Adjusting To The 'New Normal'
Author: Julia Cowlard (Year 11, 2020).
15th January 2021 (first published 06/20).
As we find ourselves in another lockdown, with school closures and continued uncertainty around examinations and GCSE assessments, it seems a good time to republish this article, written by a Year 11 pupil during the first lockdown. Although we are not enjoying the same sunny weather as when this was written, Julia's article offers valuable insights and advice for our current Year 11 pupils.
Exams are cancelled. School is now Zoom. Welcome to the 'new normal'.
The ‘new normal’ was introduced only 8/9 weeks ago, and I've already been diagnosed with the dreaded cabin fever. In lockdown, many of us have had to adapt to these unprecedented times and find new hobbies to carry out. For me, watching the daily updates on the news has kept me sane, for the most part. Others have dedicated their time to becoming Tik Tok famous in the longest summer of our lives - sadly, I lack the talent to obtain this stardom. The weather has been simply wonderful - could this be a pathetic fallacy for the foreseeable future? Let's hope so! However, the sun didn't give me a tan like I hoped. No, no - it shone on the ambiguity of this bizarre situation and brightened my worries as to how we will all return to ‘normal life’ - or how we shouldn’t.
When I first discovered the news of exams being cancelled, to say I was heartbroken would be an understatement. It was one of those moments when time stops. You don't really know how to feel. Relieved? Angry? Delighted? Shocked? I remember hearing the cheers of joy and cries of anguish of so many pupils, through the screen on my phone. I was devastated for my year who had dedicated so much time into their subjects. I was devastated for my teachers who had devoted time into teaching us the content we loved to learn. I was devastated for myself. Yet, I understand that to some this news brought tears of joy. The relief of not having to feel the pressure, the stress, the anxiety that even the word exam tends to bring.
But I just can't comprehend the sudden change. How my whole future was taken out of my hands. How my whole future was left to be decided in the hands of others - whatever happened to ‘your future is in your hands’? How it all just ended on a Wednesday afternoon. I just hope that whoever’s hands now hold my future, that they sang Happy Birthday twice when washing them.
Recently, I was talking to my friends via the now infamous service ‘Zoom’. We laughed. We cried. We chatted about what lockdown had taught us. I had to think about this one. My friends must have thought my screen was frozen because I had not responded. I was so lost in my thoughts of how the ‘new normal’ has - dare I say it - benefited us. For starters, we have seen the communal spirit thrive in all of the UK with fundraising for the ineffable NHS, neighbours congregating at a socially accepted distance to clap for our carers and, for me personally, staying in touch with each other. So when I finally escaped my trance, I answered my friends by stating that the importance of staying connected is what lockdown has taught me. Connection is what has supported me in these unstable and unknown times. Whether it is to stay connected to your friends, your family, your pets - even yourself. Humans are social creatures who need to have a human connection to benefit their well being. Knowing that I have others that I can rely on for that extra support, care and love has reminded me of the basic necessities that we need in life; our loved ones.
Is it the lower levels of pollution which has cleared the skies and has let light escape that has helped me see my future more vividly? Or is it the perfect precious present that this lockdown has gifted us: time. Time to heal. Time to relax. Time to think. What have I been doing with my time? Well, besides arguing with my sisters over whether Carole Baskin had fed her husband to the tigers - it has still left my family undecided - this time has allowed me to rethink my A Level choices and what I want for my future. Of course, I understand that life is unpredictable and things can change - as we can all clearly see! However, I have been able to finally see a little more vividly about what I want for my future.
One area where there is a little more light needed is the greatly anticipated event of the school year: Prom. Dress? Check. Shoes? Check. Clutch? Check. Prom? No answer. Due to this lockdown, my year has sadly lost our invitation to the ball. I'm grateful that we will eventually have our Prom, as so many of my friends are not receiving theirs. Even though it follows the American tradition, it is still a very fundamental part for any British pupil. For some, it’s the magic atmosphere that the glowing gowns emit, lighting a pathway for their own fairytale. For others, it’s the celebration of ending their school career. For me, it was the chance to all be together once again, to dance, to sing, to laugh. I understand the financial pressures that this brings to so many parents and for that, my heart goes out to every pupil who did not get to attend theirs. I hope that one day we will all get to experience the perfect Prom that so many of us see through movies - maybe we could live vicariously through them? That would mean Troy Bolton would be my date - no complaints there. So, to all my year group, keep practising walking in your chosen footwear for the night, make sure to keep your outfit safe and maybe add a mask which matches your prom wear to the next shopping list. Mask? Need to buy.
Checking the news updates often means I see the weather updates too. The forecast says that we are to be presented with more bright sunny skies. Perfect for Tik Tokers, to gain the natural lighting needed for their Oscar-worthy motion pictures. Hopefully, this time I will receive the tan I wished for and not be graced with a scalding burn of anxiety. Time will tell. We are living in an uncertain time. But focus on the ‘we’ part. We all have each other. We can all still stay connected - of course, two metres apart. Just remember to be the best, the best that you can be - and if your best is binge watching Netflix murder documentaries or running around your garden for what feels like the umpteenth time, then please, continue.