I don’t know about you, but this time has afforded me a lot of time to think. Somewhere, in the space between Zoom hangouts and scrolling through my Twitter feed, I’ve been reflecting on Before.
Remember that? Before. When we didn’t wake up every day and re-adjust to this real life episode of ‘Black Mirror’. When we took so many little liberties for granted – simply because most of us had never known otherwise. When coronavirus sounded like an illness you’d fabricate to disguise the fact you had a hangover.
It started off with missing the little things. Sunday lunch with my family. Meeting a friend for a sweaty boxing class. Then there was nostalgia for now-forbidden travel – particularly the fortnight I spent in Mexico, where every day felt like a new chapter: nights spent dancing to reggaetón and pretending to like the taste of mezcal – languid, sunny days where we went from swimming alongside turtles to visiting ancient Mayan ruins.
As all of us quickly became aware of the severity of the situation – as the lockdown was confirmed, and we started to face the new normal – I found myself so full of regrets for all the things I didn’t do – either alone or with others – when I could.
So here they are:
My pre-quarantine ‘regrets’
- I wish I’d met my friends for a lunchtime run through Regent’s Park.
- I wish I’d gone to more art galleries with someone who knew about art.
- I wish I had gone out that Saturday night I stayed in to edit my podcast – I wish I’d allowed a little more fun in my life, to reward myself for working so hard.
- I wish I’d hugged my family more while I could.
- I wish I’d gone rock climbing.
- I wish I’d visited my grandparents up north.
- I wish I’d had highlights.
- I wish I’d recorded even more face to face episodes of my podcast.
- I wish I’d gone for more Sunday roasts and long, rambling walks on Hampstead Heath with my best friends.
- I wish I’d taken myself off for a fancy three-course lunch with oysters and champagne to celebrate my last podcast recording.
- I wish I’d gone to see a Frank Turner gig, or watched Joe Stilgoe play live at Ronnie Scott’s.
- I wish I’d visited my friend who moved to Geneva, so I could imagine where she’s self-isolating right now.
- I wish I’d gone to the cinema by myself more, rather than watching a film hunched over a little iPad.
- I wish I’d allowed for more romance in my life, in all forms.
- I wish I’d communicated better, and argued less, with the people I love.
- I wish I’d gone out shopping for bold, colourful dresses that fitted like a superhero costume.
- I wish I’d gone out dancing somewhere that played ’70s/’80s music.
- I wish I’d gone and queued up for a last minute ticket to a matinee.
- I wish I’d gone and written this blog at the hipper-than-hip foyer at The Hoxton in Holborn, sipping on a gin & tonic and feeling the excitable buzz of start-up culture.
This list is by no means exhaustive – it’s just a small collection of regrets that have occurred to me over the past few days.
It’s not that I didn’t live well before the pandemic. On the contrary – I loved my life, more than I even knew. I just wish I’d lived more – treated those everyday pleasures like the blessings they were, rather than things I could do ‘whenever’ (which so often meant ‘rarely’ or ‘never’).
Not spent so much time telling myself: not now, not yet. That I needed to make sacrifices in order to be successful. That this wasn’t my year for fun, or romance, or weekends away.
I now know I didn’t need to live so ‘safely’. What we’ve learnt – collectively – is that the things we take for granted in life can be swept from under our feet in the space of a couple of weeks. It’s rare – perhaps even, groan, ‘unprecedented’ – for the world–at–large to experience a collective wake-up call.
READ MORE: Alonement, in the time of Coronavirus
Those who have experienced loss or serious illness first-hand know it’s not frivolous to speak of parties; theatre trips; trips away; pub gardens; sex; restaurant meals; picnics; and filling our homes with those we love. Because life is so often shorter than we know. And it’s for living – not waiting for our turn to go, or catastrophising over what might happen.
So let’s revisit my list. These aren’t, in fact, deathbed regrets – but instead a bucket list for a brighter, hopeful future. We can’t make everything better. But we can, as Alain de Botton recently said in a special episode of Elizabeth Day’s ‘How To Fail’, seek ‘consolations’. If there is any good to come of this, I hope it whets our appetite for what’s to come when this is over. Because it will be over. For the vast majority of us, COVID-19 is not a death sentence, but it is a warning: to treat tomorrow as a gift and not a given.