Pandemic life: "Let’s be honest about what we’ve experienced"

Sussex student Jenny Bathurst has been writing for us about pandemic life since lockdown began back in March last year.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 6:05 am
Jenny Bathurst

The pandemic robbed her of the chance to sit A levels. But she ended up with three As and is now studying journalism at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne campus).

Here is her latest contribution.

"After over five months of waiting with bated breath to return to university, the time finally arrived last Saturday. That all familiar feeling of cramming my belongings in my parents’ car and setting off along the south coast felt strangely nerve-wracking, despite the fact that I will be doing the exact same in just six weeks except in the opposite direction to journey home. Knowing that this will be the first and last time I will be living in student halls is a sensation of joy and disappointment: I don’t think many crave the encounter of banging doors at 3:00am and dirty kitchens, but the knowledge that I have missed almost half a year of this significant part of the university experience carries its own frustrations. Returning to familiar faces and the beauty of Eastbourne seafront of course makes up for the months that have passed, but it too resembles just another part of our lives that the coronavirus pandemic has snatched away from us.

"A trope I have consistently noticed throughout the past fourteen months has been the care taken when discussing how the pandemic has affected our lives. If you sound too grateful for its positive influence then you’re automatically considered grateful for the suffering that has simultaneously ensued, but if you complain and moan about how it has negatively impacted your life then you are met with comments that we should ‘search for the positives’ and be grateful to have come out the other side unscathed.

"I find that this is not just the case concerning the coronavirus, but in many areas of our lives. If we complain that we only slept for five hours there is sure to be somebody who only got four, and if we say we’re struggling with our workload there is bound to be a colleague or peer who has double the work plus one hundred projects on the side. There seems to always be a competition and constant battle to remain grateful and uncomplaining: if you’re particularly happy you should consider those aren’t, and if you have it bad, there’s someone who has it worse. I have so often found it challenging to achieve this balance. In the middle of exam season there is yet another balance to meet. Studying hard and voicing this is perceived as bragging but admitting that you’ve revised very little deems you lazy and ungrateful for our education.

"It is, of course, never okay to brag, especially if it belittles another individual. It is also not okay to grumble and whine about every area of our lives and not recognise the privileges we have. But monitoring and panicking over how we voice our emotions and thoughts can be extremely destructive. Studying to be a journalist, I’m learning that the care I take when I construct a news story or interview an individual is critical to my career, but this isn’t the case in my every day. Providing we’re careful not to insult ourselves or others, let’s be honest about what we’ve experienced and how this has impacted our lives. Because nit-picking everything somebody else says – it’s exhausting."