What has lockdown done to you? Has it changed you fundamentally? Have you struggled with the loss of freedoms, or relished in the opportunities to discover hidden depths and previously untapped emotional resilience?
This time last year, I was engaged to be married, with a wedding planned to take place at the end of May, in Tuscany, Italy. By early April, my fiancé and I had begun to understand the gravitas of the pandemic and how our wedding was looking increasingly unlikely to take place – in Italy or anywhere – during 2020.
In the beginning, I was devastated; all the planning, the menu tasting and choosing of the venue, dress, rings and reception, meetings in the Italian countryside with our wedding planner and the constant flurry of emails between all the various people involved in delivering our special day… it seemed so wasted, sad and tragic.
At the time, I kept telling myself that millions of people had it much worse – losing their loved ones and financial security, struggling to keep afloat with their mental health and frequently turning to alcohol and other drugs as a means of escape and numbing out. In the grand scheme of things, my cancelled wedding seemed trivial, and I guess it was.
By May, my relationship had started to fall apart and I was slowly coming to the realisation that without the façade of the wedding, our relationship had significant cracks and they were beginning to widen. The bonds that had previously held us together were unravelling, and I felt helpless to stop the process of separation. We limped through the summer, and then decided to say goodbye, once and for all, in the autumn.
The intensity of the lockdown, where life shrank down into close-up, with all of its naked truths magnified by the lack of distraction and dilution of our social lives, holidays, days out, busyness of normal, pre-Covid life, brought about in me a primal, desperate need to be fully authentic. I could not live with the knowledge that I had even the smallest of doubts about my ex, that I questioned how strong we might be together in a crisis, how well our personalities complimented each other. I arrived at the conclusion that when the two of us were in our bare bones state, with no gloss or exterior embellishment, we were nothing at all.
This desire to be myself, warts and all, ended up becoming a profound realisation in self-awareness. I had never been someone who lied, but I had been guilty of subjugating my personality and true self in attempts to fit in with other people and what they wanted. I had regularly not shown my real, core self, for fear that I would be rejected or disliked.
The end of my engagement, and ultimately, the relationship, brought this into a sharp focus that was impossible to leave there, at that moment in time.
Splitting up was the right thing to do. As soon as I made the call, it was as though a huge weight had been lifted. I could breathe again. I made a promise to myself that I would always be authentic from that point on; that never again would I allow outside influences to govern the way I lived and who I chose to share my life with. And ever since, I have grown happier with every day.
The pandemic has been tough for so many reasons, and has hit some far worse than others. My heart goes out to everyone who has been detrimentally affected by the events of the last year, but simultaneously, I know that for many, many people, the experience has prompted them to reevaluate their lives in a way that has brought about profound changes.
For all of us, 2020/21 will be remembered as a life-changing period in our collective histories, like wartime or other catastrophic events that shake us up and change everything, from the inside out.