Community Manager
21 May, 2020
Coping with COVID-19: Reflections Across Generations

Welcome to the Chelmsford Creatives blog! Each week we will be showcasing creative projects produced by local young people, sharing how we are keeping ourselves busy during social distancing or reflecting on past successes. 

By Frankie Hudson

The author conducting interviews via Skype

On Tuesday 18th of March 2020, I dragged myself to school and remember learning something about photosynthesis. Like most people, I gossiped about COVID-19 with friends and teachers throughout the day. Despite seeing schools close in other countries, the prospect of a UK lockdown felt worlds away. Our day was still dominated by impending GCSE’s and the exams we’d been working towards for over two years.

For me and my friends, the immediate impact of schools closing and GCSE’s being cancelled overshadowed all other aspects of the lockdown. The isolation and shock that I felt in this difficult time has somewhat subsided as I’ve settled into a lockdown routine. But until there’s a vaccine, there’ll still be an element of fear due to my mum’s medical condition which leaves her vulnerable to COVID-19. Although I’ve been more restricted in lockdown than many others, I realised the feelings of anxiety and concern weren’t exclusive to just me.

The announcement of exam cancellations by prime minister Boris Johnson was accompanied by very little information about how GCSE grades would be determined. I spoke to young people who reported feeling shocked, panicked and fearful at the lack of certainty for their future. The deflation at having had ‘lost’ the experience of GCSE’s, coupled with a sudden sense of relief was described as overwhelming. Hopefully the exam cancellations will act as a prompt for students to apply effort all year round. In fact, the cancellations may even show that exams aren’t necessary in deciding students grades, which would result in less pressure being placed on young people.

Many people are choosing to cycle over using public transport

People working from home are having to cope with the sudden and drastic loss of normality. Many are worried about the economic aftermath of the pandemic and feel it will be worse than the 2008 recession. It’s proven emotionally straining to balance these worries about an uncertain future alongside the obstacles working from home brings. Despite predictions of potentially devastating effects on the economy, some people are finding positivity by focusing on the potential environmental benefits. Air pollution and carbon emissions have fallen sharply, and wildlife is re-emerging in urban areas up and down the country. Employers are realising that it’s not essential for everyone to come in to work and many jobs can be performed from home. This would lead to less car pollution from commuters, and more employment opportunities for people with restricted mobility. Overall the way we are using transport is changing, with many choosing to walk or cycle instead of using public transport.

The sudden reliance on digital communication isn’t ideal for anyone, but the transition has been easier for some people more than others. Pre-COVID-19, older people were already more likely to experience isolation and loneliness than other demographics. Whilst younger people have grown up with a heavy reliance on social media to communicate, this doesn’t mean all young people will cope better with the effects of lockdown or social distancing. For me, FaceTime just isn’t the same as being able to talk to my friends face-to-face or give my Nan a hug. Social media and technology aren’t able to replicate real-life social interactions, and so the fear of social isolation and loneliness is present across all age groups. However, social distancing has bought some positives. Most people working from home are spending more time with their families, and everyone is realising the value and importance of friendships and family. This could be the start of people choosing to work closer to home or adjust their work-life balance so they can spend more time with loved ones.

These are challenging and unprecedented times for everyone. It’s easy to feel anxious and fearful, but hopefully this can be a chance to reconnect with ourselves. Day to day, our lives have become so busy and hectic between school and work that we’ve stopped making time for the things that really matter to us. Now there’s more time to do those things such as reading, drawing, writing, relaxing, watching Netflix! This lockdown offers a moment of reflection before we return to normal, whatever the new ‘normal’ is.

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