Claire Taylor: Covid has changed our lives forever in unexpected ways

AS SCOTLAND takes one step closer to normality, we all have some big questions to face about the kind of future we want to lead and the sacrifices we are willing to make.

For me, and I’m sure for many others, the pandemic has made us all think differently about the paths we are on, the friendships that we hold, and the decisions that we make.

Before Covid, my work came before all else, at times to the detriment of my relationships with my family and friends, but also to my mental health.

I count myself very lucky on the one hand that I love my work and care so deeply for the fate of the farming industry, but on the other hand, it can sometimes be hard to step away and take time to focus on yourself and those nearest to you.

In the early stages of the first lockdown, where many people were experiencing working from home for the first time, the lure of the laptop

on our kitchen tables was hard to ignore.

It was difficult to switch off and separate from our home lives and for many people I’ve spoken to, we felt pressured to prove ourselves, that working from home could be productive – we could be trusted!

We didn’t know we were in it for the long haul.

So we set the bar high and so many people suffered from burn-out.

With restrictions on social gatherings, we didn’t always have an excuse to step away from work and although Zoom quizzes became all the rage for some, I personally became sick to death of all the extra screen time, craving more real physical interaction.

A real haven for me during the past four months has been my garden.

After over a year of searching, I bought my first house in May, moving into a lovely character-filled terraced cottage in the village of Fenwick, with the most beautiful garden.

I never thought I would develop such a passion for gardening but seeing the changing patterns and colours in my borders has filled me with such joy and provided a dream escape from pressures of life and work.

I had really struggled for the first half of the pandemic as I was living in a one-bedroom, three storeys up flat in Glasgow, in which I spent most my time at my living room table, on my laptop.

My work revolves around farming and there I was reporting on one of the biggest stories to change the course of Scottish farming forever – Brexit – and I wasn’t out there mingling with the industry, having those intimate conversations which just can’t be captured by a phone call.

I’ve also missed those chance encounters when you meet someone at a conference and get stuck in to a debate after a particularly engaging talk, or the after-dinner drinks which run on till 4am and nobody wants to be the first to turn in.

What you lack in sleep, you make up for in fresh ideas and enthusiasm from scintillating conversations from the night before.

I cannot wait for these occasions to return and to reignite the flames which have begun burning so low in so many as the lockdown went on.

I know for my own mental health that seeing people again has filled me with such happiness.

Only this weekend, I spent the day with one of my oldest and dearest friends, who picked out her beautiful wedding dress.

It was such an emotional experience knowing that she was finally able to plan her special day and look to the future with such optimism.

We’re now 18 months into the pandemic and so many of us still haven’t seen family members and friends, there are new-born babies to meet, newly engaged couples to celebrate and losses of loved ones to mourn.

It has been a cruel year and a testing one for so many of us.

I lost my own grandad to Covid in the first months of lockdown and due to restrictions and his side of my family living in Hull, only my dad was able to travel down for a very small funeral.

Watching a loved one being laid to rest via our screens is utterly heartbreaking, but sadly a painful experience that became the norm for many.

To be able to grieve a loss is a hugely important part of the healing process, but Covid has taken this away for too many of us.

It can almost feel like the losses of the last year haven’t happened, as we weren’t directly there to experience them.

And we have all felt loss this past year, be that a death, a cancellation of a major event or even loss of precious time we’ll never get back.

For some, it has been a wonderful time to learn new skills, regroup for the future and diversify into new avenues.

But for many it has been a wake-up call that life is short and we too often take things for granted.

Not being able to comfort my friends through times of sadness or be there to celebrate their achievements has made me realise that life means so little without prioritising time with those we care about, to mark these moments.

Covid will have impacted each and every one of us differently.

Some of us have come to realise what matters most in life and what sacrifices they are willing to make.

Whether it has been a time of great sadness and struggle or excitement and change, it has given all of us a chance to rethink what we want our future to be, who we want to spend it with and how we will prioritise our time.

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