For many, 2020 has meant putting dreams on hold. (Photo: Pixabay)

Coronavirus: My lost year

At the beginning of 2020, my list of goals for the year was set in stone; have enough in my savings for a house deposit, land another internship, travel more, say yes to trying new things. 2020 was going to be my year.

Then the world stopped. Coronavirus put locks on our doors and taunted us into hiding.

While the Productivity Police try to tell us how we should be spending our time in isolation, I’ve become the star in my very own Groundhog Day.

Indi Brummelen

Like most people, this sudden change of lifestyle caught me off guard. I was well- adapted to the hubbub of life; I was desperately trying to make time for everything, juggling university and two jobs, all while trying to squeeze social activities in whenever I had a spare hour or two.

Time to myself, was a foreign concept.

I was constantly wishing that time would slow down just enough for me to have more of it.

Now that this pandemic has wormed its way into every aspect of our lives, we have more time than we could have hoped for. I can finally crack open the books piled on my nightstand and delve into that Netflix series my girlfriends have been talking about for weeks. I should be ecstatic, right?

Well, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

As weeks in lockdown turn into months, I’ve found this abundance of time just as much a tormentor as the virus itself. It sucked all motivation from my body and enveloped me in a shroud of guilt as I watched my year’s successes slip far out of reach.

Shame gurgles in my stomach when I open social media, only to see it inundated with articles, insisting that, yes, you can turn your side hustle into a thriving business during lockdown! or posts reminding me that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while sheltering from the bubonic plague.

These facts are intended to motivate us, but they bear an inherent judgement: Now’s the time to get sh*t done; are you rising to the challenge?

Earlier this month, journalist and author Anne Helen Peterson explained to The New York Times that this impulse to optimise every minute of our lives is especially common in millennials.

“We’re so used to making every moment of ours productive in some capacity,” she said.

“Like, I’m on a walk, I should listen to this information podcast that makes me more informed or a better person… I think for millennials, our brains are particularly broken in terms of productivity … either you give up or feel bad about it all the time.”

While the Productivity Police try to tell us how we should be spending our time in isolation, I’ve become the star in my very own Groundhog Day; I wake up at noon and inhale whatever I can find in the pantry (chocolate chips, anyone?). Wander aimlessly from one room to another before I finally scrounge up enough energy to go for a walk. Spend an hour or two making a mental list of things I should do, then another hour beating myself up because I’ve failed to achieve anything. Soon enough it’s midnight and the clock resets with a pang of remorse.

I know I’m not alone. Every so often my phone will ping with a frantic message from a friend, confiding in me a list of things they should have done that day instead of the very little that they did manage to achieve.

When did we become so obsessed with being productive 24/7, that we punish ourselves for even taking a minute to breath?

The “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” mentality we’ve adopted when thinking back on each day in isolation is doing nothing for our mental health. If anything, it’s just causing more unease in what is already a stressful, helpless time.

Like psychotherapist Dana Dorfman told The Washington Post, “there’s no ‘right way’ [to get through this], other than allowing yourself to be your own way.”

So, instead of waving a tearful goodbye to my goals for 2020, I put them on pause because this pandemic won’t last forever, and allow myself one to-do for the time being: survive.

I remind myself that it’s okay if the most productive thing I do today is put on a pair of pants. I won’t force myself to finish a 1000-piece puzzle or participate in every virtual pilates class that pops up on Facebook. I’m not perfect, but I know I’ll eventually learn to forgive myself for sitting down with a glass of wine and Netflix instead of writing the next King Lear.

For now, getting through each day is enough for me, and I hope it can be enough for you, too.