This post was inspired by this article by Vox.
My lockdown wasn’t productive at all. It wasn’t free time I got to learn new skills, it wasn’t an unexpected gift, it wasn’t personal growth, there was no silver lining. This pandemic was an anxiety amplifier, something that made my inner feeling of guilt even stronger than before because I was supposed to learn something new, I was expected to turn it into personal growth, and had to turn it into something enjoyable. But I didn’t, and I know I’m not alone.
My current situation is that I’m nothing more than a NEET. I dropped out of uni in december 2018 after three months, it wasn’t what I wanted and I didn’t find it worth the money, especially since I already have an IT Engineer degree: I don’t believe in fancy papers that says “yes this guy spent money to relearn everything he learned in high school and his free time”, I only believe in skills. In 2019 I confronted myself and had an identity crisis that lasted for months, and when I was ready to get back on track, Covid happened.
Right now I should be looking for a job, but I’m not. After trying with some major companies, going through two interviews (Dyson and ARM), and rejecting a job offer (Rack Decommission Technician) from Amazon because of their toxic work culture and the impression my interviewers left me, I decided to shift my focus to jobs in which I can use my creativity and ability to write, in particular I want to work with videogames.
I need to show companies what I can do and that I’m worth their time by showing them my stories, but I didn’t write anything during the pandemic. My anxiety didn’t let me.
With all this time we spent inside it’s been easy to overthink, our insecurities have been amplified, and we had less of those distractions that took our mind away from self-destructive thoughts. We had opportunities taken away, lost some friends to Covid, and put an end to relationships because of the conspiracies they started believing in.
So why does it sound controversial that many people didn’t use this time to improve themselves? Why are we supposed to get out of this in better shape than we were before?
There’s no sugarcoating it, the pandemic was torture for the unstable mind, and trying to make it look like a gift is a toxic narrative put out by the sigma millionaire grindset assholes that need you to think that being productive is the only thing that defines your worth.
Pandemic or not, it’s ok not to be productive. For better or worse, we’re human and we have emotions, some of them are negative, and sometimes they haunt us for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, we should try to fight these feelings, but “lol just do the thing” is not enough to fix everything, otherwise therapy wouldn’t be a thing.
It’s so easy to blame ourselves for not doing the things we should be doing, the things we want to do, but sometimes that’s just how it is. Working to find a solution is the best course of action, but also the hardest. For some of us, trying to get better from this point of view is what we tried to do during lockdown, but it’s not something we can easily show off to the internet and brag about with companies during interviews, they don’t care.
If self-growth is trying new things, then I made chocolate ice cream sandwiches, converted my old keyboard into a bluetooth one, made my own silent frankenswitch, played around with smart lightning, designed my grandma’s home’s security camera system, tried making cocktails, and kinda created my own mix. I also met new friends, one of which I cherish a lot. But the one thing I wanted to do, the thing I wanted to get better at, which is writing, I didn’t do. I couldn’t do it.
That’s why, despite all of the things I tried, I don’t feel like I grew up at all, and that’s true for many people out there. And honestly, that’s fine too. I wasn’t supposed to grow up in this time, I wasn’t supposed to be productive, I wasn’t supposed to do anything. Lockdown has been different for each of us, so our way to go through it and cope with it has to be unique too, and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with self-improvement.
Let’s not fool ourselves, this whole self-growth thing was never about actual growth, but about flexing the things we learned from Youtube. Learning how to make sourdough bread doesn’t make you productive nor make you grow as a person (unless what you want is to own a bakery, in that case the process of refining your dough is self-growth).
Maybe it’s just one of those coping mechanisms, so whatever, I definitely won’t judge people for learning new skills (that would be very stupid), but that’s not self-growth, and yet we feel guilty if we didn’t learn how to bake fucking bread.
And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve been bombarded with so much bad news, the numbers of the people dying out there, the racial issues in the USA, conservatives in Italy stopping anti-discrimination laws, the shit happening right now in Afghanistan, so much happened that brought us down even more, this stuff can have a huge toll on mental health. Some people don’t care, others do but aren’t affected by them, and many can’t avoid absorbing all the negativity. I was definitely affected by those news even though I tried to avoid them, and I have no clue how people managed not to get influenced by them.
So don’t worry too much about what the hustlers out there want you to do, they also want you to wake up at 5 and eat Vegan Bolognese (whatever that shit is, we have no such thing in Italy). Lockdown wasn’t a sabbatical, and it’s fine not to have grown up while Covid was rampaging. If during an interview I’ll get asked about what you did during lockdown, I won’t lie: “Sorry, but my lockdown wasn’t productive. I made some Moscow Mule, though”.