Before entering university, the most common advice I was given was to make friends as soon as possible and to go to every event that I could. This advice seemed easy enough at the time, and during my first year at St Andrews I did my best to succeed in this endeavor. I made wonderful friends at my hall’s socials, I chatted with people at give-it-a-go’s, and I was able to maintain those relationships through societies, lectures and occasional coffee dates. However, the 2020 academic year is an entirely different experience, and I’ve already found myself frustrated and even upset at the limitations and laws surrounding everyday life. Making new friends, developing relationships, and, potentially the most important, sustaining existing connections outside of my household, has proven difficult during these unusual times, and I’ve found myself stressing over these new dilemmas.
The ever-changing laws and guidelines regarding COVID-19 have been exhausting and confusing, to say the absolute minimum, and then these emotions are always accompanied by feelings of selfishness and naivety. These days being stressed about understanding the laws is relatively lucky compared to the struggles of others, but it is still valid to be nervous and unsure. For me, meeting up with friends from other households, even socially distanced and masked, has become an anxiety inducing struggle. Even sitting in a restaurant, following government guidelines, leads to feelings of guilt and recklessness. The question is not what I can do but what I should do. As I described to my mom on the phone just the other day, the laws and guidelines are not stupid, antiquated rules; they exist to protect the population from a global pandemic, and to mitigate the inevitable damage.
I am fortunate enough to live in a flat with three of my good friends and have the ability to spend time outside. But what about seeing friends in other households? Or friends who have not been following guidelines, and therefore would pose a risk to me and my roommates? I’ve decided, that in this regard, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is very real and valid. There is no use in denying it, and I’ve found that letting these friends of mine know how I’m feeling is the healthiest way to keep open communication. Combined with Netflix Partying, sending Tik Toks and memes, and even meeting up masked and distanced, has all helped alleviate some of my stress. The greatest thing I’ve learned in all this, is that it is completely normal to have no idea what’s going on, and how important it is to take the time to understand your own boundaries. My idea of safe is constantly evolving, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is perfectly valid to be unsure of what your own comfort zone looks like.