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Leaving home during a pandemic

Perhaps a little different to my usual content, yet something I feel I want to address. For many, this year has been an intense struggle. Whether that be a mental struggle, health struggle or logistical struggle, most of us have had our lives changed in drastic ways we didn't expect. Although some of my biggest changes this year were chosen and planned, they still came with a whole plethora of difficulties I didn't anticipate to encounter. Even though I moved out of home to University just over four years ago, I never felt that to be a permanent and finalised move. Still spending all elongated holidays at home and being close enough to pop back for a few hours if I wanted, I always saw that time as a somewhat stepping-stone to moving out for good. Unfortunately, that final leap happened during a global pandemic.

As has been the case for many graduates and students alike, this September brought an exciting, new venture in my life - moving to a brand new area, far from home and everything I'd known. Starting my graduate position was something I had been looking forward to since I first secured the role back in February, and it has lived up to all expectations. Undoubtedly, I feel I have settled in well to the position and company as a whole and although I am still learning every day, I am thoroughly enjoying the challenges and tasks I've been exposed to. Additionally, I love my new area. Wiltshire has some gorgeous countryside and places to visit, many of which I am still yet to experience, which brings me on to the topic I wish to discuss in depth in this post.

Moving away from home isn't easy. Moving away from home to an area where you know nothing and no one is hard. Moving away from home to an area where you know nothing and no one during a global pandemic? H A R D.

I've always considered myself a sociable individual as well as being quite independent. Both of these traits reassured me in the move, knowing I would find my own routine and put myself out there to meet new, like-minded people. And, whilst I have done both of these things, neither has been as easy as I could have hoped due to the current climate with Covid-19. As a disclaimer, I am more than aware that worse situations have come from this pandemic, and by no means trying to ask for a pity party. I am extremely fortunate to have a secure job at this moment in time, something I am very thankful for. However, I think it's an important area to talk about as I can imagine this has affected many other individuals too who may have left home for the first time or relocated due to personal circumstances.

Although I have been fortunate in the sense that I have been able to work in the office some days, meaning my induction into the new role wasn't entirely virtual, it has still been a very different process than I could have imagined pre-Covid-19. Similarly, I was still able to join the local running club I'd been eyeing up for months and meet some lovely fellow runners, however the format and availability of these sessions has been different. In both situations, meeting anyone in a more social environment has proved difficult due to the varying restrictions in place. Whilst these restrictions are entirely necessary and I fully understand why they are in place, it has made the process of moving to a new area and getting to know people much more challenging.

Additional to that, much of the excitement of moving to whole new part of the country comes from the prospect of getting to explore said area and enjoy all the fun things it has to offer. Living so close to the beautiful city of Bath, somewhere I had never been before, I was especially looking forward to spending a lot of time there. However, I have found myself only setting foot in the city three times since moving. Although this hasn't been because I was unable to, the looming presence of Covid puts an undeniable downer on any activity that involves a busier environment. Even some things which are well within the rules but perhaps not a necessity to carry out cause a sense of guilt to arise. Alongside that, with many attractions, or such like, operating at a much reduced capacity than normal, planning in advance is essential. Yet, this is something that doesn't lend itself to the unpredictable English weather at this time of year or the spontaneity of someone who isn't yet overly familiar with the area. Admittedly I have managed to enjoy some of the lovely Wiltshire countryside as when I first moved the weather was greatly on my side, however as the days get colder and darker, I can see exploring the local outdoors happening less and less.

Finally, much of feeling settled in a new area is still getting to see everyone closest to you, showing them your new home town and exploring together. Unfortunately, given all the differing national situations, this has also not been possible. Fortunately I have still been able to see my boyfriend regularly and have seen my family also, but with my friends being spread out across the country this has been a lot harder. I am yet to show any of my friends my new area, and not getting to see them for such an extended period of time isn't easy but I'm sure the same situation as for many in England right now. Feeling cut off from others when trying to settle in a new area can be disheartening since familiar people can make even an unfamiliar location feel more homely. I remember this especially being the feeling when I first started University, and so I understand how those in their first year of study could be experiencing these emotions.

With recent developments in the restrictions in England, and a second lockdown now truly a reality, moving away from home feels even more real. Having been at home with my family throughout the previous lockdown, it's strange adapting to a lockdown routine outside of that. Whilst I am perfectly happy being independent and enjoy that I have now moved out of home, it is a strange concept to know I am unable to see anybody close to me for the next four weeks. Even being able to see someone in a socially distanced capacity to exercise is difficult when you know a limited amount of people locally. Having said that, there are a couple of people I am hoping to possibly see for a walk or run at some point during the lockdown period (separately, of course).

I'm well aware that this post makes it sound like I am in an unfavourable situation, which isn't true. I really like my new area and my new job, and have already met some great people during my couple of months here. Honestly, I am excited for all to come after this strange period of time ends and we are able to live with some more freedom again. I suppose I wanted to voice these thoughts to ensure anyone struggling having recently left home or relocated for the first time knows they are not the only one finding things more challenging than maybe expected. As mentioned, I've definitely not had it bad compared to some situations, having still been able meet colleagues in person, go for a few social meals out and attend the sessions of my local running club. However, when extra precautions and restrictions are looming, it does make social situations that bit more tricky, especially with those you have not known for a long period of time. Everybody has different boundaries and feelings on the Covid situation, all which must be respected, but can make coordination with others harder. Therefore, it's okay to feel like you may not have made connections as quickly as you wished, or like you haven't settled in the same way you thought you would. Times are odd right now. Times are hard right now. But, we are all experiencing them and eventually there will be a time when social events are allowed to happen again and you will feel as settled as can be.

I hope everyone is doing well and remember to check in on those closest to you during these unprecedented times.

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