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'You will appreciate your friends so much this year': A letter from a student to her pre-pandemic self

Kathryn Glen gives her past self advice on Zoom, laughing, and savouring moments with family.

This has been a year like no other in living memory. As 2020 draws to a close, we are asking people from around Ireland to write a letter to the person they were 12 months ago. Today Kathryn Glen, 21, an undergraduate student in Dublin, shares some advice for her pre-pandemic self.

Dear past me,

Welcome to 2020. Scrap your plans and buy stocks in Zoom. 

You don’t know what Zoom is yet, but you will. 

There will be a pandemic. It will be awful. You will get through it. 

Your university will close on the same day you are timetabled to attend a lecture entitled “Plagues Throughout History”. You will find this quite funny.  

In fact, you will laugh a lot this year, mainly because you need to. 

You will turn twenty-one on the same day Ireland goes into lockdown. It will be an anticlimactic but unforgettable start to your twenties. 

You will live through a period of time while being fully conscious that it will go down in history. You will try to keep a diary, but you won’t succeed. You will be surprised to discover that day-to-day life in a pandemic feels so boring. 

You will grow very, very tired of the word “unprecedented”. The same will be true of the phrase “global pandemic”.

You will feel proud that you belong to a community that will willingly sacrifice so much to protect the vulnerable. 

During a period where you should be growing more independent, suddenly you will have never spent more time with your family. While this should feel frustrating, watching others not able to see their parents makes you feel very grateful for this time with them. 

Seeing crowds in television shows filmed before the pandemic will make you flinch. You will wonder if there will ever be a time where you will stand in a crowd and won’t imagine the spread of a virus through it. 

You will struggle to stay motivated in university. The coming year will put things into perspective for you, and suddenly grades will feel very unimportant. Know that this is normal, and to not be so hard on yourself. Generally this year you will learn not to be so hard on yourself.  

Listen to “Sunscreen” by Baz Luhrmann as often as you can. It helps. 

You will never see your friends so little, or appreciate them so much. You will watch Normal People, and miss the normal college experience acutely. 

You will know exactly how far 5km from your house is. You will become highly enthusiastic about yoga. This will also be true for sea swimming. 

Once restrictions relax a bit in the summer, you will go on many hikes. You will gain a real, and hopefully permanent, appreciation of nature and the beauty of this little island. Luckily, it will be a gorgeous summer. 

You will miss your grandparents so much it hurts, but you will also talk to them more than you ever have before. 

You will appreciate every bit of travel you ever went on. The reminders on your phone of photos from “This Day Last Year” will be painful to see, but you’ll always look at them anyway.

This will be a heart-wrenching, infuriating year and you will sign a lot of petitions. 

You will find out that masks look kind of cool, actually. You should really invest in de-fogging gel for your glasses, though. 

You will wear more make-up for Zoom calls inside your house than you do when leaving the house wearing a mask. 

You will find it hard to concentrate on studying while wearing a mask in the library. You will feel a lot of respect for your younger brother sitting the Leaving Certificate who wears a mask all day in secondary school. 

You will avoid maskless people, quite literally, like the plague. 

You will never get used to the phrase “wet pub”. Nor should you. 

You will get a kitten. Because of your constant presence, you will raise a friendly cat, but possibly also the only cat you know with separation anxiety. 

You will buy local. 

The Late Late Toy Show this year will be the best one you’ve ever seen. Seeing Adam’s virtual hug stamped on the top left of an envelope delivering a Christmas card will make you quite emotional. 

You will get emotional very easily this year – just go with it. 

Thankfully, three vaccines will be announced in the space of three weeks. This will come after months of doubt whether they would be created at all. 

You will miss so many things, and in a lot of ways 2020 will feel like a year of life lost. At least what resilience you get out of it will be with you for the rest of your years. 

After the 1918 Spanish Flu came the roaring twenties. Hopefully the same can be said for the next decade. 

For 2021 and beyond, you will look forward to appreciating normal life in the years to come far more than you ever did before Covid-19. 

Here’s to roaring through these twenties. 

Kathryn Glen is a fourth year History and Political Science student at Trinity College Dublin.

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