Brexit, same-sex marriage becoming legal in Ireland and the hilarity of Donald Trump actually being the President of the United States.
Those are a few of the historical events of my young adult life that I thought I’d be telling my children and grandchildren about.
I never thought I would be telling them about the time a global pandemic shut down the world and changed life as we knew it.
When Coronavirus first came onto the scene I, along with many, didn’t take it too seriously. I just washed my hands with a bit more attention to detail, palm to palm… right palm over left… and don’t forget your thumbs, and waited for the media hype to die down. Up until March, I was attending work and class as usual, living in Belfast, planning the trip of a lifetime with my best friends and rolling my eyes when my Mum would say, “What if the Coronavirus is still around then?”.
It was then that COVID-19 got closer and closer to home, cases of the virus and deaths were on the rise and plans to close schools, businesses and social spaces were in the works. I left work on the 13th of March after a day of hearing customers say, “This isn’t good. By next week I think the world will be a lot different.” and I started to think that they were right.
Within a few days, I had to cancel an upcoming St. Patricks day trip to Amsterdam, was temporarily let go from my part-time job, I learnt that I would not be going back to University for the last few weeks of my Final semester and Boris told us that when a friend asks you to meet, say no. For many of us life has been on pause for weeks now, I’m on day 38. And in those 38 days, I have found myself looking at things differently and realising the amazing things I took for granted before COVID-19 changed our lives as we knew it.
“We are not trapped, we are safe at home.”
After a few days of frustration, disappointment and anxiety about the fact that I had to prematurely move out of my student house in Belfast and move back home for the foreseeable future, no longer live with my friends and spend every day minus 1 hour within these walls, I realised how lucky I was to have a safe home to spend quarantine in. Heat without having to stick £5 on the meter every few days, my mothers cooking and the company of my loved ones which I previously would have taken for granted. All of us who are able to spend this time inside with our families are fortunate, and it puts a perspective on the essential workers who are putting themselves at risk every day to protect us. Please protect them by staying at home.
To all my friends who I have ever cancelled plans on or not followed through with that, “omg we need to get coffee sometime!” I’M SORRY, I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I will never hesitate when someone asks me to go out, to watch a movie or to go for a walk. Want company on a trip to Tesco? I’ll be there. I miss cooking dinners with my friends and struggling to have everything ready at the same time.
I had to binge watch Too Hot Too Handle by myself without running commentary from my friends, lusting over the boys and wishing we looked like the girls.
I miss Limelight Mondays, Hatfield Tuesdays, Funkarama Wednesdays.
I miss the supportive chats that we had when one of us had a bad day, was worried about a deadline or our futures and the cup of tea (or bottle of wine) from your best friend that fixes everything.
At a time like this that is detrimental to many people's mental health, it makes you realise how much a little chat and a cuddle from your bestie makes everything okay.
But for now, Whatsapp check inns, a Saturday night on house-party and making plans for the epic reunion when this is all over will have to do.
My University Life
I am thankful that as I began final year, I was in a great place mentally and after completing an amazing placement I was enthusiastic and excited about starting my final year at university.
I made a promise to myself that I would enjoy every moment because it was my last year and it would soon be over… and it was over sooner than I thought. I was so fortunate to make a group of friends within my first couple of weeks as a First Year in Jordanstown, a group that has carried through to final year and no doubt the rest of my life.
My group of friends and classmates were something I never took for granted, but I took for granted the coffee dates between lectures, university nights out and struggling through a hangover together the next day.
The “are you going in?” texts, the “wtf is going on” during lectures texts and the “HAVE YOU STARTED THIS ASSIGNMENT???” texts.
Complaining about the car parking prices whilst telling myself
“I really need to start getting the bus” but never doing so because the walk to the bus stop is just too much effort in the morning and I’d rather have those 11 extra minutes in bed.
Buying an overpriced mexican wrap from Spar and eating lunch on the mall followed by the collective “should we go to the library or should we just go home” discussion.
As I complete my degree online without the thrill of hand submitting my dissertation or looking forward to my friends and I throwing our caps in the air at a Summer graduation, I am disappointed, but can’t help reflect on the past 4 years and realise that your University days really are the best days of your life.
The little things I will never take for granted again:
- Calling into my Grannies for a cuppa and a natter
- Spending time with my extended family
- Going to a job I loved with co-workers I loved even more
- Barista Bar Coffee (really thankful for the coffee machine my Brother got for Christmas)
- Brunch, lunch and dinner dates even though I said I’d save money and cook at home all week
- Making plans with my friends without having to say, “If we’re able too by then.”
- Contemplating going to the Gym and then not going
- Bumping into friends on the street
- Awkwardly bumping into people you follow on Instagram and the two of you not knowing whether to say hello or not so you just give each other an awkward nod
- Going for a browse in the city and coming home with £60 worth of stuff I didn’t need
- Opening an ASOS parcel without my mum disinfecting it first
- Last minute nights out that end up being the best nights ever
The world as we knew it will never be the same. I say this without the intent to belittle the severity of the virus, the lives lost, the pressure it has placed on the NHS and the disastrous effect it has and will have on our economy. Putting all of that aside in this instance, and purely looking at the way this has affected our outlook on life. This has put everything into perspective, shown us what is important, what’s not, how we should appreciate the little things in life and hold our loved ones a little closer. I think we will all lead a very different life after this, and maybe, that isn’t a bad thing.
Catherine Maguire is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University.
She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire