The damaging monotony of daily life is inescapable in the current climate. The news — as it rightly should — focuses on the political struggles of the pandemic. It explores the collapsing economy, the heart-breaking death toll, and the government’s ineptitude. But it neglects to discuss the personal perils that lockdown has introduced. This dictates that social jargon be reduced to economic and political discussions relating to coronavirus. And so, the isolating feeling of ineptitude is exacerbated, as society feels that their hopelessness is an individual experience.

Reality vs. Imagination

The political and economic effects of coronavirus will surely reverberate throughout the coming decade. However, the most substantial legacy of the coronavirus will surely be the catastrophic mental health decline of the younger generation — specifically, those aged 13-25. A generation that is traditionally more free and hopeful for the future has suffered exponentially from this pandemic. Their vision of the future has been distorted. Their freedom has been severely curtailed. Their education has been ravaged. This pandemic has dulled the possibility of extraordinary experiences. Life has been reduced to the most ordinary.

Studies have shown that those aged 18-24 have suffered most drastically in terms of mental health. Suicidal thoughts and feelings were at 22 per cent amongst this age group — more than double compared to the UK population as a whole, which stands at 10 per cent. The evidence points clearly that Covid-19 has affected everyone, but it’s also the case that not everyone is in the same boat when it comes to assessing the effects of the pandemic.

However, statistics show a one-dimensional reading of the situation. The mental health changes enforced by lockdown do not have to be as serious as suicidal thoughts to be significant. The most serious threat from lockdown is its reformation to our sense of what’s possible. For many, lockdown and isolation have become an accepted way of life. Dreaming about holidays and the reopening of events remains just that — a dream. The reality of that situation seems drastically distanced from imagined possibilities.

This mindset is surely hindering the quality of life for many young people. Being young is unavoidably scary. Your life seems permanently in a state of flux where each decision perhaps affects the rest of your life. But the unsettled nature of growing up gives birth to the best element of youth — imagination and fantasy. Growing up should be filled with dreams of the future. It should be filled with imagining the places one will visit and the people one will meet. And yet teenagers and university students instead find their thoughts overrun with worry and stress. Fantasising about the future is no longer a pleasurable experience. It is another cause of stress. The future seems no longer a hospitable place.

Dreaming of a normal life

Besides the damaging economic and political legacy of coronavirus, it will also birth a generation of hindered dreams. Yung people’s minds will not overflow with possibilities. They will be stagnated by their limited experience of youth. The experience of monotony and unfulfilled potential will likely colour and dampen hopes for the future.

Perhaps this legacy will be overturned by the end of lockdown. With the end possibly in sight, dreams may be transformed into reality. Possibilities seem nearer to being realised. And yet, this lost year cannot be regained. Living is about translating your dreams into reality. This year saw the reverse. Our reality was transformed — forced into a dream world normally saved for the extraordinary, not the ordinary. The thought of living a normal life became and, still is, a fantastical notion.

Some still maintain that a post-Covid life will never return to normal. This experience has irreversibly augmented our perception of what ‘normal’ is. Only time will tell how society will adjust to post-Covid life. In my view, people’s self-interest will dominate. The monotony of previous normality will return. Thoughts will focus on work, money and family. The experience of coronavirus will be reduced to an afterthought. It will not change the lives of those who had already established their lives. But for the young, this experience is inescapable. It has hindered our ability to have certain experiences previously seen as normal and a part of growing up. One year is not long. But timing matters. When it’s a year lost during youth, during schooling, during first experiences — let’s just say, 2020 is a year most will never forget.

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