Amberley Rankin, a student at Portsmouth College, looks back over her time in lockdown, the bad and the good, and reflects on what we might learn when this is all over.
It’s one of those bright, cold days just before summer really gets going—the kind that makes you both want to unfurl in the sunlight and shiver at the same time. It’s 8:30 am, later than I ever woke up before the lockdown, and I am trying to will myself out of bed. I lie like a slab of meat on a counter top for a few minutes before the blare of my alarm gets too annoying and I have to turn it off. The move from my bed to my phone does nothing to wake me up.
Neither does the coffee my mum brings me ten minutes later. It’s become a little routine of ours—she always wakes up early, so she makes the coffee for both of us. Sometime in the afternoon, when she’s engrossed in her work (she’s a teacher, and that lends itself to a lot of marking), I’ll interrupt the furious tapping of her computer to hand her a cup of tea. She’ll smile her thanks, maybe moan a bit about a student who hasn’t done their work, and then I’ll retreat back up to my room. It’s nice. It works. We’re lucky to have avoided most of the hard parts of being cooped up inside for six weeks together.
As I make my breakfast, my fingers ghost over the side of my ears, checking for anything wrong. I let my elder sister pierce them a week ago in a half thought out desire to wear earrings like the thirteenth Doctor, but so far nothing’s gone wrong. A lot of people—including most of my friends—have changed some massive thing about their appearance, whether it’s their hair or their dress sense or a stick-n-poke tattoo. At least three people I know have dyed their hair pink. Maybe the wave of people being reckless (or brave) with their appearance will inspire a new look for the new decade. Perhaps the 2020’s will be known for ‘lockdown chic’—brightly coloured, home-cut hair, new piercings, and the weird clothes people tend to wear when they know no one is looking. I like the idea of that, but I’m not one for fashion. My clothing choice is…eclectic, at best, and the lockdown has just given me permission to wear whatever I like.
When I’ve eaten and dressed myself (red shirt, blue suspenders and a waistcoat, in case you were wondering), and I’m happy that my piercings aren’t about to go septic (seriously, don’t pierce your ears at home, it’s a bad idea), I sit in the living room and begin to work. It’s only 9:00 am—lesson technically starts at 10—but working at home takes longer than it does at college, so I have to start earlier and finish later just to keep on top of the work.
There are some unhappy rumblings from my friends online about potential exams, which are somehow to be taken at home, but I can’t quite tell how much is rumour and how much is educated guessing. We were meant to sit our first college mocks a few weeks ago, fresh after the Easter break, but lockdown shot down that idea pretty sharpish. In my less optimistic evenings, I spend the time looking through university websites and wondering how on Earth I’m going to apply anywhere if I don’t have any predicted grades. I’m sure, of course, that they’ll come up with something—they can’t just leave a whole year group in the lurch like that, and I’ve already heard a few ideas being floated around—but the uncertainty is enough for me to feel it in how my spine tenses up.
I guess one thing this lockdown has proved is just how precariously balanced everything is. The societal structures and sureties that we took for granted have vanished in a puff of smoke—or crumbled, I guess, if you prefer to look at it that way. Before the lockdown, I attended climate strikes and shouted out the phrase ‘system change, not climate change’, but I couldn’t imagine what that would look like. Everything was too permanent, too locked in stone; now that we’re locked in our homes, it seems that there are plenty of people thinking of ways to correct our too-fragile, unsustainable system.
Being inside so much gives you time to think, even when you’re busy. Sometimes I think I’m too trapped in my mind, trapped in a cycle of worry and uncertainty. It’s a sign of the times, I guess, though I mostly manage to be hopeful. I’ve got my sister to thank for that. She’s ten, very sweet, very mischievous, with a killer sense of sarcasm. She struggles a lot with the lack of school—she’s in year six, and now she’s missing out on all the primary school rites of passage. No cheesy school disco, no leaver’s assembly, no residential trip as a last hurrah for her and her friends. Worst of all, her birthday, at the end of this month, will likely be spent indoors with her mother and big sister, and probably a cake. She’d been planning the sleepover for months.
Despite her disappointment, my sister is able to shake off those thoughts in a way I struggle to. At about 3:00pm, when I’ve forced my way through most of my work, she stands up from her spot on the couch and turns the volume up on her phone. She raises an eyebrow at me—a challenge, I know—and starts to dance her way around the room. The song comes from TikTok, I think, and I’m not one to back down from a challenge. I stand up and begin to dance as well.
So there we are, my sister carrying out perfectly choreographed dance moves, me wiggling about like a gleeful slug, and I figure that there’s some definite upsides to the whole lockdown thing. We’re lucky, really; my piercing looks cool and my sister knows how to dance, it definitely could be worse. Sometimes you’ve just got to dance like an idiot and get out of your head, I guess.
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