Six months ago, we were closing out the first week of level 4 lockdown. That week I submitted my first column for this publication and I said, "Wake me up, when September ends. Because September is a long way away and surely this damn pandemic will be over by then?"
It's now the end of September and Covid is still hanging around, disrupting our lives and boringly dominating conversations. It's one long news cycle.
Much can happen in six months, but for many of us it may feel like nothing has happened. Without the usual anchors we have to look forward to throughout the year; weddings, conferences, family gatherings, overseas holidays, this year has had these sporadically; it's on, it's off, we can have 10 people, we can have lots of people, and of course no winter escape. Our vocabulary has broadened although I can do without hearing unprecedented or resilience ever again, and I say reserve pivot for the netball court.
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I've had a mixed bag of hits and misses, literally. Upstairs is a bag of embroidery thread and a modern calligraphy set, wool waiting to be knit into baby hats and a 1B5 exercise book with "Nicola Alpe, Lockdown Spanish" written on the front. Manifesting my return to Los Angeles, I have perfected "aprendo espanol" and "no entiendo" but that won't get me far. They say 10,000 hours is what it takes for perfection. I am way off the mark. At times I lament what could have been if I'd stuck to the Spanish for an hour a day but asi es la vida.
I put it out to my Facebook friends, asking if anyone had used these six months to learn a new skill or take up a hobby. I expected a plethora of replies along the lines of, "I bought an embroidery machine in May and it's still in the box which has now been moved to the basement (aka where all projects go to die)", and "I became an alcoholic". To be fair, the latter is from a friend living in Spain. Six weeks unable to leave your home with two children during summer may drive you to that.
Turns out my friends are made of strong stuff and what they have learned and achieved in the past six months is astounding. Accepting that life is different, maybe harder, maybe easier, they have taken the opportunity to turn what many perceive as an annus horribilis into one of personal and commercial development.
A friend has learned three different instruments; the ukulele, guitar and keyboard. Overachiever! Friends have written books, taken creative writing courses and written short stories. They have built entertainment spaces on their farms doubling as shearing sheds for 7,500 animals. Fitness pursuits like yoga challenges featured.
A friend was run over but I can report she is in good spirits. New businesses, cutting their own hair, brewing craft beer at home, mastering the art of being a pregnant woman, becoming a parent, learning to cook, gaining qualifications, crafts like crochet and punch needling. All this and more, and only one mention of baking sourdough!
I've had some hits. I've learned to sew. I started this column and the cessation of my life as I knew it gave me the chance to step back, pause, think creatively and work on creating a podcast and an online business focusing on entertaining and sustainability at home.
As a dinner conversation this weekend reminded me, technically I am middle aged, but I'm not going to let a global pandemic keep me down. Thankfully, I'm in good company.