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How were we ‘all in this together’ when we were, in fact, all alone?

January 19th, 2022 11:55 AM

By Southern Star Team

Student Maeve Kingston says that swimming created ‘a peaceful solace’ from whatever she was feeling on land. (Photo: Seamus Ó Suilleabháin)

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Skibbereen student Maeve Kingston shares her hopes and fears for 2022, given the very tough times herself and her teenage peers have experienced since March 2020

Alright, 2021, a year to forget? Or remember?

It really depends on which way you look at it.

For me these past two years were the best and the worst years I can remember in my short life. (Is 17 years short?!)

Let’s go back to 2020, it was March, life was good, I was just going about my life. I feel now as if I had no worries then, but I definitely did, just way less important than the ones I do now!

My mental health was in decent shape and I had great friends, masks were non-existent.

It’s funny – I can even remember me talking to my dad about my future travel plans.

I wanted to go to Japan and one of my top worries was the masks they were wearing even then – I was not about to wear a mask, are you kidding? It’s almost laughable now to look back at my naivety.

Then, word started online that some weird virus was going around in another country. That’s a bit weird right? Nothing to do with me.

Then a few days later the rumours got louder and louder, and suddenly it was all anyone could talk about. It seemed surreal.

I still remember where I was – driving home from what would be my last in-person therapy session in about a year, when Leo Varadkar gave his apocalyptic speech about lockdown. Within two whole weeks, my life was over, it seemed.

I was more than upset, I was scared, anxious, terrified of this unknown that felt like it had been thrown in our faces.

The sense of ‘being together in all of this’ started off as a good phrase, maybe we’d all come together and get through this?

The mantra was heart-warming at first. But I got sick of it after day three. How can we be together if I can’t see any of my friends, if I’m alone? Looking back I believe that if the coronavirus didn’t happen, I would be much further on in my personal growth, and I’m not ashamed to say that.

Lockdown really made me retreat into my head and I started to believe every little thing it said – not a good idea. Being social and having people around me to support me through dark days helps so much, and I can see now the effect lockdown had on me and I’m sure on a lot of teens my age.

Fast forward a few months and I did my Junior Cert online. It was the weirdest thing – I had put so much effort, I felt, into this ‘huge ordeal’ and now I just clicked a few buttons and it was done! It was the only viable option, I know, but definitely surreal.

What started as two weeks turned into two months, then three, then four, and soon I began to not have social cues at all. But, thankfully, I had great family supports and a therapist to guide me as best as they could.

I think everybody should go to therapy, as privileged as it sounds, but I’m not going to lie – isolation, at least for me, was not a buzz.

Buying things became a daily occurrence.

I read somewhere that constant stress-shopping is a sign of loneliness. You could say I was buying a lot of material goods to feel a bit normal.

Sustainability is a huge thing in my life and it made me upset knowing I was being wasteful and buying things I didn’t even need.

Fast forward a year and through good amounts of therapy, and the slow easing of restrictions allowing me to see my friends again, I decided I needed something to ease the stress of re-introducing myself into society fully.

My mom asked me one day this summer past ‘wanna go for a swim?’ and I did. Big mistake, mom, I haven’t missed a day!

Swimming created a peaceful solace from whatever I was feeling on land. I used to be one of those people who talks so much about swimming and its benefits – annoying right? However, hear me out, I genuinely don’t know where I would be without it, I tried several spots but settled on my favourite, Lough Hyne.

I would go in feeling crappy and come out energised and positive about my life. It really was a game changer for me. I decided to try more new things after that and in the last few months I joined a band, started learning guitar and overall tried to better myself.

I’m still on that journey. I have bad days that sometimes turn into weeks, but friends and family, along with help from my therapist, and swimming every day, have really made me think life was worth living again.

My hopes and aspirations for this year are to keep swimming, try something new to improve my quality of life, and stop listening to the bad thoughts I have – and focus on the good my life has.

Here’s to another year, hopefully of self-love and self-actualisation. The mantra that helps me is ‘everything that is meant for me, will simply find me.’

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