How COVID-19 Affected My Life in the Last 12 Months

Window to landscape

In November 2019, I was packing my things to travel in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. I needed a break from everything: work, life, routine… At first it was only a dream but then it became reality: my fiancé and I had a solid plan! Bearing in mind that even the most robust plan should expect the unexpected at some point, we left confident that we knew exactly what we were doing (for 90% of it). At that time, no one suspected what would happen shortly after we left. A virus spreading all over the world, is that even real? It still sounds like fiction to me.

Now that we’re back in London, it’s weird to realise we couldn’t have timed it better, given the current rules with international travel. By the time the pandemic started to restrict our freedom of movement, we had already managed to visit Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Australia & New Zealand… It’s only when we got to Fiji that reality started to kick in: the world was in crisis and we got stranded there for 3 long weeks.

Everyone has been affected by the pandemic somehow, and even though it’s still far from being over yet, I think now is the perfect time to reflect. Because it’s been 12 months since we were “released” from the island and “allowed” to fly back home. Trapped and vulnerable tourists were easy targets in Fiji, it really felt like we were hostages. Today marks the anniversary of our first day back in the UK.

“Home” is where you want to be when the world is in crisis

If you consider that the number of infections were rising very quickly in Europe, we could have considered ourselves a lot safer in the Pacific. But it was mentally difficult to stay so far away from home for any longer. I remember our flight back home like it was yesterday. The country was in lockdown but passengers were still entering freely through airports. We didn’t interact with anyone. No one to give us any rules to follow, no mandatory quarantine… We were just “released” into the wild, with no clue how to adapt to this new world.

This is when I realised we had overlooked our mental health. Our first few days in our temporary flat were a mix of relief and exhaustion. We had so many unanswered questions, the future seemed so blurry. The main one being: what happens now?

Time is precious - London

Time is precious, and there is always a way to make the most of it

It was difficult enough to have no choice but to interrupt our dream travel plan, the last thing we wanted after spending so much time abroad was to be surrounded by too many people. We had to quickly return to reality, even if it was hard to swallow. Back in London, we isolated for 2 weeks, using a non-compulsory quarantine as an excuse to focus on our wellbeing. This time was very much needed for us to mentally recover from all this nightmare. We needed to get our lives back together and prepare our future the best way we could.

Accomplishments

At least I will remember lockdown(s) for being the catalyst for all the things I’ve done this past 12 months:

  • I learnt how to cut my fiancé’s hair myself. New hairdresser skills for me and lots of savings made for the rest of his life. Not to brag about it but he receives many compliments for his haircuts…
  • I decided to focus on my health, as a result I lost 25kg by revisiting my eating habits.
  • I significantly improved my cooking skills, read a lot about veganism and included many new foods in my diet (mostly vegs I didn’t think I would ever like). Proof that the good kind of unexpected can also happen.
  • I discovered intermittent fasting, which was a revelation for me.
  • We adopted Luna, to give our older cat Miko some company. Raising a kitten requires a lot of time within the first few months and we knew it was the right moment. Now they’re inseparable, mission accomplished.
  • I decided to delete my personal social media accounts. Oddly enough, lockdown made me become more selective about the technology used to communicate with friends and family. Best decision ever!
  • Last but not least, I started this blog to share my journey.

When I look back, I sometimes try and visualise how different the present would look if I chose a different path. For example, if I decided to soothe my anxiety with more food (like many people do) and became obese. Or what if I chose to spend my time learning how to play the guitar, instead of starting a blog. Overall I’m very happy about how it all turned out and I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Also, you can have all the time in the world, there are always going to be some things left sitting at the bottom of the list. We got engaged in December 2019 and I can tell you almost nothing has been done with the wedding planning. Sometimes, we just need to accept we can’t have it all. The world has been moving at a slower pace, let’s embrace it and trust the fact that the best is yet to come!

Post-COVID, the world will never be the same again

Now that I have reflected on this past crazy year, I realise that most things are here to stay. At a personal level of course, but also on a bigger scale. It seems to me like mental health received more attention than it ever has in the past. It’s not invisible or taboo anymore. People value their work-life balance even more and prioritise things differently, maybe in a better way. I’ve noticed a bigger focus on environment too, which is key for me. That’s right, we’re about to enter a new era and I’m excited about it.

That being said, with the lockdown cautiously on its way out in the UK, I can’t help but feeling a bit anxious about the return to “normality”. After so much time spent at home, I got used to my very own comfort zone and it seems daunting to get out there again… Back to a year ago when we were clueless how to behave, once we got off the plane. Even small things like taking public transport make me anxious and I wonder how I did it so “normally” before. What if lockdown enhanced my introversion for good? Will I ever be able to socialise without the help of technology?

Tell me what changed for you since the pandemic started, I’d love to know! What do you think will never come back to the way it was before?

Big Girl x

How a Powerful Mind Can Turn Any Failure Into Success

How a Powerful Mind Can Turn Any Failure Into Success

Everyone has experienced failure at some point in their lives. What matters is how you react and what you learn from it. After all, many successful people have failed big time before succeeding. Some famous examples include: Walt Disney, Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling or even Bill Gates. And there are many others… You might not necessarily aim for so much fame (I know I don’t) but this is applicable to everyone!

Failure is part of success

I think it is actually very important to fail in life. It helps you build strength and resilience, which are amazing qualities to have. The world is full of “successful failures”. So let’s just acknowledge it when it happens and turn it into a positive. My life is full of failures… Although I feel a lot more proud than ashamed when I look in the rear-view mirror. Let me give you 4 examples from my personal experience.

1. I’ve been in several long-term relationships

For some it would actually be an achievement, especially for those who don’t manage to keep a relationship alive for a more than a few weeks. But if you invest several years in a relationship, how can you not see it as a failure when it ends?

I had to recover from 4 difficult breakups in my adult life. Each time, I initially thought they were “the one”. But then I eventually walked away when I realised the relationship was broken, I didn’t see any way to turn things around. It was like the candle in my heart suddenly stopped burning. To me, it was always a brave decision to make, because society constantly pressures you to be in a relationship. As a result, some people would avoid being single at all costs. I’d rather be single than with the wrong person by my side.

My learnings? My past experiences taught me so much about what I wanted and needed, but also what I couldn’t tolerate in a relationship. I met the one who was “husband material” to me, hence why I’m marrying him (hopefully) this year!

2. I never managed to keep the weight off

Now this could be the situation most people can relate to. Who can “naturally” maintain a healthy weight anyway? Not many. In my situation, I succeeded in losing more than 20 kilos 4 times in my adult life already. Is that a success or a failure? Probably both.

I would consider it a full success when I manage to keep it off permanently. I wouldn’t have had to do it all again if I didn’t put the weight back on… 4 times. But I never gave up or accepted to stay overweight. I never gave myself excuses, such as: “Oh well, maybe some people are not meant to be lean”, the classic “I have heavy bones” or even “I’d rather eat whatever I want, even if it means I put my health at risk”.

My learnings? I’ve just lost 20 kilos in the past 6 months. Yes, it’s the 4th time I’ve done it. But this time, I know it’s different. I learnt from my previous experiences and identified why it never lasted long. If you’re following this blog, you already know what long-term eating habits I’m putting in place to stay healthy. Stay tuned for more weight loss & weight maintenance related posts in the coming months!

3. I changed my career path several times

I grew up being convinced I wanted to become a doctor. So when I finished high school, I knew exactly what university to go to. But I failed the 1st year final exam and at the time I was devastated. It felt like my childhood dreams were all my pure imagination, I didn’t turn them into reality… I then realised I failed because I didn’t want it enough. I was young and immature. Why would I even want to become a doctor? In hindsight, I was living a lie. I liked the honourable aspect of this occupation, but I couldn’t have coped emotionally with everything it involves. Today the pandemic has confirmed what I already knew: I’m glad I’m not a doctor.

But finding my way wasn’t straightforward. Initially, I turned to programming, thinking: “At least if a computer dies, it’s not a big deal”. Truth is it’s extremely difficult to know what you should be doing when you’re in your early 20s. I found myself in a geek world I didn’t feel I belonged to. Was it still not the right path for me? It is even harder to accept you’ve made the wrong decision when it’s the second time already. After that, I had no choice but to make it right. Finally, I opted for sales & marketing and 5 years later I completed my Master’s degree. I was 4 years older than my schoolmates.

My learnings? I strongly believe that because I failed before, I had even more to prove. I enrolled in a sandwich course, alternating between studies and apprenticeship every year until graduation. It was hard but it was the best way to get work experience and also start my life without debts – the companies paid for my school fees. This is not something I would have even considered doing if I didn’t go through my previous disappointments.

4. I failed a job interview last month

When I quit my last job in September 2019, it was to travel in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. It was supposed to be a 6-month sabbatical only (it’s been more than a year now). Of course it was a risk, you never know what to expect upon your return. How about a worldwide pandemic? You get the picture, the job market is not what it used to be.

I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I don’t have to rush to find a job. So I’m focusing on finding the right job that will positively impact my mental health. I thought I found it when I was interviewing for this company recently. I got to the 4th and final stage of the process, but a few days later I found out I didn’t get the role.

My learnings? It’s a normal reaction to be disappointed and feel discouraged when you receive bad news. This is my most recent failure. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, it still hurts every time you do. But I know better now, my mind is powerful and I’m not going to let that negative experience impact my energy. And I do believe everything happens for a reason.

“As I look back on my life, I realise that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.”

Steve Maraboli

It’s too easy to enter a negative loop

Not everyone has the mental strength to keep trying until they succeed. The way I picture it is a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she falls into that never-ending rabbit hole. If you let negativity take away the best of you, it becomes even harder to recover from failure. I know that if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s definitely not easy. But it’s a learning curve.

Last week, I received an email from a recruiter. She was asking me if I was interested in one of the vacancies she was working on. I never get too excited when I receive emails from recruiters, because I know from experience they never fully grasp your profile. So of course the vacancy didn’t fit my skills whatsoever. Something in her signature made me tick though. There was a quote saying: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”. Life can send you signs… You just have to be attentive and notice them.

If you fall, get back up right away

My piece of advice will not be rocket science I’m afraid. I’m sure you’ve heard of the proverb: “If you fall off the horse, get back on every single time”. I would like to insist on how important it is to keep going in life. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall. What matters is that you got back up one more time than you fell…

Who needed to hear these stories today? Don’t forget to share it to whoever needs to stay motivated around you!

Big Girl x