Although we’re only three months into lockdown, it already feels like a lifetime.
Since March 23, we’ve grown so used to the ‘new normal’ that it almost seems like our past lives never happened.
Our ‘work-from-home’ desks once neat and tidy are now cluttered. We step onto the road to avoid people on our daily walks, and we’ve grown accustomed to that one person who’s always got their mic muted on a Zoom call.
Under the restrictions, there’s undoubtedly been a lot of hardship. People have been separated from their friends and family. Some have lost jobs, others have lost loved ones.
The number of cases and deaths rise every day, serving as a daily reminder of the suffering that the virus has caused.
But as Wales prepares to ease restrictions, there are some who don’t want it to end just yet. For those people, lockdown has been a chance to clear their head, pursue passions or rediscover lost hobbies.
‘As an introvert, this has been a dream’
Ihsana Feldwick, 24, lives in Grangetown in Cardiff after moving six months ago with her partner.
Ihsana is of mixed heritage and has been a victim of racism on several occasions. Since lockdown, she’s been able to engage with the Black Lives Matter movement from home, which has been really important for her.
“I was born in Cambridgeshire, and am a mixed race girl of predominantly Bangladeshi, Jamaican, English and Portuguese heritage, and have never quite felt like I fit in any ‘box’.”
“The first time I’d ever questioned my skin tone or race was when I had moved to Cambridge from Luton, a hugely diverse city, aged ten. I was the only mixed race girl in the entire year, if not the entire school.
“I struggled to make friends and felt like an outsider, and I had experiences of when other kids would call me ‘poo coloured’. This was the catalyst which made me hate my skin colour for such a long time.”
When she was in year seven, Ihsana remembers walking to school and being racially abused by a man from the window of his car.
She also used to be followed home from school by a group of children who would spit at her and call her brother a member of ISIS.
“I used to end up going to a friends house for a few hours before I went home to avoid them, or resorted to wearing an oversized hoodie with my hood up in the hopes they wouldn’t bother me, or notice me.”
“Before the lockdown I was solely focused on just getting on with life, hence the move to Cardiff last year, but with quarantine, the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it has definitely given me time to reflect on my own experiences and made me want to do my best to help defeat racism, knowing how much of an issue it still is today.
“One of the books I’m reading has taught me a lot about apartheid, Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime: Short Stories From A South African Childhood.
“I have also spent a lot of my time posting videos which depict racism in today’s society, as well as petitions and links for people to educate themselves and donate to the movement and to those who need it. I just really hope that people listen.
“I have gotten into art again and started drawing digitally which has definitely unlocked a creative side of me that I now want to incorporate into my career and future job.
“The strange thing is that any routine has gone out the window and every day is different, with no real structure. Some days we won’t cook dinner. Other days we’ll incorporate a home work out or a walk along the Bay.
“Despite the sporadic-ness of our lives, we have made it work and have really enjoyed what we have coined our own stay-at-home ‘summer holiday’.”
Ihsana said the break has been good in other ways too.
“As an introvert, this has been a dream. Before the lockdown, I felt the stress of having to make sure that any time I booked off had to be spent with family back in England, and felt sad that I couldn’t spend my time off just relaxing with my partner.
“Now I feel as though because of all this time I’ve got to spend with him, I won’t feel as guilty going home.
“As a girl in her mid-twenties, there’s a lot of pressure on going out and nightlife and feeling like ‘we won’t be this young again’.
“Lockdown has been a nice excuse not to bend to those pressures, not to mention a massive money saver, which is crucial right now for me as I am unemployed.
“I don’t want to stay in the safe enclosure of my home, but for now it’s a comfort and I don’t feel as though I am ready for this ‘new normal’ and to start a whole new job, which I know will feel like an entirely different world.
“I know I can’t live like this forever, and I really do want to get my career back on the road, but for now I’m happy being in the happy and safe bubble of my home.”
‘I don’t remember the last time that I didn’t actually feel depressed before lockdown’
Michelle lives in Newport, and said the lockdown period has helped ease her mental health issues.
“It’s allowed me to spend more time training our puppy we got just before lockdown. It’s also allowed me the time to start improving, decorating and repairing our first house, which we moved into in October.
“I work in a fairly stressful job, and I no longer feel the anxiety I used to feel every evening after work or on Sunday evenings before work.
“I don’t feel the pressure to do everything that I want to do at all times now. I would constantly feel like I had to try to squeeze something meaningful out of every drop of my free time just to make myself feel better before the depression that I suffer around my work set back in again.
“My depression has improved so much – I don’t remember the last time that I didn’t actually feel depressed, before lockdown that is.
“I’ve worked in the same job since uni – just over three years now – and I had no idea how unwell I felt every day, because it became my normal feeling.
“Lockdown has given me perspective and distance. The pace of life has slowed right down and I feel more like I can enjoy and live life now, instead of just going through the motions and having life pass me by in a blur.”
Michelle said she understands the hurt felt by people separated from their friends and families, and that she keeps in touch with her family in England.
“I feel like I can actually experience a lot of things now, and get a lot of things done, rather than brushing everything off as I don’t have time.
“I don’t want lockdown to end, but I hope that when it does we don’t lose the perspective we have all gained and I hope we don’t just go back to putting our heads down in our work and missing out on our lives.”
‘I’ve turned my floristry hobby into a full-time gig’
Anita Mattson-Hesketh, 32, lives near Ely and has taken the chance to quit her job and follow her dream of starting a business.
“Lockdown has changed my life! I’ve turned my floristry hobby into a full time gig, quit my office job of seven years and gone self employed,” she said.
“Floristry has been a hobby of mine for a couple of years now. My family are really keen gardeners, and it was going to a course in a flower school with my sister who was interested at that time that made me keep it up afterwards.
“I’d been working in finance as a mortgage advisor in Barry most recently and doing qualifications in my spare time.”
“When lockdown happened I started doing bouquets for birthdays for people to buy and to keep busy, and it hasn’t stopped.
“I had pretty much gotten everything I could out of my old job, and when they announced it was reopening I had to decide between the two, and handed in my notice a couple of weeks ago.
“My manager was very understanding – this is something which now gives me a sustainable income and is a passion, you know.”
Anita said her business started through being contacted by people for birthday bouquets, and has gone from strength to strength.
“At first I thought lockdown would be like a sort of dry run, but it’s just gotten bigger. We do a lot of birthdays and have been dropping them outside the door, so there’s no contact involved.
“I’ve also started sending boxes through UPS, which has opened up so many doors for me. I send all over the UK, to London, Northern Ireland and Scotland. I’m doing about six to ten boxes a week currently, so it’s great.
“I had hoped it would be something I could do down the line, but not for another few years, but things have really pushed on since lockdown.
“I know it’s been hard for some people, but I don’t know what I’d have done otherwise. I’ve thrived.”
‘I needed to press pause on normal life’
Sophie James, 27, lives in Cardiff Bay and has been unemployed since lockdown.
At the time, she had been working in retail and had began suffering ill health just before restrictions came into effect.
“As much as it’s awful how people have been affected and not something I would have wished to happen, personally it’s been quite good timing for me. I was getting quite ill and needed to take time out from working anyway.
“It’s sort of strange that the world came to a stop almost at the same time I did.
“I got a bit overworked and suffering from some problems with mental health. I felt I needed a break and then it happened for the whole world.
“It had gotten to the point where I didn’t know whether I was quitting or not anyway, but when I got ill and lockdown happened I gave in my notice, as I realised I needed this time to get my health sorted and press pause on normal life almost.”
“It’s allowed me to work on my mental health, get back into my hobbies and do things that aren’t just work.”
“I have asthma so I’ve been staying inside pretty much all the time. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing, drawing and painting. I studied art at uni so I’ve been getting back into that, which I haven’t really done since leaving.”
Sophie said lockdown has even improved her communication with friends and family.
“I’ve been talking to lots of people I hadn’t spoken to in a while, friends from uni that I moved away from and naturally stopped talking to as much.
“My family live in different parts of England and we FaceTimed every now and then [before lockdown], but since lockdown we’ve been doing group quizzes two or three times a week with my grandmother who lives alone, which has been really nice.”
“There’s been a lot of sitting down and working out what I do and don’t want, working out a whole new career idea, planning to learn to drive, because I’ve actually had the time.
“I’ve been keeping a bullet journal, working out a healthier diet, decorating – things I knew I needed to do but never had the time.
“I’ve got three rabbits as well which I’ve been taking more time to bond with, which is really nice!”
She added that she felt lockdown had given people a better perspective of the anxiety that exists with socialising generally.
“I’m quite an introvert and wasn’t really socialising much anyway, and part of it’s been good because I think people understand a lot more what my brain has been going through.
“People being stuck inside and scared to go out – that was my general life before lockdown.
“It’s not always been good, but at the moment I’m not wanting to lockdown to end. I think suddenly being thrown back into normal life is going to be quite stressful – it will be an adjustment.”