With our new reality sinking in, and for lockdowns being in effect all over the world for the last few months, here at Girl Museum, we wanted to recognize this time in our lives, and in history. This is the latest in a series of blogs where the senior staff of Girl Museum reflect on their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be posting weekly reflections here, continuing with Curator Claire Amundson in the UK.

QUOTE: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

March 2020 is likely to stay in our memories for many, many years to come. One by one European countries and US States implemented strict lockdown procedures that would change our way of life for the next 3 months, perhaps longer, and even permanently.  

We are now forced to work/study and live in one place. Those of us able to work from home remotely are struggling with spending so much time in one place and the new tasks being asked of us to help critical services that fall outside of our comfort zones. On the other hand, those unable to work from home find themselves with a lot more free time and no great outdoor spaces to escape to as country parks, playgrounds, and heritage sites close. There is no doubt that the actions taken by all countries and states are necessary to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Yet, the consequences are huge. Some may be struggling financially as non-necessary services temporarily lay off staff, and schools around the world look set to be closed for the rest of the academic year with parents tasked with educating their children in the meantime. The cancellation of exams in the UK means that students who have spent the best part of 2 years studying and preparing for their GSCEs or A Levels are now to be graded by their teachers, rather than an external marker who ensures all papers are marked equally.  

A bleak image for sure, and the thought of a lockdown continuing for several more months is hard to take in, especially for those living alone. Many of us are now entering a fourth week of isolation – although it feels like 2 months! – and we are starting to struggle with the constant message from governments to “stay inside”. Heeding these words is growing harder by the day as the days become longer and the weather in the Northern Hemisphere improves as we enter the spring/summer months.  It feels as though we have lost our freedom. We can no longer travel distances outside our local communities, and no matter what advice is thrown at you, a Google Hangouts meet-up does not replace the joy of meeting friends or family in person. However, that said, it does help for sure. 

So, in amidst the bleakness, I decided early on that enough was enough. Yes, we may be spending A LOT more time at home for the foreseeable future, but the quiet (although unnerving) is the perfect chance to cross items off the ‘to do’ list that have been bugging you for well over a few months, or perhaps even a year! Yes, we may have to take on tasks at work that are outside our comfort zone, but these are challenges we must face to help critical services in the current lockdown climate, and is an opportunity to learn new skills once the initial panic of something new and different has gone. I am truly sad that outdoor spaces are temporarily closed and I’d love nothing more to explore walks in my local area whilst the sun is shining. However, I understand we must keep our distance to save others, and I am in a way thankful that the enemy we’re battling is a virus, odd as it may seem. 

Our great-grandparents living in first half of the 20th Century are likely to have experienced two world wars within a 50 year period. The First World War introduced new technologies and a new type of warfare not previously seen. Soldiers lived in trenches where conditions are now hard to imagine without the photos to show us, and the consequences of machine warfare had lasting effects on both soldiers and nurses. The Spanish flu epidemic following the war further devastated communities at a time of supposed recovery. A Second World War only 20 years later introduced a constant fear of bombs falling from the sky; weekly rationing challenged mothers when feeding their families; and men, women, and children carried out new jobs to support the war effort (as we are doing now). They all worked together to face new challenges so that we could be here now. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is the challenge faced by our generation, and if the hardship of this battle is to stay at home, then that is what I’ll do. We are lucky that technology has advanced so much that we can turn on the Facebook Portal and ‘meet up’ with our friends/family instantly via the internet, or even just by picking up the phone we can speak to a loved one after a short ring. There may be a long way to go and I truly hope that together we can beat this new virus that has brought the world to a complete standstill. I believe, as JK Rowling writes in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, that “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

This post is dedicated to everyone out there struggling with the lockdown and isolation. Please remember, you are never alone, and we are here for you. 

-Claire Amundson
Girl Museum Inc.

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