After almost 9 weeks of the UK being closed down it seems like a lot of us are coming dangerously close to breaking point. The novelty of working in pajamas, zoom quiz nights, wine Wednesday, Thursday and almost every other day is starting to wear off. There’s only so many times you can rearrange the furniture and there’s only so many banana breads you can bake. Where do we go from here?
What does our future ‘normal’ look like? Will we rejoice in the streets, hug our friends, shed tears of happiness as children play, grandparents come outside and parents finally exhale. We are all holding on to the somewhat fantasy idea that Boris will appear on our TV’s, announcing ‘WAR IS OVER’ and we will rush to our front doors, breathe in the freedom and proudly applaud our national heroes for bringing us to victory. The knowledge that this is not forever is what we all hold on to. We talk of ‘normal’ as a state we so desperately want to return to. Our individual normal and our national normal. We want to sit in pub gardens, laugh with coworkers, jet off to Spain and walk into Sainburys without having to queue. Your ‘normal’ may have been perfect but our normal wasn’t. Normal is not what we should be striving for. Change is.
We talk of COVID-19 as the fearless, almighty enemy that we must defeat and our Key workers as brave, noble heroes who battle this evil everyday to win our freedom. This is a war. Different in many ways from the tales shared by our grandparents but the same in so many others. In part, Britain has shown the same comradery and patriotism that got us through the first two wars. And in many ways we have not. But for all those who have fought, and united and done their part to get us through this, will they get their VE day and their overdue appreciation they have been repeatedly promised?
Every Thursday we clap our NHS workers, well up a little and promise to never take them for granted again, as well as our teachers, our bin men and supermarket workers. We draw rainbows to stick in our windows, we run 5, nominate 5, donate 5, we buy NHS t-shirts and flags and wear them proudly, dubbing it the main asset of our country. But lest we forget that only months ago we were at risk of losing it. Where were the rainbows then?
As Brits we are very good at putting on our rose tinted glasses. Which is the nice way of putting it. We very promptly forget about past struggles, those which we do choose to remember we rewrite with our own harmonious spin. Teaching has always been one of the lowest paid professions, school funding being the budget that is most regularly cut. Yet now our country is struggling to stay afloat with a lack of structure, teaching and nurturing for our children. And teachers are still working tirelessly to provide learning from a far as well as burdening the added pressure of their own families and inevitable worries this pandemic has brought with it. Will the future of our education system change? Or will we put on our glasses and claim that teachers have always been appreciated and valued, what’s there to change?
This is a war. Different in many ways from the tales shared by our grandparents but the same in so many others.
Even amidst all this madness people talk of a brighter future. A future where we never again take anything or anyone for granted, a future where we united as a nation, a fully funded, fully functional NHS. We will be fitter, better bakers, our houses will be spotless and our cupboards organised. Our kids will be resilient and creative, parents more patient and adaptive. Our friendships will be stronger and our communication better. We’ll be able to headstand and knit, cut hair and play instruments. We’ll be multilingual, well read and all have wonderful tans. In this idealistic future we will look back with our rose tinted glasses and remember only the good. We’ll thank the government for keeping us safe, for protecting our NHS and leading us so courageously into battle and out the other side.
I don’t dispute the glasses. Sometimes the only way to get through past pain is to remember it with a rosy glow. To revel in the good, the lessons and the slightly fictional tales of mass heroism and greatness. But the problems come when we let the glasses stop us from creating change. If we only remember the triumphs we cannot learn from our failures. And there have been many.
Let us not ignore the fact that the planet is healthier than it’s been in years because humans have finally yet unwillingly backed off.
Patriotism is great, morale is great, the rainbows and the applause is all wonderful and is what has and continues to keep us all going. But when this is all over we need to shine a light on more than just the rainbows. We need to shine a light on the dark, unquestioned flaws that have risen to the surface. I admire the grace and positivity of Britain, I admire how we can remain strong in the face of adversity. But now it’s time to show our weaknesses. To take the glasses off and let the history speak it’s truth.
There is an end to this, although it probably won’t involve rejoicing in the street. Unlike the battles fought before, we will reach the end slowly, gradually and without getting to really breathe in the freedom in one defining moment. But we shouldn’t let the gradual ending discredit and erase all the lessons we have learnt. Slowly but surely things will go back to some kind of normal. Let’s not let that be the same normal as before. Just because the applauding stops it doesn’t mean the appreciation has to. We say we’ve learnt what really matters, we say we’ve had our eyes opened, well lets keep them open. Let us show more kindness and more appreciation to the people so often forgotten and overlooked. Let us not overuse and abuse our NHS. Let us not vote carelessly and selfishly or forget to vote at all. Let us not ignore the fact that the planet is healthier than it’s been in years because humans have finally yet unwillingly backed off. Let us be the change we wish to see in the world.
Where do we go from here? Hopefully not back to normal. If any good comes from this let it be realising our failures. Past and present. Take off the glasses and accept that change is very much needed and well overdue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Georgie Parkin
Georgie Parkin is a writer and women’s advocate based in Bath, UK. She is fascinated by relationships, modern dating, love and the odd bit of politics. Having graduated from Royal Holloway University London with a BA in Drama and Creative Writing, she took the seas, working as an HR officer on cruise ships around the world. Georgie has been writing personal blogs for years and has been published in several online publications. For the last six months, she’s been working on her own online magazine called Dear Females – keep your eye out for it! The website will explore everything from dating to love to adulting and navigating the world as a millennial woman.