Things I’ve learned after 4 months in lockdown

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I don’t have a ton on my ‘want to do/go’ list this summer; there definitely isn’t going to be any long-distance travel given the circumstances. My main focus is to rest – and then do outdoor things in between. Beyond the beach and the countryside, there’s nowhere I fancy going. I don’t feel comfortable going to shops (apart from the supermarket), pubs, and dining in restaurants just yet. I miss sitting in cafes the most, but takeouts and homemade beverages will do for now.

So much has been packed in the last 4 months in so many regards – uni work, personal life, and very crucially all that has transpired nationally AND internationally. I constantly feel the desire to know everything, and consume so much news and information daily. But at the same time, it can get so overwhelming – particularly when we’re all still also trying to get all of our uni work done.

I wanted to share some things I’ve learned over the course of this lockdown. I have realised, learned, discovered many things about myself and others this year. I’ve learned so much about movements, morals, principles, ethics – and the lack of. Without going in too much detail, some things have been really pleasant surprises, others have been so unbelievably disappointing and saddening. I know most of you have felt the same way <3

Perhaps you can relate to one or more of these things too!

I enjoy the quiet – One of the best parts of my day is making my breakfast shake in the morning, and then sitting alone and enjoying it.

I do enjoy working from home – I really like that I’m not rushing anywhere, and that I can take my time getting up. I like pausing throughout the day to make food, get a drink, put the laundry on, or have a quick stretch. I’ve also enjoyed the weekly Zoom meetings with my research group and supervisor – something that was harder to organise when everyone’s doing something.

I miss the lab – Working in the lab has always been my favourite part about doing a PhD. I like running experiments, analysing my samples, getting results, and figuring out how they all fit together.

I miss cafes – Cafés (and the Manchester Central Library) are, in my experience, the best places to read and write – both for fun and for uni!

My eyes might be going bad – All my work now is in front of the computer so I’ve been suffering from more frequent headaches, likely from eye strain. The two things I need to do going forward: take more breaks away from the screen, and wear my blue light glasses more often.

I’m actually a great cook (when I do cook) – I’ve always said I’m not great in the kitchen, and that’s still true. I don’t really enjoy it, but I obviously DO cook because we all need to eat. Well, what I’ve realised is that I can actually make really good dishes when I can be bothered!

I need to start writing my thesis NOW – In May, I turned in my end of year report (and had a mini viva) so that I could progress to the next year of my PhD. It was over 12,000 words and 90 pages that included a literature review and all my results from the last year of lab work. I’ve learned that only reading and writing day after day, with no chance for lab work, is painful. I’ve realised that going forward I need to write more often, so that I don’t then spend weeks even months at a time writing a report. Plus, the earlier I piece things together in a report, the earlier I can spot any gaps in results (e.g. optical/SEM images, graphs) that I need to fill!

I have ‘friends’ I don’t agree with / cannot support – I’ve been so astonished by the ignorance and mean spiritedness of some people who I’m social media ‘friends’ with. Acquaintances who I thought I knew, but apparently not well enough… The entitlement and privilege I’ve witnessed by people I just never thought would act or think that way has been so disappointing and sad.

BUT, there are also amazingly good, brave and humble people too – Thankfully, on the flip side, I have been so impressed and incredibly touched by the bravery, courage, intelligence, humility, and action of others. Please do check out Laura’s article on the Black Lives Matter movement. She points you towards resources, podcasts, books, film, links and social media you can go to educate yourself.

Even though I’m home all the time, I still really need a good night’s sleep – I need a solid 8 hours of sleep, but I’ve been trudging along with only about 5-6 hours each night since lockdown. I know it’s not enough sleep, and it certainly isn’t quality sleep either, but it’s been a challenge to maintain a good sleeping schedule. Sleep is so important, it’s paramount to everything else that goes on! So my mission for the summer is to finally establish a good sleeping pattern.

Finally, I need a proper break – Sometimes I think I don’t really need a break because I’m home all the time anyway, but I am really looking forward to some time off where I’m not doing any uni work at all. I think it’ll serve to replenish my energy!

I know I’m not alone in all these realisations. Many friends and colleagues have expressed the same sentiment. I suppose the most comforting thing about the struggles we currently face is that, for the most part, it is a collective experience. There’s some comfort in knowing that others have experienced, or continue to, what we have. <3