The last 18 months have been hard for all of us. They’ve challenged us in ways that we never expected or thought possible. As a result, we’ll be trying to fix a broken world for a long time to come.
Even so, in between three UK lockdowns, countless lounge outfits and too many hours of TikTok scrolling, I’ve managed to experience three major life changes.
Not counting the pandemic — I mean, I don’t even need to go into how difficult Brits have found being in and out of lockdown because you’ve all been there, struggled profusely and got the memories for life.
No, I’m talking about other life changes that are considered significant in spite of the pandemic.
First, I got married. After being in a long distance relationship with an American for four years, we managed to travel overseas and elope (post-lockdown 2.0 and pre-lockdown 3.0 respectively).
Second, I turned 30. Other women older than me always said that leaving your twenties behind was a major life event and I was lucky enough to be able to go out and celebrate this milestone with my loved ones in between lockdowns. My best friends weren’t so fortunate with their 30ths occurring amidst lockdowns, which meant that they had to wait months before they could celebrate properly.
Third, my American husband moved in with me indefinitely. We’re currently living with my parents while our first house is being built, and trying to adjust to not having to leave each other anytime soon. Usually we’re on borrowed time so this has been an experience in itself.
With all of this in mind, something remarkable has happened recently. I don’t know if it’s solely down to one of these events or a combination, but I find myself looking at everything around me through fresh eyes.
Not only do I have a newfound appreciation for life (Ross Geller, anyone?), but I feel like I’m somewhat changed for the better.
1. I’ve Strengthened My Friendships
Let’s start with friendships.
The pandemic helped me cement the bonds I had with my friends through continuous one-on-one FaceTimes and group Zoom quizzes. It made me realise who truly mattered in my life and who I want to spend my time with going forwards.
On the other hand, the pandemic also made me reflect on the friendships I no longer have, heal from negative experiences and reach out to those who I felt like I needed to make amends with.
I have more gratitude for the people I’ve chosen to love unconditionally and our relationships have never felt so rock solid. This is probably, in large part, down to the fact that our communication has been spot-on. There has been less doing and more talking than ever before because of not being able to see them as often face-to-face.
2. I’ve Learned to Love Myself
Speaking of relationships, I actually have a positive and healthy one with myself now.
I’ve spent more time with myself than ever before and grew to not only love myself, but to also look after myself better. I have this new desire to be the best version of myself, keep my flaws in check and stop being such a perfectionist (because perfectionism doesn’t exist).
(And trust me, this is a difficult process that doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m determined to get there!)
This self-improvement isn’t just mental, I’ve also managed to get in shape physically. Joe Wicks was my hero, like many others’, in the first lockdown with his YouTube workouts getting me through some pretty dark days. Now I’ve even started to integrate other fitness influencer workouts into my weekly exercise regime.
It’s taken a long time but I’m much more accepting of myself these days. I’m also kinder to myself and practice positive self-talk instead of constantly putting myself down — and this in itself is groundbreaking.
3. I’ve Sorted Out My Priorities
Given the fact that we’ve had so much more time on our hands, I’ve had the chance to reflect on both who and what’s important.
I’ve put time and thought into self-care, but I’ve also put time and thought into what’s happened in my life so far. By reading self-help books and following positivity influencers on social media (I’m looking at you, Vex King), I’ve had time to process and heal from bad experiences in my life.
I’ve also had time to look at how much I’ve achieved so far in my life and pat myself on the back for my wins. I’ve written down my future goals and aspirations and I’m more inspired than ever to live a life of my dreams.
After all, there’s something about your health (and essentially your life) being threatened that really puts things into perspective. Right?
4. I’ve Found New Hobbies and Interests
As well as working out and doing HIITs at home (which I never did prior to the pandemic), I’ve tried more new things.
Yoga and meditation were always on my to-do list and now I’ve managed to tick them both off. Yoga is a new love of mine for helping me to stay calm and relaxed in stressful times. And spoiler alert: the first time I tried meditation, I cried.
But then there are all the other hobbies that I used to love growing up and I’ve picked back up. I’m talking about hiking, baking, reading and journalling, to name a few.
It’s felt empowering to reach the peaks of beautiful countryside, visit the baking aisle in the supermarket again, check and recheck Amazon’s book chart for new releases, and pull out my old journal from the back of a drawer.
Why? Well, because it shows I’m being kinder to myself than I was previously. I’m allowing myself to do the things I enjoy, which is only making my days brighter as the dark cloud of the pandemic hovers over them.
5. I’ve Realised There’s More to Life Than Work
Professionally, I’ve turned a corner too. After considering what I wanted my life to look like, I’ve streamlined my business for the future. I’ve focused on what really matters, cut the fluff and redefined my career goals.
Now I’m just taking all the necessary steps to achieve them.
It’s also been reaffirmed to me that if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. There’s so much more to life than a job. It does not define you or your happiness.
That’s why we should all live every day like it’s our last. Time is precious and we’ve had so much of it recently, which can only better prepare us for our future selves. Let’s not take the good things in life for granted and try to remember that there’s always a lesson to be learned from the bad.
Case in point: the pandemic has taught me to be more thoughtful, well-rounded and kindly — and it’s given me more clarity and integrity. And for all of this, I’ll forever be grateful.