There have been reams written about the big changes people have made to their lives since the pandemic started, and in particular since a lot of the restrictions have been lifted. People have left the city in droves; left their long-term relationships; and in places such as the US taken part in the great resignation.
But what about the smaller changes? What about those of us, and there must be many of us, who are fundamentally altered by the events of the past few years but haven’t moved to the beach or left our partner or quit our job? Almost every person must be changed in some ways, even if they are minor.
I run in very ambitious circles and last year it was noticeable how many of my striving friends gradually … stopped striving. They worked less, said no to opportunities, and generally just slowed down.
A lot of people realised that they needed more in their life than work, but I had already been radicalised by my first maternity leave. It was 2017 when I discovered how to pass the time in a pleasant way and how much meaning there was in a life spent hanging out with the people you love (and by that I mean my friends and my husband and my sisters and my brother – not the baby, he was a nightmare). So while I still loved my job it was already not defining me as much.
What has happened to me is I have got sillier.
It crept up without me noticing but since enduring the onset of a pandemic while pregnant and all the terror that this involved, then extended lockdown with a one-year-old and a three-year-old, I am not the same as I was before. At the end of last year I didn’t feel different in any positive way, I just felt like all my emotions were extremely close to the surface and perhaps I was teetering on the edge of a breakdown – but I did not have time for that!!
Then in 2022, after I’d had some sleep, some swims in the ocean and most importantly some evenings away from my kids, the changes began to manifest.
I got my last tattoo aged 21. Now, 13 years later, I have got three more in the space of six months. One was a spur of the moment ode to my husband – “Matty Q” – on the inside of my arm. I revealed it with glee proclaiming “Psycho wife!!”. Since then two women have told me it inspired them to do the same. Well, similar. Instead of Matty Q they got their own partner’s name, even though Matty Q would’ve been infinitely funnier.
I went to the hairdresser for my regular haircut and spontaneously decided to get a fringe. “Are you sure?” the hairdresser asked nervously four times, and I was. What was the worst that would happen? It would grow out?
Suddenly, all of my friends were throwing themed parties. I had family parties for my 18th, 21st and 30th, and occasional dinners for birthdays in between but for my 34th I invited my friends from all my different social groups, put on a bar tab and set the theme as 1988.
For my friend’s 35th birthday we were “young, rich and tasteless”. For another friend’s 32nd we were “celestial thotties” in an entire bar booked out for the event. Each month we were all wearing costumes at birthday parties for insignificant ages, sometimes twice a month.
While at the costume shop this week for an X-Files themed birthday party I casually asked if they had seen an increase in people getting dressed up.
“Oh my god,” the woman said. “It’s been like Halloween every weekend for months. It is crazy how many people are getting dressed up.”
I have another friend who refuses to do anything on a Sunday now because she realised she wanted more “slow” time to decompress and a full diary was not what made her happy. Another stopped saving so much money and moved into a fabulous apartment, saying “Yolo” instead of staying sensible.
In my social circle the vast majority of us took Covid seriously. We followed the rules, even when we were crushed by restrictions, socially isolated or just believed some of it was plain unfair. We believed (and still do) in the social contract and protecting the most vulnerable. Some of us were the most vulnerable.
As restrictions eased we walked the line of continuing to be socially responsible while living in a new reality. Our #hotgirlsummer post-vaccination was rained out and freaked out by the emergence of Omicron but as 2022 has progressed, as we’ve got our third and fourth vaccinations, as we’ve caught Covid, we’ve also let more joy in.
We’ve loosened up. Been more spontaneous. Filled the dancefloor as curated playlists blasted Blink-182 for the first time since we were 17. Some friends and I even paid real money to see an Oasis cover band play and woke up hoarse the next day from singing along. (I said SOME friends.)
I’ve also gone easier on myself on our home days. If our sons watch three movies back to back, Matty Q and I are unbothered. We use the time to nap or lie on the couch and watch with them, without fretting about screen time or television hours. (Apart from me being convinced they are losing IQ points to the deranged show Larva.)
After all, we’ve all had a hard time.
How has your approach to life changed since the pandemic? Tell us in the comment section, or if you would like to write a column about it please email your pitch to email@example.com with ‘Small Changes’ as the subject line