have you been thinking about the future?

I continue to ride the rollercoaster of emotions. One day I’m terrified, paranoid, lonely and sad. The next, I am energetic, positive, chatting away about nothing to friends over the phone. I have to admit that the happier days have recently become more frequent. Maybe it’s because I’m just getting used to life in lockdown. Or perhaps I curate my new intake better than before. And yes, there is a small, albeit potentially naïve, part of me that has hope that things will get better soon. 

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Don’t get me wrong, these optimistic thoughts are quickly followed by pangs of guilt and fear. I even think that something bad is going to happen to me just for daring to be happy in that moment. And regardless of what mood I’ve been in all day, I go to bed every night wondering if this will be the last peaceful (-ish) night’s sleep I’ll have. Just writing that has taken me back into a panic state.

I talked to my colleagues about this in our virtual morning meeting, and it sounds like we’re all feeling differently about the future.

Junior digital writer Lauren Gaell said she doesn’t tend to think about beyond tomorrow, explaining: “I’m not worrying too much about the future at the moment – in fact, I’m not even thinking about it. I’m worried about the people I love getting sick, that’s for sure, but I’m not too worried about when this lockdown will end. I know the future is out of my control – for now, I’m just taking every day as it comes.”

The NHS rainbow is a symbol of hope during the pandemic.
The NHS rainbow is a symbol of hope during the pandemic.

Stylist’s deputy digital editor Jazmin Kopotsha has a similar outlook to me, saying: “I tend to catastrophise anyway and when I’m nervous about something bad happening I tend to go through those odd little superstitious rituals - knocking on wood, saluting single magpies, etc - whenever I catch myself thinking about a positive outcome. 

“It’s probably an issue that runs way deeper than I care to realise but I get nervous about being too optimistic because part of me is always waiting to be proved wrong. I didn’t believe coronavirus was as serious as it turned out to be when I heard about it in January and look at us now. I want to be hopeful about lockdown lifting but, Jesus, I’m scared to dream about that first pub pint.”

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For now, we can only keep on doing whatever it is we need to do to be OK. That might mean allowing yourself to dream of the future. Or it could be taking a moment to bask in any contentment you feel right now. Let’s just try not to feel bad for having hope – we need it. 

Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…