What I’ve Learned This Past Year

Firstly, I hope that everyone reading is well and has managed to learn or do something with the very strange past year we have all had – we have got through it, and hopefully some more familiarity is on its way.
Lockdown has been incredibly odd for all of us, and I don’t know how it started, what happened during, and what happens now either. But one thing I do know is that it has sure been quite the experience. At the beginning of lockdown, I was dealing with a break-up whilst trying to adapt to the new loneliness and strangeness that comes with unprecedented times. If I’m honest, it was quite awful during the first lockdown not knowing each day from the next and my mental health, already deteriorating, was worsening.

Through summer, I did my best to try and do something about this, but it was quite difficult seen as no one knew what was going to happen with Covid and with imminent lockdowns, I continued to switch off and disengage with friends, family, and university work. I remember feeling so isolated and disconnected with some of my closest relatives (describing me as almost uncontactable).

Many of us must have felt the claws of inactivity, self-doubt, procrastination, and general lethargy when it comes to doing anything during the throes of lockdowns throughout the 2020/2021 academic year, and I was no exception. During this strange time, most of my pastimes such as walking, baking, cooking, and hiking were inhibited by the state of the world. Walking and hiking both felt like more of a crime as we had to limit these activities and even when we were no longer required to, something felt wrong about doing them. Baking and cooking, two things I used to love,
also became laborious tasks when you were the soul person you’d cook for, and every now and then you’d be lucky enough to be able to safely gift a neighbour or a friend some of your creations at a safe distance – but again, it just did not feel right.

Over the last few years of slowly deteriorating mental health, lockdown really did force out the last few pieces of negativity in me and rock bottom was definitely met. I knew deep down that I could go even further, but I really didn’t want to, so, I turned my hand to an old hobby of mine that I had never really taken too seriously. And it’s what I’m doing now. Writing.

Before, I just thought it was more of a way for me to communicate strange feelings to others without the anxiety of actually talking, and also to work through such thoughts in my head. Through the last year, I really started to delve deeper into writing as the whole world was isolated from itself,
it seemed the perfect opportunity to isolate myself from it as well. Through endless poems about ill mental health and random musings of apparently boring days, I came slowly to the conclusion of how writing about negativity clears it from swilling around in the brain.

The more I wrote about issues that had been plaguing me in my state of rock bottom, the more I felt freed by them and able to talk openly about my mental health and bad feelings associated with it. This helped me to start writing about happier things, and I realised that writing about positive things allows for a greater appreciation of them. Through getting stuck into a hobby in the perfect moment where the whole world had to stand still, I found that a lot of thought was put into what made me the way I was in the first place, and after such a great deal of thought – which I otherwise had never had to think about, I stopped worrying about the things that didn’t matter and started, although it sounds cheesy, worrying more about myself and my own wellbeing.

So, during the year that never was, I can safely say that quite a lot happened – I’d managed to write over 150,000 words of creative writing in the form of poetry, blog writing, and novel work. I’m very happy to have found something that got me through such odd times, something that made me think deeper about what I was doing in my life. It really unshackled me having time to myself, and whilst there were times where I thought I desperately needed help, I was lucky enough to have found a healthy outlet in which I could help myself. I’ve learned that the negative thoughts that swill around in the brain can be tamed by writing about them and when more positivity is desired, write about that too as it seems to have the opposite effect of swilling them around after writing about them so that you think about them more.

If there’s anything I’ll stick by this year, it’s positivity and writing. It has allowed me to better my mental state, and as a result, my physical state. I have returned to my previous hobbies of walking/hiking, cooking, and baking, and am also meditating now as well. I urge people to write despite whether or not they think it a talent of theirs. I do hope everyone has learnt something through the perils of lockdown and that everyone can employ that in this upcoming year.

– Dominic Hillyer, Digital Student Ambassador

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