As it did for so many, the pandemic’s onset in March upended my experience of student life in London. I had to take some big decisions without much time to prepare. It’s been over three months now; for those who have acclimatised to this ‘new normal’ of wearing face masks and social distancing (even while visiting Primark!), my experience these past three months might resonate.
I struggled to deal with the lockdown. However, I wanted to share some strategies that worked for me, and some that didn’t (after all, we have to beware selection on the dependent variable), to celebrate the immense support I received from the Department of Social Policy and the end of a difficult summer term at LSE.
March 2020: While I was adjusting to the shock of the sudden lockdown, I needed to navigate the torrent of advice about how to manage time and be productive during the lockdown — as if ‘productivity’ were more pressing than the more immediate matter of managing confusion and anxiety. I steered away from all the unhelpful advice by shunning social media and spending time in my bed, watching Netflix, crying occasionally and examining the pattern of clouds movement from my window in Sidney Webb House. Some days I felt like an actress stuck in a sci-fi movie; on other days, I felt like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
April – June 2020: Life started to sink in, and my mood started to change. Friends and family reached out. A new passion for cooking spontaneously took hold, and I cooked and baked and cooked again until I finished the packets of tortellini and gnocchi in Sainsbury’s. Not long thereafter, I got bored… and then I got tired of cooking altogether. While I was amusing myself with my newfound cooking talent, I made peace with the new normal. I explored new hobbies such as Table Tennis and Pool and made new friends (which turned out to be a game-changer). Since the internet is still flooding with articles on how to survive lockdown, I am definitely not going to be preaching on that subject. But these simple steps worked best for me during lockdown:
Acknowledge > Accept > Plan > Action > Inspire
It took time to realise that I could not act sensibly until I acknowledged how much the situation around me was affecting me. I pretended to be strong for a long time but failed terribly. I jumped to planning without accepting the situation, and it failed. I initiated the process of retrospection through journaling and learnt to maintain democracy among the voices within me. This did help me in managing my actions and I started to mentor some youngsters through digital fellowship for making informed decision in career and leadership skills and inspire with the pieces of myself I managed to collect through the process of self-discovery and self-reflection. That eventually led to me having few days of balanced mentally well-being and peacefulness.
However, I shouldn’t take sole credit for how I managed the lockdown. I owe it to the immense support extended by the generous and kind professors and administrative team at the Department of Social Policy.
When news updates were filled with chaotic stories of global demise, the department’s carefully worded weekly update email became a comforting read. Those emails consolidated the important items for the students to know, and they added resources to help with not just work and exams, but most importantly the students’ anxieties. It was a huge source of comfort for me.
I remember calming conversations with Prof. David Lewis and Dr. Isabel Shutes about not only dissertation and exams, but also about this sudden U-turn of events in the world, its impact on our lives, and the next steps required to keep moving forward. Those honest and transparent conversations helped me not only to look beyond my problems but also encouraged me and reminded me of the value of self-care. Dr. Hakan Seckinelgin has been extremely patient and generous in extending academic and pastoral support to me: my conversations with him span everything from our mutual fascination with Indian languages to my excitement for colouring my hair in mahogany red. All the while, he shapes my dissertation ideas and pushes me gently to perform well. Conversations like these not only inspired me but, have also calmed me, which makes this year one of the best academic experiences of my life.
Lockdown has had its ups and downs. I chopped my own hair, which turned out to be a fascinating boon for my look. I had endearing calls with my younger sister, which kept me floating. I had virtual dinner dates with my husband, where he played my favourite soothing mellow songs from Metallica on his guitar making my evenings magical. But surprisingly, some of my favourite lockdown survival companions came from watching gripping lecture recording on important concepts like agency, power, identity, intersectionality, privilege, participation and conflict by the brilliant professors of the Department of Social Policy.
I’m fortunate to be a student of London School of Economics. More importantly, I’m extremely grateful to be shaped and transformed by the amazing faculty at Department of Social Policy. I’m yet to pull through the gigantic task of writing 10,000-word dissertation, but I’m confident I’m in good hands at the Department of Social Policy.
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Social Policy Blog, nor of the London School of Economics.
Thumbnail image: Cristina Estanislao for the United Nations Global Call Out to Creatives.