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Unexpected friends, the joy of being single and checking my white privilege

This article explores the changes that Elizabeth Greatrex has been going through during the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic. With so much time alone, it has given her time to reflect on many different subjects such as her single status, her friends, and her white privilege.


Around six months ago, I interviewed an astrologer who also did a reading for me. She informed me that this year was going to be full of challenges, but that I would come out the other side much stronger and better equipped for the future. I wasn’t phased by this in the slightest. I assumed that those challenges would consist of drinking too much on a night out and embarrassing myself, meeting the wrong guy for a brief period, or not doing so well at work one week. But never did I think for one moment that my world would be rocked in the way that it has during the last couple of months.

In the short amount of time that the United Kingdom has been in lockdown I’ve endured some of the most life-altering experiences that a person can go through. I lost my father at the start of April after a very long battle with a horrible illness, and also my uncle on my mother’s side very unexpectedly a few weeks before. My family and I have had to go through the process of grieving without being able to hold each other. I’ve barely been able to see my friends, or do simple things that bring a sense of normality to my day-to-day life. Simple things that can allow me to forget.

Yes, It’s all been very surreal and at times extremely traumatising. Not only have I felt the pain of my own losses but also of the many, many lives lost during the pandemic. Yet, I still believe with great certainty that I have learned more about myself and humanity as a whole in this short space of time than I could have done over a number of years in my normal life. Lockdown has been many things, but for me, (warning, cliché coming) it has been a ‘journey’, if you will. I began to look at myself and my life in a much deeper way than I ever would have had time to during my normal schedule. Living in London especially, life is extremely fast-paced.

Weekdays would equal waking up, grabbing any food in a hurry, commuting in a rush, working hard, seeing dad if I could manage it, coming home and crashing out. While weekends would consist of visiting dad, seeing family, hanging out with my friends, going to the pub, sleeping off a hangover, watching Netflix or ordering junk food. But when most of these normalities were taken away with almost instant effect, and I was forced to considerably slow down the pace – what was I left with?

Well…I was left with myself. For the majority of lockdown I have been on furlough, and because my mum has still had to go out to work, most of the time it has been just me and daisy (my cat) twiddling our thumbs (or paws) at home. I’ve had so much time with my own thoughts that once I got bored with Tiger King, Friends, and re-watching 90210, I started to re-evaluate what actually matters and the way I want to live my life going forwards. Here are some of the significant things that have happened to me.

I started to genuinely thrive in being alone and being single.

 A close friend of mine once said to me that she’s never really known me being single. And by that she meant that there’s never really been a considerable amount of time where I haven’t either had a boyfriend, been seeing someone, or at least speaking to someone with romantic intentions. I was weirdly shocked by this revelation because I’d never really thought about it myself.

I think without meaning to, I’ve always subconsciously wondered when the next person is coming along or behaved in a way that seeks validation. I was almost saddened when I realised that I don’t think I’ve ever felt 100% whole or happy just flying solo. Or that any work I’d done on myself had gone straight out of the window once I’d met someone new. Being in isolation, I was of course, forced to be alone.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, but I then decided to embrace it. I started to listen to podcasts and read books about the power of being single and the strength and independence it can give you once you learn to sit in the uncomfortable feeling of being truly alone. (Shout out to Caggie Dunlop’s podcast, Saturn Returns – it’s amazing). This is not to slate relationships or criticise those in them, because being in a relationship can of course, be wonderful if it’s the right person.

I believe that a lot of people fall into the wrong relationships or enter into flings purely because they want to be loved, so they settle for crumbs when what they really deserve is the cake. (I learned this fantastic metaphor from the wonderful feminist, activist, artist and writer, Florence Given, and her book, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty).

I could go on forever about this subject, but I now know one thing for sure. Working on being happy by yourself and with yourself as a person, is probably one of the hardest, but most important lessons you’ll learn in your life. They don’t teach you how to do it at school, your parents don’t prepare you for it, but once you’ve cracked it, the world is your oyster.

Unexpected friends walked into my life

Let me make this clear, I don’t mean in person. Of course, it was through my phone and social media, but even so, I was really surprised at some of the people that have chosen to be there for me in the past few months. The day my dad passed away I was flooded with messages, calls and emails. Many of the most lovely messages were actually from people that I never thought I’d see or speak to again, people from the past.

While a few of the people who I hadexpected to say something, opted to stay completely silent. This taught me something pretty remarkable;

that people can surprise you in ways that you never could have anticipated, and that often we misjudge others terribly.

These individuals that I had disconnected with, or in some cases fallen out with, were actually some of the most kind-hearted people in the world. I started to re-connect with them because I appreciated that through their own selflessness and good nature, they had decided to pick me up when I was down. I learned extremely valuable lessons from these individuals, had entertaining conversations, and reminisced on some of the good times. And it made me contemplate the fact that when it comes down to it, we are all only human and we all go through pain. We can all relate in one way or another, and use our experiences to help someone else to heal. We are collectively going through an unimaginable situation, and we are all constantly learning and changing.

I began to fully understand and check my white privilege

This is a subject I’m nervous to speak about because in no way, shape or form do I want to offend anyone, say the wrong thing or come across like I’m preaching, as I’m only starting to get a grasp on this very dense topic and what I say here is only really scratching the surface. I’ve often stayed away from difficult or uncomfortable conversations because I hate confrontation. And I’ve been able to, very easily in fact, as racism is a subject that I could afford to avoid or not pay as much attention to. But I’ve realised that it’s drastically important that every single one of us has these conversations, even if they are uncomfortable because these are people’s lives that we are talking about.

In far too many circumstances it has quite literally come down to life or death. I am always willing to listen, be silent, and educate myself because I know relatively little on this matter, and I will always have more knowledge to gain. However, what I do know, is that for most of my life I don’t think I’ve ever been fully conscious of the amount of privilege I have, simply in being white. I have now become fully aware that it is because of my white privilege that I have never even had to contemplate being in many, many situations that others have.

I’ve never been targeted by police, accused of stealing, or thrown out of a shop, simply because of the colour of my skin. I’ve never worried about being turned away by an employer or having to defend myself against a comment, and even explain why that comment is offensive to those who are oblivious, simply because of the colour of my skin. I have never feared for my life, simply because of the colour of my skin. I have never been in any of those situations, and I never will. And it is incomprehensible that that is the brutal reality of everyday life for POC.

Even though I have these built-in advantages and racial discrimination will never be an issue I will have to face, I can honestly say that although the lessons I have learned in the past few weeks are just the start for me, they are ones that will stay with me forever. I will actively use them in the conversations that I have with those around me, in the way that I carry myself, and in the manner that I go about my life with.

Sitting here in my garden on a tranquil, sunny afternoon, daisy asleep in my lap, my mind drifts to what life will be like after lockdown. I realise that during this time something has just clicked and that things won’t ever go back to the way they were. Why? Because things have changed. Not just for me, but the entire planet. Part of me believes that this pandemic was no mistake. It happened for a reason.

We needed this lockdown because the human race needed to change. Too often fuelled by selfishness, greed, and a lack of responsibility, humans have finally been given a taste of their own medicine. Despite all the challenges we’ve been faced with on an individual level and as a collective, I look to the future with hope. Hope that we will all choose to do better because, frankly, we are all really lucky to still be here.

 

 

 


Photoy by Austris Augusts on Unsplash