The one where it’s all a bit strange

There are some pivotal moments in recent history where individuals, depending on their age, can recall exactly where they were/what they were doing when they heard the event happened. Some examples include:

  • The shooting of John Lennon
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The death of Princess Diana
  • 911

But this is probably the first time in my lifetime that we can add an entire year to the list. 2020. The year where everything and nothing happened. We might want to forget it but we won’t be able to because the global pandemic has impacted on every part of everybody’s lives.

How much of an impact there has been will massively depend on an individual’s circumstances and their mental health. What I might consider disappointing/inconvenient based on my circumstances might have a tremendous impact for somebody else. Therefore, what I’ve written below is very much how I might view things but I do recognise that the events may fall into an entirely different category for someone else…

For some, the impact has been disappointing and inconvenient but not necessarily life-changing or devastating – the annual holiday cancelled, a birthday not celebrated in the usual way, missing face to face contact with friends and family, a new alien work environment based from home. 

For others, the impact has been more significant – job loss or reduced hours leading to financial worries, a holiday of a lifetime/ wedding/ anniversary/ big birthday cancelled, being kept away from a loved one in a care home.

And there are those for whom this year has been a tragedy – illness, cancelled operations, bereavement, not able to properly say goodbye to loved ones, businesses failing, acute loneliness and depression and, of course, exam results and the impact of that on college/university places or employment.

My immediate little family of three has been fortunate so far, falling mainly into that first category of a disappointing and inconvenient year: holidays, theatre trips, celebrations for my hubby’s 50th birthday and my birthday all cancelled. Zoom has been a weak alternative to meeting family face-to-face but we still have our jobs and we’ve both worked from home for several years so haven’t had to adjust to that. We have, however, had an unexpected family bereavement – not to Covid – and that was hard, not being able to rush round and give hugs. But we have been lucky and I count my blessings every day for that.

But today feels odd. Strange. Wrong. Because today I should be at my graduation ceremony.

I achieved my Masters in Creative Writing at the back end of 2019 but it was through Open University so ceremonies take place all over the country, with lesser frequency in the north. I’d hesitated as to whether to bother when the ceremony at the nearest venue to us – Harrogate – would be almost a year after graduating but hubby and the munchkin said I should definitely do it and they would be there cheering me on, as would my parents. When Covid hit, all graduation ceremonies were understandably cancelled for the foreseeable future. I have no idea when it will be considered safe to have an event like this again or how they will catch up with the backlog. Will there be any point in attending a ceremony two or three years after finishing? It feels like the moment has passed.

This weekend, I would also have started getting organised ready for our holiday over the October half term. At the start of the year, we booked a week in Portugal for May half term and a holiday cottage in Lancaster to be in easy reach of both Blackpool and the southern Lake District. Portugal was cancelled and, with Lancashire moving into a Tier 3 lockdown yesterday, that’s also cancelled. We had already made the decision not to go while they were Tier 2 as it made no sense to travel from a Tier 1 part of the country into a higher-risk zone, especially knowing we wouldn’t be able to do what we’d planned for our holiday anyway.

What am I doing instead?

I’m staying at home as usual, waiting for a courier to collect the swab kit for my Covid test. I was randomly selected and invited to do this as part of the research survey undertaken by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Dept of Health & Social Care. I agreed I was happy to participate and, yesterday, my kit and instructions arrived in the post.

Also in the post was a box of author copies of Making Wishes at Bay View from the print-run that has gone into The Works. A case of normality arriving alongside this strange new world.

It all feels very surreal. If someone had told me last year to guess why I wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony and what I’d be doing instead, I’d never in a million years have predicated this. Yet this is the new normal.

And seeing as ‘normal’ is different, is it too early to put up the Christmas tree this weekend? Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I need to wait until November. Ooh, 1st November falls on a Sunday. Could I…?

Sending hugs to anyone whose 2020 has hurt/is still hurting. Hang on in there.

Jessica xx 

10 thoughts on “The one where it’s all a bit strange

    • Thanks, Joanne. Yes, I think I might have to make sure that happens this evening. I haven’t even raised anything to celebrate my book deal either. Normally we’d have gone out for a meal so it’s easy just to let these events pass by unnoticed

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My degree came late in years as life got in the way.
    It still astound me even now I achieved it and went on to so many things because of the doors it opened.
    Celebrate with those around you but take a quiet moment to relish your sense of satisfaction.
    Hearty congrats. 🌻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congratulations on your degree. I think it’s such an achievement to go back and study later in life when there are so many other priorities fighting for our time. I definitely enjoyed the experience of studying so much more 2nd time around. Thank you for your kind words. I do need to take that quiet moment as you suggest. Maybe tonight x

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  2. I found myself nodding along with every word. I’m so sorry about your missed graduation. The ceremony is a proper and fitting recognition of all that hard work and you’ve been cheated. I hope, as bisibee says, that you will take the time to celebrate, even if it’s not how you would wish to have done so. I will raise a glass to you at dinner this evening.
    I recall exactly where I was at the announcement of each of these events you mention. When John Lennon’s shooting was announced, I was in hospital with a two day old baby and on the phone to my husband who suddenly shouted ‘Oh my God!’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Eloise. I appreciate you raising a glass for me tonight. I remember my undergraduate graduation ceremony really well, even though we’re talking over 26 years ago now. It would have been nice to celebrate the MA but we’ll see what happens next year. Not saying no although it already seemed odd having it a year down after passing so 2 or even 3 is extra strange.

      I was a bit young for the first one (age 8) and unfamiliar with The Beatles at the time but I remember the other events clearly. Coincidentally, I was in Blackpool the weekend when Princess Diana died. The landlady screamed up the stairs, “She’s dead! She’s dead!” which was a bit of a strange wake-up call but then a shock when we discovered to whom she was referring. I’m therefore not at all surprised by your husband’s reaction. Definitely a shocker!

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      • When I graduated in 2016, it was nine years and one day from the date my daughter graduated from the same university (Worcester) at the same venue (Worcester cathedral). She didn’t attend her Masters graduation (I can’t recall why) but she’s started her doctorate now and I shall insist on her going to that one (for me)!

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  3. Congratulations on the graduation… odd as it feels. How lovely though, the ‘date’ coincides with lots of the wonderful author achievements you now have to your name. 😊

    Ah this COViD year… wow.

    I love Christmas like… a lot! Lol. But it’s more special as we wait a bit for all the decorating and planning. I have friends who popped their trees up at the start of October! Even my boys might be fed up of it by then. Lol. Nov 1 sounds good to me! 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nina. Yes, you’re right about so many other lovely achievements to celebrate. It’s certainly been a year, though. I think we’re all pretty much bored of it now but we’ll just have to get on with it and hope there’s finally an end. As for trees up at the start of October, I can completely understand the sentiment but suspect I’ll do the usual – put it up late Nov/early Dec and enjoy the anticipation of it … but then maybe leave it up???? Ha ha. No, that would drive me mad! x

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