Transition in the time of COVID-19: Adapting to the ‘New Normal’
Updated: Apr 4
By Chloe Wightman, 3rd year Medical Student
It's fair to say that we’ve recently lived through a large transition. If we were to be shown a year ago how we’re living now, we’d likely have dismissed the image as the pilot episode of some dystopian thriller. Though at times it's been tough, I've been amazed by how quickly life in the time of COVID-19 has become normalised, and have also found comfort in learning to appreciate what we’ve already got in the face of adversity.
Shortly after the first implementation of lockdown, I surrendered my flat in the city and moved back home until the period of initial uncertainty subsided. At the time I was nearing the end of my second year at medical school, which had involved a combination of in-person lectures and anatomy sessions as well as weekly placements to learn the basics of clinical practice. Within a week this had all been suspended and replaced with an online alternative, which many of us would struggle to get used to for quite some time. At least we weren't alone in the matter - comfort came from the knowledge of others in the same situation worldwide, and there was a sense of community across social media with the circulation of jokes making light of it. However, it was difficult not to become obsessed with the influx of headlines reminding us of the pandemic's growing severity when there was little else to do, especially from the perspective of my rural home where life hadn't really changed at all. My knowledge of COVID's effects on the world was exclusively fed by what I was reading online, and it wasn't until I returned to Edinburgh that I would understand what adapting to the 'new normal' would really be like. However despite my anxieties over the uncertainties of the future, I learned the importance of taking each day as it came, and saw a silver lining in the fact I could spend time with my parents and focus on learning new skills from home. I slowly came to terms with my lack of control over the situation, and learned to be thankful that my involuntary change in lifestyle was the only thing that I really had to complain about.
I returned to the city in a completely different mindset to when I’d left. Though the pandemic's existence was more obvious in an urban setting, I still managed to remain in high spirits by enjoying what I still had the freedom to be able to do. I began exploring Edinburgh with new eyes, finding joy in the discovery of charming shops and side streets that I previously would have passed by blindly. The structure that came with continuing my job as a support worker alongside studying also helped me in many ways; I started taking time to enjoy a slow coffee before starting my day, and found myself making unlikely conversation with strangers as I accompanied my clients across the city. Though I still had occasional moments of existential panic, I began seeing this 'new normal' as a means of strengthening my connections with others. Restrictions meant that I was now spending time with my friends individually as opposed to my previously preferred method of drunkenly stumbling around with them at parties, and I feel as if I'm much closer with them all as a result. Additionally, I became aware of the sheer insignificance of some of our previous daily concerns, and how little so many things matter in the grand scheme of things. Though I'm a little disheartened that the beginning of my twenties hasn't been as filled with as many new adventures as I'd hoped, I'm aware that I've still got a lot to be thankful for.
I can't deny that I'm eagerly awaiting a return to normality. There's so much that I want to do with my life, and I'd be lying if I said that the pandemic hadn't delayed my plans significantly. However, in a way I'm glad that the transition between our previous lives and our existence today has allowed personal conclusions to be drawn as to what really matters; strengthening relationships, enjoying simple pleasures and being able to find new meaning in the mundane.