Tag Archives: Generation Plymouth

Finishing Year 11 in 2020

Well that’s one for the history books.

By Annabel Jeffery

On the 20th March, schools shut their doors to all but a few students. “Exams will not take place” were the words that some rejoiced at, whilst others almost cried over. Two months ago, I was the latter.

I’d worked consistently from the start of my GCSE year, with my supposed first experience of exams looming over me from September last year. I’d seen GCSEs as a first step, but still one I wanted to excel in, the perfectionist that I am. I didn’t know what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it.

Therefore, I was in denial when this announcement came. My phone buzzed with excited, confused and tearful friends at once. We half-heartedly “carried on” in school the next day, unsure as to how our grades would be decided and our futures looking blurry. Prom was put on hold (which we considered as cancelled), along with all of the other Year 11 experiences we’d waited for. In those final days we said goodbye to those we weren’t expecting to see leave for another few months.

For me personally, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the lockdown and pandemic has been the hardest part. At first, it was considered that we might be able to collect our results earlier. Now, the original results day of the 20th August has been confirmed, meaning a 5-month wait instead of the standard 2 months.

Moreover, these grades are evidently not what they should have been.

We still had three months until exams, meaning most of us still had more to do and further to go in achieving the grades we wanted. Whereas now, our mock results – the exams we’re supposed to make mistakes in order to learn – are being used as a factor in our final grade. 

I can’t help but feel extremely guilty for feeling this way. The pandemic is ultimately a far bigger concern. Sacrificing GCSE exams is a minuscule thing in comparison to NHS workers putting the lives of themselves and their families at risk. In some ways we could be considered the luckier ones – we get our results and carry on. The years either side of us still have exams that they are missing content for and some have only just gone back to school part-time. I’m also aware that Year 13 have got much bigger concerns over university due to their exams being cancelled as well.

Although, throughout these past few months, I’ve not known what to do next. Carry on revising? Start looking over A level content?

Like other students in this position, I’ve gone from working harder and feeling under more pressure than I ever have done, to doing practically nothing – leaving my brain unoccupied. The question I keep asking myself is: if to work hard means no meaningful results, then why bother?

On the other hand, whilst the first few weeks were a welcome chance to relax, I’m now starting to feel ready for a routine and a small amount of work. I thought that this was just my personality, but speaking to a few others in my year, similar thoughts have been brought up. We feel, and rightfully so, a bit forgotten.

Fortunately for me, my school has set small amounts of “bridge work” for each A level subject. This mostly includes reading lists and research for my subjects, which I’ve been gradually working away at, but schoolwork is only one element in school life.

Although I am someone who has struggled with anxiety around school and has not really enjoyed it, I find myself itching to get back. Seeing friends, leaving the house to study and having something to work towards are things that cannot truly be replicated during this pandemic. To be honest, whilst I’ve set a few goals, most days the most exercise I can do is running to the sofa.

But that’s okay, because all we can do for the time being is to sit and wait.

We can’t plan any celebrations for the exams we never had, even if we wanted to. But, for now, having a picnic with friends does the job nicely.

Life in Lockdown Update: amber weeks

Lockdown was easy at the beginning; having a few lazy days, thinking that this madness would only last three weeks. But then it got harder and longer. 97 days. 139,680 minutes. 8,380,800 seconds – and counting.

Luckily, lockdown restrictions are starting to ease. For people like me, who started this lockdown alone, being able to see other people makes an enormous difference.

I guess I don’t need to keep talking to my bedside lamp anymore. Sorry, Sebastian.

The worst thing about lockdown is the effect it is having on my mental health. It wasn’t at a great point before all this started, but I had begun making progress. Now I am back to square one. I am still struggling daily, just like so many people out there.

Life returning to normal is just as daunting as lockdown. I am scared about life going back to something normal. After so long, am I ready? Are we ready? What even is normal anymore? How will life change again now? 

I wasted the first few weeks of lockdown doing nothing but playing games and watching TV. Then I started trying to stay proactive and be constructive. That lasted a little while, but I soon ran out of assignments and I’ve now taken a pause from my blog. In fact, I have stopped writing in general – this is the first thing I’ve written in weeks.

I feel I have lost my voice, lost my fire. I have completely lost track of the days and do not follow any sort of plan now. I spend some days in bed doing nothing, but other days I get up dressed and find something constructive to do.

It isn’t easy. But with lock down easing, and hopefully ending soon, it is time to start getting back to normal life. It is time to start getting back into a routine.

I haven’t personally gone out and experienced the city centre since the shops have started to slowly open again. I did, however, experience going on a train recently. Just seeing how empty the station and train were was a completely weird experience, but it was reassuring to see most people following all the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.

So, maybe we are ready to start appearing from our homes and having some normality back. It is exciting to see what our new lives for the next few months will be and how we will continue to band together as a society to get through this year together.

I personally don’t care that the shops are opening again, as I am a hoarder and this time has been good for me to stop buying things. I only really wanted McDonald’s and the clubs to open again. I miss being able to gather with my friends and relax together, dance and sing, meet new friends, and just be young and free.

Two members of my family tested positive for the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was horrifying, but to be able to sit here and tell you all both members made a full recovery makes me feel so grateful and lucky.

The Covid-19 lockdown has affected everyone in different ways. At first everyone was enjoying the time, then the isolating nature of lockdown and the impact of how deadly the virus is really hit, which made us all scared and confused. But it is amazing to see how every community, big or small, has come together to help and support each other through this time.

It’s also great to see how humans taking a step back has helped the planet heal, even if only a little. It is amazing to see these positives come out of such a negative time, but they are important and should be acknowledged and appreciated.

The Big D

By Annabel Jeffery

“Not to be too deep”, but death is inevitable. We don’t know how, nor when, but it is unequivocally part of the human experience – something that nobody can escape. It is beyond race, class and gender.

Evidently, the worldwide pandemic has emphasised this more than ever: over 40,000 confirmed deaths just in the UK, with thousands more across the world, including those who have not had access to life-saving treatment for other health conditions. Multiply this and you are given the number of friends and families to be affected by this for the rest of their lives.

Yet, our society does not talk about it.

“Loss” and ” passing away” are prime examples of this, with many fearing the use of the word “death”, in particular amongst those who are grieving.

While we may talk about the death immediately after or for a few months after, inevitably life carries on, leaving friends and family members of the deceased to carry on alone, also cautious of upsetting each other.

As someone who has experienced this myself, I decided to start a poll on my Instagram in order to gain perspective on this issue.

Here, I asked my Instagram followers , ranging from the ages of 13-55, with the majority being of the teenage demographic, the following questions:

  • Would you know what to say/would you feel comfortable talking to somebody who is grieving?
  • If not, would you reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving?
  • How long would you say that the “grieving period” lasts for?
  • If you have lost someone, has it felt different to deal with during this lockdown?

The results were varied: Overall, 50% said that they felt comfortable to speak to someone who is grieving and of those who said they didn’t, 86% said that they would reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving. Considering that most people want to help, the generally well-intentioned results didn’t entirely shock me.

However, the responses to my third question were rather varied, from comments such as “A couple of weeks”, ” 1 year” and “3-4 years”; to “Forever”, ” It never ends” and “You can only learn to cope”. The general consensus I received was that it depends on the relationship between the deceased and the bereft.

Furthermore, in response to my final question, those grieving during lockdown gave comments such as: “There are no distractions from it.” and ” It hasn’t set in, it won’t until after lockdown” and many agreed that being at home where most memories are made escalated their pain.

The truth is that grief for most people, while a collective experience, is also extremely isolating and does not have an expiration date. Unfortunately, it is something that nobody tends to fully understand until they finally go through it. This does not mean, however, that it should not be talked about. It is a trauma that, in my opinion, needs to be addressed head on, now more than ever.

This social taboo does not end there. Sudden deaths, like those faced by many families during the pandemic, mean that these important discussions do not happen and many questions are left unanswered. We need people to feel that they can open up about death, even during a pandemic.

So, where does Plymouth enter into this conversation?

In October 2019, Plymouth became the first “Compassionate City” in England. According to the local hospice charity St Luke’s: “A compassionate city or community is one that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.”

Places such as schools and cafes have since been involved in this, with the aim of educating as many as possible about death and opening up the discussion.

Are you ready to start the conversation?

To find out more visit : https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/plymouth-a-compassionate-city/

Graduating From Home

“I told my Mum, Snapchatted my friends and had a takeaway for tea”: The anti-climactic end for the Class of 2020

By Abi Purvis

I had been preparing for the last mile of the degree race for the last two and a half years of my life. Ever since my first open day, the idea of completing and physically handing in a bound dissertation was incredibly exciting to me.

The excitement (and anxiety) increased when I was midway through my dissertation project and the deadline was in sight. In February, it was a relief to be able to turn to my course mates of three years and decide we were going to get each other through our dissertations with work coffee dates and a big celebration at the end goal – and repeat this ‘collective stress to reward’ cycle with our last two assignments.

Except that, thanks to Mr Covid-19, that couldn’t happen.

Myself and my course mates are not the only ones who have lost our memories that were to be. There are thousands of final year students who, like me, have recently faced an extremely anti-climactic end to their university experience. We have poured hours of hard work into even getting into university in the first place, and then battled our ways through our degrees too. All of this resulted in missing out on handing in that last assignment – one of the most anticipated moments of university life – to instead be sat at our parents dining room table, that we have converted into a desk, pressing submit on the final assignment and preparing to face the start of the aimless ‘groundhog coronavirus days’.

At first I felt a bit sick when I handed in my last assignment because I was anxious about it all being over, but soon I was just disheartened because it became an average day. Although, I did manage to persuade my parents to have a drink and play a couple of board games with me, which was nice.

Many of my course mates felt the same. Lily Smith, an English and History student at Plymouth University said, “When I handed in my last assignment, it felt kind of anticlimactic. It was meant to be this big thing signifying the end of my uni experience, maybe an opportunity to go out with my friends to celebrate. Instead I told my Mum, Snap-chatted my friends and had a takeaway for tea.”

For many students in their final year, there is a constant voice in their head asking “What next?”. For some people there’s the masters, the panic masters, or the graduate schemes… or for those like me it was the plan to internship for a few months and hope to stumble into something I love. But now? I’ve not got a clue. I’ve just been endlessly researching remote job opportunities to find a purpose in the mundane routine.

Again, thousands of soon to be graduates are in this same boat. What will career prospects look like for us after a pandemic? Will we ever have a graduation ceremony to celebrate our hard work? Will we be the unemployed Class of 2020?

And yes, we know we had to, and wanted to, sacrifice the end of our university years for the sake of the wellbeing of everyone else, much like every member of society has had to sacrifice at least something for the pandemic we face together. And so, every time I realise this, I feel incredibly selfish about mourning my lost plans and what could’ve been.

Instead we have ‘sucked it up’ and dealt with the at home distractions, the final year anxiety heightened by less than ideal study spaces, and patchy zoom calls with our lecturers. We did this even though our minds have been focused elsewhere… A.K.A the current pandemic.

As the Class of 2020 we need to remain strong and remember we still have our victory. Our hard work is complete (and, yes, it was MUCH harder doing it from home). We have earnt our degree no matter the grade or when we officially get it. We have proven that we have grit and immense levels of motivation to leave our lockdown depression pit of a bed, keep positive, and finish what we started those years ago – and hopefully employers will see that.

Well done to each and every one of us. We will celebrate together when we can.

Life in Lockdown: Tobias Chalcraft

Following a conveniently timed, weekend-long birthday celebration and having spent the day on placement in the city centre, I finished early in order to go to my Monday afternoon university lecture. It’s as if my subconscious knew this would be my last, or at least final class outside of Zoom. By 6pm I was on the phone to family and planning a premature parting from Plymouth.

In comparison to others, my new normal seems reasonably better than life at uni. With significantly less hangovers, a day of working on assessments seems to last from 10am to 5pm every day. However, as a handy way of avoiding awareness of the hamster wheel that isolation has provided for many, I have work-free Saturdays to look forward to. 

Although this is a major first-world problem, that winds up many non-subscribers, I have failed to transition from gym sessions to home workouts. With bored family members readily available to laugh at any failed attempts of headstand challenges you’ve seen on Instagram, I have found it easier to limit myself to a handful of simple stretches before embarking on 20-30 minutes of outdoor exercise. But this is no alternative to a sweaty 2-hour outing at my former Plymouth gym.

On a more brighter side, my dogs are part of the thousands of their species who are ecstatic that their owners are now readily available to cater to every ball-throwing session or belly rub 24/7 (however our 13-year old is increasingly drained from the multiple daily walks we take him in order to get some time away from one another).

Plus, if a blog post about this isn’t cliché enough, I have taken up writing a daily diary, but this will mainly serve as a time capsule of politics-based headlines dictating the gradual deterioration of international relations. Still, I also try to write some ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ (a phrase used to title a podcast hosted by Ed Miliband), but repetitive responses of “It’s still sunny today!” just counterproductively forms deeply upsetting nostalgia for Cans on the Hoe with the boys.

More positively, I have bowed down to pressure to play Animal Crossing and watch Friends. The latter has a depthless quantity of heart-warming episodes (I’m only 20% through after a month of watching) that are perfect for an often lonely and gloomy occasion such as now. Meanwhile, Animal Crossing has completely defied my expectations of a childish and mindless game. Instead, my notifications of received boomer memes are overpowered by a group chat of friends trying to exchange pictures of what their ‘Nook’s Cranny’ store is selling, as we seek to defeat Tom Nook’s imperial capitalism in a far from ‘mindless’ manner.

While these forms of entertainment offer a welcome distraction, COVID-19 still offers personal reasons not to be so cheerful. You and I don’t need reminding that this coronavirus has impacted millions of lives a lot more dramatically than a 20-something who can’t attend mindless 2am drinking seshes with his friends, but there still remains an understandable upset. This exile means that this writer, and his many right honourable friends, have been deprived of their precious conclusion to university life – including a graduation ceremony (hopefully temporarily) and countless interpersonal-developing experiences with friends that may not live in the same city as you ever again. Plus, pre-existing anxieties of entering the job market are now increasing as much as Piers Morgan’s ego when his buddy Trump used to have the spare time to retweet him.

Anyway, time to save the NHS by convincing my unwanted new villager ‘Velma’ to move out of my island…