It is December 2020 and the skies of York blacken each day at around 4pm. We have emerged from a second national lockdown and are soon to enter a new year as the UK definitively parts from the European Union. Our Christmas tree was unboxed and rather questionably decorated in November; I was eager to hurry along a speedy conclusion to this particular year. My assessments, except for a single exam, have been submitted. Autumn term is over.
This term has been stressful, difficult, frustrating, and isolating, at times. But the salve to the wound has been the incredible scientific discoveries such as the oldest known instance of monozygotic twins, the stamina and enthusiasm of the staff in the department, the comradery of fellow students, and the knowledge that unmade plans may come to fruition in the not too distant future.
However, in review, studying during a pandemic has forced me to cultivate several important skills at once. I am far better at managing my time and much stricter when the urge to procrastinate creeps around the corner. I liken a master’s degree to a circus performer spinning plates; in order to keep as many spinning as possible you must learn to prioritise and sometimes, let some fall. The motivation can wane, and so I’ve found that setting manageable goals makes me far less discouraged.
Whether this is a result of online classes or not, I find myself wanting to spend more of my leisure time away from my laptop. This drew me toward Alexander Langlands’ Craeft: a book that enacts a certain nostalgia for a time before industrialisation, without romanticising it, by illustrating and contextualising many historical examples of craft production. Andy Langley provides a great review on the Year Centre blog.
My downtime is made up with yoga, painting, morning meditation, and wine and bubble bath pamper sessions in a bid to minimise screen-time, but Netflix is still frequented. I tried, and subsequently failed, to grow my own herbs. I have spent more time preparing budget-friendly but substantial meals and have enjoyed the experience. I still spend time reading graphic novels and comics when I can; a nice reprieve from the dense, text-heavy textbooks that populate my Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm routine.
On the whole, my classes have been interesting and challenging. The face-to-face discussion has been the element I have missed the most. Conversely, I have grabbed opportunities to attend seminars and conferences hosted outside of York with both hands.
I have taken up many new year’s resolutions that I have committed to starting early, since I refuse to allow the pace of 2020 to dictate any further decisions. Missed opportunities and unrealised plans may colour these months in all our minds eyes’. But as 2020 draws to a close, and with the promise of winter festivities and relaxation before us, none of us will be quick to forget this year.