Writes Kim Neiland
Nothing will damage you so ferociously as the expectations you have for yourself. Our lives are defined by goals, by figures, by opportunities missed and taken. This year has taken its toll on all of us. Very few will look back on this year fondly, if anyone at all. Holidays were cancelled, weddings postponed, days spent waiting for any hopeful turn of events. We have lived with daily HSE press conferences announcing new infections and deaths for what has felt like an eternity, barraged with speak of a ‘new normal.’ How we are living at present is not normal. How we interact with our friends, relatives and colleagues is not normal. The mirage of days spanning weeks, unfolding into months, has been anything but normal. Retaining hope has been a challenge in itself, let alone attempting to grapple with how your life has ground to a halt. Many have and may continue to lose their jobs, perhaps their homes. The city streets you once knew bustling with activity now reduced to a mere few passing through it. Our lives are now spent at distance. For the moment.
In some capacity we have all been dealt a shorthand. That much is pervasive. A litany of political scandals laying the rocky foundation for will be a long road ahead for our country. Our health system has barely coped with the hand it has been dealt. The economy is on its knees, ravaged by a virus that we cannot grapple with. Goodbyes never made in the way we wanted to. Mental health among people of all ages has deteriorated significantly, and understandably so. It is okay to not be okay. You will have many attempting to reassure you that it will be alright. How can it be when the next three, six, nine months seem so bleak and uncertain? What followed the onset of Covid-19 manifested itself by way of an onslaught of information. Not that it has never been present, but our lives have suddenly become defined by the latest ministerial statement, the latest daily figures. Our emotions were heightened. Our heartbreak and longing for the lives we had known and lived universal.
It is never an appropriate time to have a pandemic. If not for this year it may well have been next year, perhaps several years down the line. What would have happened then? Possibly the same scenario. Maybe we would have been more prepared. Perhaps you would have been more prepared. But being older never made you wiser in the same way being young bestows youth. If I have learned anything, the pandemic has reaffirmed the simple fact that being personally unaffected by a situation does not allow you to disregard others circumstances. The ever present ‘Well, it doesn’t affect me’ attitude should be swiftly thrown to the gutter.
I have learned you can only control your own actions, that the simple things can mean everything. That giving a metaphorical hand can lift someone else’s spirits. Those sacrifices are never easy, but almost always necessary. That you can wait your whole life for the timing to be just right and never do a thing. Why wait? Covid-19 has been a wakeup call for us all. The fragility of our lives, the implications of globalization, how we rely on one other, no matter how distant we feel from each other. My expectations for this year shattered in March.
Now here we are, anticipating the end of this period in our lives. Maybe we are no closer to it. But our lives must go on, however they can. We must always retain hope. We must never give up on each other, even when all the odds are against us. As for those targets you have not met? Make new ones. Opportunities missed? There will be others, perhaps better ones. I take comfort in that.