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No second chance at life…

Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo


With the new coronavirus cases on the rise and the much-dreaded second wave of the pandemic now more of a reality than we thought it would ever be, around the world, there is trepidation that a second lockdown might be looming. At knife’s edge, we wait, fearing for lives and livelihoods.

A friend and I were speaking of the impending threat of a second lockdown. Having been caught short the first time around, she was determined. “This time, we won’t miss the opportunity to use the time well,” she announced.

“We will start working out, we will find new hobbies…” she rattled on. Having had a few Zoom calls with her at the start of the lockdown, and seen her panic at the thought of being stuck at home, with two teens out of school, I had seen first-hand how, as an extravert, with a fairly active social life, she just didn’t cope well for the first few weeks. Then, as weeks went on, with her working part-time, her husband out of work and the kids out of school, they fell into some sort of a routine – her waking up to start working at the designated ‘home office’ which was the dining table, and the rest of the family waking up early afternoon and staying up well into the early hours of the next day.

It was a routine after all, but not an ideal one for her. Trying to get on with work on little sleep, still having to look after the family and a husband full-time at home, by our third Zoom call she was on the verge of a meltdown.

While she was merely surviving, there were also those thriving. A friend would wake up at 6:00am to go for a jog, get on with the rest of working from home and home schooling, taking a break at lunch for a walk around the estate, Zoom happy hour after work, settling down with a good book or Netflix with a glass of wine, because drinking on a week evening was no longer an issue when there was no longer a commute to work the next day. A cousin took up baking, daily outdoing herself. Others took on a new hobby, or a new project.

As for me, I was the happy medium. Keen to pursue a long-held interest in counselling, I took an online course to work towards a certificate. While I never got around to having the spring clean I was hoping to do, saving almost two hours daily on my commute and getting ready for work, I put in that time to walking and cycling more – even exercising first thing in the morning – admittedly, only living room floor but that’s a huge step for someone who is not a morning person, and who normally wouldn’t sacrifice sleep for exercise. I read a few more books than I normally would have and joined a local book club. I didn’t exactly thrive but I know I did more than survive.

With my friend’s proclamation, I thought back to March, the start of lockdown and asked if I’d do anything differently. Truthfully, the answer is no. It also took me by surprise to listen to my friend list what she would do differently this time. Doubtless, there must be hundreds of thousands of people who are having similar thoughts, desperate not to get caught short the second time around. This begs the question: Is the first day of a potential second lockdown the new 1 January, filled with immense potential, laden with the promises of all the lockdown resolutions we’ll be making?

The trouble is, there may be a second lockdown – a bit like a do-over for those who felt the first one passed them by unfulfilled – but there is no second life. This is not a dress rehearsal. Lockdown or life, I am a fan of pursuing all those dreams and opportunities when you can, as much as you can, rather than wait for the most opportune moment, which may never come.

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