Karita, 29, Finnish, currently in Manchester (UK) – Live: From The Pandemic

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How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

I was in Finland visiting my mother for her birthday, when the situation over there became hectic. The small town that I’m from had their first case of COVID-19 on the day that I arrived and the panic was instant. All of the restrictions that were put in place led to my mother having to self-isolate for 14 days and to cancel her 60th birthday celebrations, because she had been in contact with me, someone who had just come from abroad and therefore was considered a risk, a possible virus carrier. I felt bad for ruining her birthday, but I felt even worse when I realised that it could be true; there was a chance that I had caught the virus from the plane, airport or Manchester, and brought it over to my mother. I felt guilty and stupid for travelling and the anxiety hit hard.

Finnish people seemed to react to the pandemic in a serious and orderly manner, right from the start. The motto over there was “it’s better to overreact than not react at all”, which quickly became my motto as well. While I was there, Finland made the decision to close the borders. That became one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. The airlines were cancelling hundreds of flights every day and I had absolutely no idea if my flight back to the UK was going to take off. I was in a situation I never thought I’d be in: the country was closing its borders, and I just had to get out. I had to get back home.

On the day when the borders were closed, I went to the airport and was able to catch a flight out. But I was angry when I got back to the UK. I felt like Finland was taking action and it was over there that I had truly realised how serious the situation was and how crucial it was to act. Back in Manchester, the people just didn’t seem to get it. UK’s response seemed very slow to me. When the country finally took action, it went instantly from 0 to 100, when the lockdown started.

Now, it’s been almost three weeks since the lockdown began. I consider myself extremely lucky and I feel guilty and grateful about it at the same time, which is an odd mix.

My friends and family are safe, both in Finland and in UK, and we are actually staying in touch more than usual, which is wonderful. Of course, I worry about my loved ones, especially those who don’t live in the same country as me, as there is no way for me to be with them if something goes wrong.

I’m “locked in” with my fiancé and my two rescue kittens. Although the apartment is tiny, it has everything we need. My fiancé and I usually work with very different schedules, so during the past 6 years that we have been together, this is the first time that we have been able to spend days together, without the pressure of doing something or going somewhere. I’ve heard about couples who have found out that they don’t really get along with each other when forced to stay in the same space for an extended period of time during the lockdown. The positive thing that this lockdown has given me, has been the confirmation that we can spend all of our time together, doing stuff or doing nothing at all, without getting sick of each other.

In a way, I’m lucky to be an introvert during this time. Staying inside, doing my own little projects or just daydreaming for hours, is exactly what I’d love to be doing at all times anyway. I feel very guilty for enjoying the lockdown, as I’m constantly aware that many people are not in the same position that I am. I’m not sure how well I’d handle this situation if I lived by myself, or even worse, if I lived with someone who I didn’t get along with. And then there are people out there working hard in the hospitals helping those who are sick. I feel anxious as I wish I could do more for people around me, but I lack the skills to be of any real use. I keep reading the news in an obsessive manner, and feel pain reading about people who have lost their lives or loved ones for this pandemic. It’s a vicious cycle, as reading the news makes me feel anxious, which then makes me want to concentrate on something creative and when I feel relaxed again, I feel guilty and open the news website again. Get anxious, relax, get guilty, repeat.

I’m a person who always has 10 projects going on that I’m never going to finish. I tell myself it’s because I don’t have the time. Well, now I do. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to finish any of it. All of a sudden, there’s a lot of pressure for everyone to finish their projects, to do stuff they’ve never had a chance to do before (at home of course), to learn new skills, to discover themselves. Social media is forcing everyone to think that if you’re not reading, writing, exercising, baking, painting, watching, learning, cleaning and filling your lockdown days with endless action, you’re lazy and you’re a failure. I think that’s wrong. The world is going through a shared trauma and people react to it in different ways. Nobody has been through this before, therefore there is no one right way of coping with it.

I feel the pressure too, I constantly find myself thinking that I should use this time in lockdown better, and not just sit here, on the sofa, binge watching tv shows I’ve seen too many times. I try to tell myself that at this moment, it is ok to just do what feels comfortable, even if it just lying on the floor with my cats, playing a game on my phone. You don’t have to constantly be developing yourself. That being said, I have taken on online courses, but only the ones that seem like the most fun and interesting to me. I’m staying away from things that I should be doing, if these were normal times, and doing things that I just want to do, for no reason whatsoever. The lockdown is not a competition, you don’t have to come out of it as a better person than you were before it. Everyone has just one job and that is to stay inside, stay safe and keep others safe. I think it’s ok to do just that.
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What is your wish for the future? 

I wish for the people I love and care about to come out of this alive and healthy. That’s all I need.
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What would you like to be doing right now?  

I’d hug all the people that I love and miss. I’d spend as much time as I can with my loved ones. And then I’d travel.

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.

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