Life gets back to normal

What a fabulous feeling early on Tuesday morning. A beautiful spring morning. All the schools are back so there were young people going in all directions, not scurrying, just a gentle pace of contentment. Parents with the primary school children chattering and excited; both the parents and the children! There was even a mini rush hour of the type I used to hate a year ago. The lockdown has changed me!

Life is returning to normal with small steps; lots of them, all going in the right direction. The birds were chirping, nest hunting I guessed. Suddenly there was an accompanying sound of joy as a couple of girls met, probably for the first time in months. It certainly sounded like it.

I passed on my journey through the train station for a short cut. There were little gatherings of young people there too but now these gatherings were not clandestine, they were actually waiting for a train. The trains have been waiting for them for a year.

Life has been hard for the young. I often thought during the lockdown, from a selfish point of view, that it is not too bad. People have lived through far worse times. On my evening runs as I come up Remembrance hill, I have thought of how many young men marched down there to their death leaving behind families in stress and hardship. Many who made that march were scarcely older than the young men I observed heading to school.

But even in the worst atrocities of war that we see all too often on television, children run and play in the rubble. Undoubtedly there is tremendous shock, stress and hardship for their families but the children find some release.

Young children need company. Parents celebrate this while on holiday. Even while in some foreign country kids seek out friends, by the pool for example. Language is not a barrier. Somehow they can communicate and have fun. During lockdown, even in the happiest of families, children have been deprived of that outlet.

There has been much spoken of a lost generation. I don’t agree. Humans are resilient. The creation of the vaccine is a stark example of this. Surely solving the problem of lost education is not beyond the wit of intelligent people.

But hearing the joy of the young people this morning made me realise something else very important that has been lost. We are only sixteen once. What a sad lost experience. Sixteen comes with its new experiences, its stresses, anxieties and tensions of emotional learning. Can that year be relived? I hope so.

Not all tension or anxiety is bad. Not all stress is bad. I fear the our media have done a massive disservice by confusing the normal stresses of life, even if they have been more intense, with mental illness. One hopes that a return for us all to social contact will solve most of the emotional problems.

Teenage stress is about learning about the world. Stress is essential for growth. Athletes stress their bodies so that they can grow in strength and power and self-motivation but for stress to beneficial requires us to be in control. That is what we all, especially the young have been

missing. Now we are getting control back and hopefully we will be stronger for the experience.

Yesterday morning, for someone who will certainly never be sixteen again, it felt fantastic to see life creep back to normal in such a positive way. It felt like it may be irreversible this time.

Being sixteen is not the only valuable year. Years in the final part of life are equally valuable. Those of us lucky enough to be involved in the vaccination programme have been privileged to see the freedom and control which the vaccine has given to everyone.

Joe Sullivan

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