Words by Elena Havenga
So, there’s a global pandemic going on. You’re back in your childhood bedroom with just the family pet for company. All your university friends live hundreds of miles away. Oh, and you’ve just been dumped. Life seems like it can’t get any more hopeless as a single 22 year old grad-to-be. There seems to be nothing that summons your loneliness quite like having every hour of every day to dwell on what went so very wrong.
At the same time, it was exactly what I needed. At the start of lockdown, I would spend my days in blissful denial, eagerly checking the news to see when the virus panic would blow over and I could head back up to Nottingham. I was so obsessed with keeping myself distracted with the thought of resuming my normal student lifestyle and getting to enjoy the few perks of being single. For a while, it worked. Then, weeks turned into months and I reluctantly had to face the bitter reality: things were not getting better any time soon and I was a mess emotionally. I dove head-first into any hobby I saw on Instagram (anything but finishing my uni work, of course), baked far too much banana bread and enjoyed sweet denial until one day, I could not stop crying. That was the day I realised I had to lay it all out on the table and reflect on the breakup, being newly single and graduate life in general.
I started with my feelings of isolation, which were pretty overwhelming at times: I live completely in the middle of nowhere and rely on my parents for transport still. Even going for a socially-distanced evening drink in someone’s garden needed to be confirmed 3-5 business days in advance, so sometimes I would just not bother asking. I missed my freedom and carefree life at university unbearably. There, I could do things like leave the house for a walk without disclosing my plans and not get a telling off for letting my shepherd’s pie go cold. Basically, I felt like a fully-grown bird that had already flown the nest and then suddenly been thrown into a cage. On the bright side, modern technology was there to save me, and meant that my university mates and I could engage in silly quizzes and games as well as support each other emotionally.
It was, in fact, these friends who ignited my interest in the possibility of romance again. About three months into lockdown, one of them suggested a dating app; at first, I was naturally horrified. I had endured two weeks of this ordeal as soon as my relationship ended in January, but I was pretty scarred after that experience of cringey pickup lines and six pack pictures, frankly. I mulled it over for a day or so, then gave in after a couple of wines with a friend. A week passed, and after swiping through what seemed to be the whole male population of Nottingham under 25 and bearing horrendously dull chat, I found someone. We started chatting and found an instant connection. The only downside? He doesn’t live in Nottingham. Nonetheless, we have had quite a few FaceTime dates since then and are enjoying talking to each other by any means possible. The FaceTime date is quite a mystifying affair in a lot of ways: there you are, talking to that real person, but you can’t quite fully figure out whether they would behave the same in real life on a real date. Still, well worth giving a go (if you have adequate Wi-Fi or extreme patience).
I would also say to anyone interested in finding a spark during this crisis that it should be for the right reasons. I say that because one of my biggest fears before trying it was that some people on these apps might have been just bored, lonely, and looking for someone to help them pass the time. Then, once things settled, they’d go full ghost mode and leave you and your poor heart wondering what you did wrong. That said, there will, of course, be people like me out there who used lockdown for true introspective purposes and decided they were looking for something meaningful. I really had a lot of time to consider whether I was ready to date again too. Just think deeply about what your reasons are.
Overall, lockdown has really been a blessing in disguise in terms of my personal growth. If it had not been for these past few months to just sit and reflect on things in my own time, I would have continued living life at university at full pace and most likely would have jumped at any opportunity not to be single anymore (not healthy). It’s also given me the opportunity to review my career options, as I had absolutely no idea for most of final year. I hope that my experiences can serve as an example of a silver lining for some people. Things happen for a reason sometimes.