I can’t pretend life is “back to normal”

Two weeks ago, I left my home in Belgium without a mask in my pocket (or on my face) for the very first time.

The last covid restrictions have been lifted* and life has returned to “normal”.

Except, for me, it doesn’t feel that way.

I arrived in Belgium in March 2020. I haven’t experienced life here outside of the cosy bubble my partner and I found ourselves in for the last two years.

While everyone seems to be enjoying getting back to some semblance of normality, I feel like I’m having to completely readjust again.

I work from home, so there’s no office for me to return to here. I am starting to build a network of (wonderful) people but I don’t have the comfort of a coffee with an old friend. And I still sometimes struggle with everyday things, like asking for something I can’t find in a shop, because I don’t speak Flemish very well yet.

It’s easy to underestimate what everyone has been through in the last two years.

I’m sure I’m not the only one experiencing these types of feelings. I have found making a mental list of things that have happened or changed in the last two years helps me understand why. And also helps me forgive myself for not being at 100%. If you have been feeling a bit off your game, maybe it could help you too.

My list is something like:

  • I moved countries (semi-accidentally) in a global pandemic
  • I lived with my partner for the first time during lockdown
  • I started learning a new language (3 hour zoom lessons are NOT fun — I don’t know how school children and teachers have coped)
  • I navigated a whole bunch of bureaucracy in said language (don’t worry, I’m not going to start ranting about Brexit again)
  • My partner and I spent many hours decorating our apartment and building furniture.

I did it all while continuing to work full-time. Then I questioned why I was feeling tired or not as productive as usual. Umm…yeh. Sometimes we just need a moment to reflect on how much we have going on and give ourselves a little bit of love and acknowledgement.

That isn’t to say I’m sitting here feeling sorry for myself. I am literally woken by birdsong every morning. Right now the sun is shining after a morning downpour so the air smells all grassy and fresh and amazing. I am in a healthy, loving, supportive relationship. I have met some really cool people who will probably be lifelong friends if my social anxiety doesn’t get in the way…

All in all, life is pretty good.

But it is going to take a little more time for me to adjust to life out of lockdown here.

*With the exception of wearing a mask in hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

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