"The biggest battle for me was grappling with what felt like the weight of eternity..."Instagram/alexandra.filimon

So, has anyone else here memorised every detail of their time in Cambridge and replayed it a million times throughout lockdown? Anyone else at the point that they’ve developed a love-hate relationship with their unnecessarily detailed memory? Just me? In case you haven’t heard, someone decided to make 2020 based entirely off the 2011 movie ‘Contagion’, and it’s been half a year since we last left Cambridge. Six whole months.

Back then, leaving Cambridge was just waiting until my dad showed up to actually start packing up my entire room, accidentally hitting myself in the face with a picture frame as I carried it out to the car, and eagerly awaiting the much-needed 5 week break whilst reluctantly hugging my soon-to-be-distanced friends goodbye. Covid-19 was but a small pestering fly I was only just starting to notice, a minute ordeal that didn’t even stop me going out every night the final week of term.

Yet, suddenly, I found myself momentarily confused as I watched SpongeBob break national lockdown by leaving his house to go to work. I actually had to remind myself that I was watching a twenty-year-old cartoon show, and that sponges probably can’t contract the virus anyway.

“Of course, June came. But COVID stayed.”

At the start of lockdown I was pretty much trying to exist anywhere except the present; either I was locked away in the past attempting to recall every tiny conversation from first year, or I was dreaming of the future, thinking “Oh well, it’ll surely all be over by June, right?” Of course, June came. But COVID stayed.

Although peak lockdown brought with it endless news pieces and self-help columns, it’s still a tangled mess in my mind that I’m trying to sort out. Luckily for me, I started a diary during lockdown. Unfortunately for me, my diary is of the opinion that nothing should ever be said directly, so we must somehow infer how I was feeling from the short descriptions of my day-to-day life, the various poems I wrote to the spider on my blinds, and a lot of ‘abstract’ artwork. Perhaps this fragmented way of expressing myself demonstrates the impact of those empty days on my sanity.


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The biggest battle for me was grappling with what felt like the weight of eternity – a stark contrast to the blink-and-you-miss-it speed of term time. I found myself engaging in all sorts of weird behaviours to make the massive amount of time I was facing feel more digestible. I printed out calendars of each month from March to September, stuck it on my wardrobe, and crossed off each day as it passed like a cartoon prisoner. There was one day I remember staring at a clock for an entire hour.

It wasn’t until July when lockdown began lifting and I found myself sitting across the garden from my friends that I began to feel human again.

However, what really struck me after facing the eternity of lockdown was this new acute awareness I’d developed of my own presence in a way that only the intense prospect of death was able to achieve before – weirdly, every nice moment just began to feel a little sweeter. At first it was a good joke with a friend, then those box-mix cakes with expired sprinkles on top I made on a bored afternoon, and soon all it took was a pretty cloud. Perhaps I’d finally learnt how to identify when I’m happy in the moment itself, as opposed to within a nostalgic reflection months later.

“If there’s anything we can take away from lockdown, it’s most certainly that the present matters. ”

Somehow, March passed, eventually followed by the infinite April. Then May, June, July, August, and I guess now we’re here - in September. Michaelmas term is finally starting to feel real, and we are actually going back. I know it’ll be different but even the thought of existing outside my room felt completely out of the question for a while.

A showcase of Ellie's abstract artworks during lockdown

If there’s anything we can take away from lockdown, it’s most certainly that the present matters. Whether it’s an empty hour, or an afternoon walk, every second ticks a little slower now; but if there ever was anything we needed at Cambridge, it was time. Next term might find itself lacking in club nights, formals, or even staring at cute boys in lectures, but at least we’ll have some more time to process it while it’s happening, and in that sense be able to appreciate it all a bit more. Who knows, maybe we’ll keep up with those cool weird lockdown hobbies too (the banana bread kind, I mean).

I’m hoping that next term, as opposed to the usual light-speed rush of the Cambridge time zone, we’ll take our time - smell the roses - and let the moment linger for just a little longer. All I know is that I can’t wait to go back and see my friends again, so while we can’t pretend that we aren’t living in a world deafened by the buzz of Covid-19, we can at least finally enjoy each others’ (socially-distanced and small-grouped) company once more. And for now, I think that’s enough.

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