<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1950904595195898&ev=PageView&noscript=1" /> One Year On - Personal Reflections - Lydia Rachel Photography

One Year On…

Today marks a year since I returned home to New Zealand, also a year since our harshest lockdown began. A year like no other, one we probably won’t forget, ever. It’s hard, to sum up, everything that 2020 was. There are so many others that have already done it better. Even still, I thought I’d go over a few personal reflections here, of one of the most difficult, unique, tragic and enlightening years we have ever had.

And, yes I’m well aware it is now March and 2021 already feels like it’s been a long year in itself. This post has been sitting in the drafts for a while, I haven’t blogged in a long time. Life has changed a lot in the last year. Things aren’t “back to normal” yet…

I don’t really need to mention the big C word and how in enveloped each and every one of our lives. It would be hard to find someone on the planet who’s life or plans weren’t affected in at least some small way by the global pandemic.

For me, like many, 2020 started off great. I took a solo trip to Sofia, Bulgaria to ring in the new year, and explore the beautiful snow-covered city and mountains. I had been living in London (on my 2-year youth visa) for over a year, with my visa set to expire at the end of May 2020, I was working hard and making the most of London life, planning my European Summer months full of lying on beaches, exploring ruins and travelling to my heart’s content before returning home to NZ just-in-time to miss the Winter and settle back into kiwi life. Well, we all know that lovely fairytale dream didn’t happen.

It all seemed to happen so fast, a matter of days even. One minute we were planning holidays, working and just going along like normal… The next, the world was going into lockdown, borders were closing, my family was begging me to come home, flights were getting harder to find and doubling in price by day. It was a Wednesday night (the 18th of March 2020) after I finished my shift nannying (one of my London jobs – looking after two young girls). Within a day, the pandemonium had gone up a notch. Covid was in the UK and London was on the verge of lockdown. The week before, I had resigned to the fact I probably wasn’t going to go jaunting around Italy that Summer, we’d just have to go somewhere else… days later I had to accept all my travel plans would be scrapped, my time in London cut short and if I didn’t get home to New Zealand soon, I would be locked down in a small London apartment, without an income, just paying rent to waste away my remaining time in the UK watching Netflix and going stir crazy. That Wednesday night, I made the decision to book a flight to Auckland. I doubted myself a million times, I just wanted someone else to make the decision for me. Writing this now, and looking back, it sounds so silly. Of course, that was completely the right decision and I’m so glad I made it. But, it was only the beginning, and no one thought, a year on we’d still be dealing with the coronavirus.

I had two days to pack up my life in London, I got rid of most of my clothes and belongings, taking only one suitcase, 28kg home with me. I didn’t get to properly say goodbye to anyone except my bestie flatmate Trudi. It was all such a shock, very overwhelming and emotional at the time. I was sad about not having time to do everything I wanted to in London, having to give up so many travel plans, and all the amazing people I had to leave behind so quickly. I realise this is a very privileged position to speak from. Many people were a lot worse off than I. I could retreat home safely to family in New Zealand, be supported and looked after and there are a lot worse things than missing out on holidays. But equally, everyone’s feelings and reactions to the pandemic are valid. It was and is hard for everyone. Feeling sad, scared, overwhelmed, lonely and anxious became the new normal. I tried to stay as positive as possible through it all, many good things came out of the lockdowns. New businesses, creativity, new ideas, a renewed connection with people, online community and supporting each other more than ever. Holding on to hope has been so important amongst the constant underlying uncertainty of the future.

I was fortunate my flight home went straight through with no delays or detours, from London to Dubai, to Bali, and finally home to New Zealand. I arrived in Auckland on the 23rd of March 2020, two days before the country plunged into level 4 lockdown. It was early days in terms of the pandemic response, hotel-isolation was not a thing yet, so I got to go home to isolate at my parents’ farm in the Waikato. I had a Covid test at the airport since I had come from London and being around people with flu-like symptoms. Following the test, me and my luggage were ushered through a backroom security check and a PPE-covered airport official let me out the side of the terminal into the rain. Masked up, I waved at my Dad who I hadn’t seen in over a year and wasn’t allowed to hug. He taxied me home sitting in the back corner of the car, then off to my room down the end of the hall, banned from the kitchen, living area or anywhere near my parents.

If we are friends or you follow me on social media, you may have heard about my experience of this time. I grappled with sharing my situation online to be memorialised forever. To be questioned and judged. But I decided to share, to be open, to document this crazy time in history and to remove some of the fear surrounding it. Two days after I landed in Auckland, I got a call from the DHB telling me of my positive test result for Covid-19. I had it. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised at all. Covid was rampant in London, I was using public transport, working, and going all over the city until the day I left. There are a million ways I could have contracted it. My flatmate, boss and some friends had symptoms, but they weren’t testing the general public then, so who knows. It’s no one’s fault and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve been asked a lot if I would have contracted it on the plane but a positive result wouldn’t show up that quickly, as I was tested straight off the plane (not an enjoyable experience after 30+ hours of travel, a dry nose and major jetlag might I add).

I felt fine. I wondered if I was going to get sick and start displaying symptoms.

The Healthline people started calling me every day, questioning me about a long list of symptoms, and any changes. I had two days where my chest felt tight and I was a little out of breath… then, nothing. That was it. Overall, an asymptomatic case. This kind of surprised me, as I had been sick a lot during my last year in London. The weather there, close proximity to others constantly and the damp flat probably didn’t help. I felt like my immunity was always down while living there. But the coronavirus didn’t really affect me, maybe the fresh New Zealand air and sunshine healed me? It was definitely a welcome relief. I’m so grateful that I didn’t get more symptoms.

I don’t share this to boast, that I’m one of the lucky young ones that wasn’t really affected by it. It is a very serious virus. People have died. I know people that have lost loved ones due to covid. But in New Zealand, this is rare. We are a lot better off than most, and the more people that found out I had had Covid, the more I heard “OMG you’re the only person I know that’s had it”, and “wow you nearly died” and “what was it like?”. It was interesting having these conversations and explaining my experience. We are privileged to have this general view in NZ, and that when you consider the entire population, having Covid has not been “common” here. I felt like people thought I had this wild insight, but apart from the crazy, sudden journey of moving home, having the actual virus was a bit of a non-event for me. Again, very blessed.

The lockdown weeks merged into months, that I spent going for very long walks, zoom-calling, face-timing, and house-party-ing friends and family, trying to exercise my creativity and watching too much TV.

When lockdown finally started lifting, I got to see the rest of my family and start reuniting with friends. Eventually, life returned to somewhat normal in New Zealand with borders still closed, for mostly the rest of 2020 into 2021. Missing out on my Europe travels, I instead got in a few South Island getaways to Queenstown and Christchurch and fell in love with Aotearoa all over again. We are so blessed to live in this beautiful country.

I’m grateful to my parents for letting me retreat to their house and figure out my life and next steps. In terms of business, 2020 was a tough one. I obviously wasn’t planning to be home so early, the wedding industry took a big hit and thinking about the future was tough. I managed to get some work doing product and commercial photography and moved up to Auckland at the start of July 2020. I’m so grateful for this work, as it has been consistent ever since, a hard thing to find when doing mostly freelance work otherwise. I have grand goals and dreams for my business, and definitely struggled with a bit of self-doubt and hopelessness this last year, but I’m still determined to pursue them.

We went through an Auckland lockdown in August then were lucky enough to go into a Summer of freedom. I made the most of the beach, making up for all the ocean-time I had missed while in the UK. Spent quality time with family and friends and felt a lot more settled, at home and content.

It’s easy to list all the tough things about 2020, and we’re still reeling from many of them. It was one of the most testing for my mental health, it confirmed to me who my real, cherished and genuine friends are, made me cling to my faith like never before, made me grieve for the weight of the world, grieve for all the missed experiences I should be having in the sunset of my twenties (selfish/societal expectations or not). It was unfair. It sucked.

2020 also, taught me a lot. As I wrote on Instagram on January 1st… It has increased my vulnerability, compassion and resilience. It has reinforced what matters most. It has made me educate myself and grow in knowledge, challenge and examine long-standing beliefs, privilege and fragility.

Writing has definitely helped me process my experiences over the last year. I started journaling (semi-regularly), writing down thoughts, prayers and reflections. Most of which will never be shared, but helped me work through my emotions and navigate new territory. I’ve grown as a person, stepped more fully into who I am, deepened friendships and shed away toxicity. I’m incredibly grateful to be here.

We had another couple of mini Auckland-lockdowns in February and March, we aren’t out of the woods yet, and neither is the rest of the world. Who knows how long this will go on. I hope the vaccine helps. I miss my family and friends living overseas. It’s hard to imagine the world returning to “normal”. Maybe it never will, or it will be a new normal at least. I’m still full of hope, dreams, aching to get out and keep exploring, growing and expanding. Let’s see what the next 365 days bring.

Today marks a year since I returned home to New Zealand, also a year since our harshest lockdown began. A year like no other, one we probably won’t forget, ever. It’s hard, to sum up, everything that 2020 was. There are so many others that have already done it better. Even still, I thought I’d go over a few personal reflections here, of one of the most difficult, unique, tragic and enlightening years we have ever had.

And, yes I’m well aware it is now March and 2021 already feels like it’s been a long year in itself. This post has been sitting in the drafts for a while, I haven’t blogged in a long time. Life has changed a lot in the last year. Things aren’t “back to normal” yet…

I don’t really need to mention the big C word and how in enveloped each and every one of our lives. It would be hard to find someone on the planet who’s life or plans weren’t affected in at least some small way by the global pandemic.

For me, like many, 2020 started off great. I took a solo trip to Sofia, Bulgaria to ring in the new year, and explore the beautiful snow-covered city and mountains. I had been living in London (on my 2-year youth visa) for over a year, with my visa set to expire at the end of May 2020, I was working hard and making the most of London life, planning my European Summer months full of lying on beaches, exploring ruins and travelling to my heart’s content before returning home to NZ just-in-time to miss the Winter and settle back into kiwi life. Well, we all know that lovely fairytale dream didn’t happen.

It all seemed to happen so fast, a matter of days even. One minute we were planning holidays, working and just going along like normal… The next, the world was going into lockdown, borders were closing, my family was begging me to come home, flights were getting harder to find and doubling in price by day. It was a Wednesday night (the 18th of March 2020) after I finished my shift nannying (one of my London jobs – looking after two young girls). Within a day, the pandemonium had gone up a notch. Covid was in the UK and London was on the verge of lockdown. The week before, I had resigned to the fact I probably wasn’t going to go jaunting around Italy that Summer, we’d just have to go somewhere else… days later I had to accept all my travel plans would be scrapped, my time in London cut short and if I didn’t get home to New Zealand soon, I would be locked down in a small London apartment, without an income, just paying rent to waste away my remaining time in the UK watching Netflix and going stir crazy. That Wednesday night, I made the decision to book a flight to Auckland. I doubted myself a million times, I just wanted someone else to make the decision for me. Writing this now, and looking back, it sounds so silly. Of course, that was completely the right decision and I’m so glad I made it. But, it was only the beginning, and no one thought, a year on we’d still be dealing with the coronavirus.

I had two days to pack up my life in London, I got rid of most of my clothes and belongings, taking only one suitcase, 28kg home with me. I didn’t get to properly say goodbye to anyone except my bestie flatmate Trudi. It was all such a shock, very overwhelming and emotional at the time. I was sad about not having time to do everything I wanted to in London, having to give up so many travel plans, and all the amazing people I had to leave behind so quickly. I realise this is a very privileged position to speak from. Many people were a lot worse off than I. I could retreat home safely to family in New Zealand, be supported and looked after and there are a lot worse things than missing out on holidays. But equally, everyone’s feelings and reactions to the pandemic are valid. It was and is hard for everyone. Feeling sad, scared, overwhelmed, lonely and anxious became the new normal. I tried to stay as positive as possible through it all, many good things came out of the lockdowns. New businesses, creativity, new ideas, a renewed connection with people, online community and supporting each other more than ever. Holding on to hope has been so important amongst the constant underlying uncertainty of the future.

I was fortunate my flight home went straight through with no delays or detours, from London to Dubai, to Bali, and finally home to New Zealand. I arrived in Auckland on the 23rd of March 2020, two days before the country plunged into level 4 lockdown. It was early days in terms of the pandemic response, hotel-isolation was not a thing yet, so I got to go home to isolate at my parents’ farm in the Waikato. I had a Covid test at the airport since I had come from London and being around people with flu-like symptoms. Following the test, me and my luggage were ushered through a backroom security check and a PPE-covered airport official let me out the side of the terminal into the rain. Masked up, I waved at my Dad who I hadn’t seen in over a year and wasn’t allowed to hug. He taxied me home sitting in the back corner of the car, then off to my room down the end of the hall, banned from the kitchen, living area or anywhere near my parents.

If we are friends or you follow me on social media, you may have heard about my experience of this time. I grappled with sharing my situation online to be memorialised forever. To be questioned and judged. But I decided to share, to be open, to document this crazy time in history and to remove some of the fear surrounding it. Two days after I landed in Auckland, I got a call from the DHB telling me of my positive test result for Covid-19. I had it. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised at all. Covid was rampant in London, I was using public transport, working, and going all over the city until the day I left. There are a million ways I could have contracted it. My flatmate, boss and some friends had symptoms, but they weren’t testing the general public then, so who knows. It’s no one’s fault and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve been asked a lot if I would have contracted it on the plane but a positive result wouldn’t show up that quickly, as I was tested straight off the plane (not an enjoyable experience after 30+ hours of travel, a dry nose and major jetlag might I add).

I felt fine. I wondered if I was going to get sick and start displaying symptoms.

The Healthline people started calling me every day, questioning me about a long list of symptoms, and any changes. I had two days where my chest felt tight and I was a little out of breath… then, nothing. That was it. Overall, an asymptomatic case. This kind of surprised me, as I had been sick a lot during my last year in London. The weather there, close proximity to others constantly and the damp flat probably didn’t help. I felt like my immunity was always down while living there. But the coronavirus didn’t really affect me, maybe the fresh New Zealand air and sunshine healed me? It was definitely a welcome relief. I’m so grateful that I didn’t get more symptoms.

I don’t share this to boast, that I’m one of the lucky young ones that wasn’t really affected by it. It is a very serious virus. People have died. I know people that have lost loved ones due to covid. But in New Zealand, this is rare. We are a lot better off than most, and the more people that found out I had had Covid, the more I heard “OMG you’re the only person I know that’s had it”, and “wow you nearly died” and “what was it like?”. It was interesting having these conversations and explaining my experience. We are privileged to have this general view in NZ, and that when you consider the entire population, having Covid has not been “common” here. I felt like people thought I had this wild insight, but apart from the crazy, sudden journey of moving home, having the actual virus was a bit of a non-event for me. Again, very blessed.

The lockdown weeks merged into months, that I spent going for very long walks, zoom-calling, face-timing, and house-party-ing friends and family, trying to exercise my creativity and watching too much TV.

When lockdown finally started lifting, I got to see the rest of my family and start reuniting with friends. Eventually, life returned to somewhat normal in New Zealand with borders still closed, for mostly the rest of 2020 into 2021. Missing out on my Europe travels, I instead got in a few South Island getaways to Queenstown and Christchurch and fell in love with Aotearoa all over again. We are so blessed to live in this beautiful country.

I’m grateful to my parents for letting me retreat to their house and figure out my life and next steps. In terms of business, 2020 was a tough one. I obviously wasn’t planning to be home so early, the wedding industry took a big hit and thinking about the future was tough. I managed to get some work doing product and commercial photography and moved up to Auckland at the start of July 2020. I’m so grateful for this work, as it has been consistent ever since, a hard thing to find when doing mostly freelance work otherwise. I have grand goals and dreams for my business, and definitely struggled with a bit of self-doubt and hopelessness this last year, but I’m still determined to pursue them.

We went through an Auckland lockdown in August then were lucky enough to go into a Summer of freedom. I made the most of the beach, making up for all the ocean-time I had missed while in the UK. Spent quality time with family and friends and felt a lot more settled, at home and content.

It’s easy to list all the tough things about 2020, and we’re still reeling from many of them. It was one of the most testing for my mental health, it confirmed to me who my real, cherished and genuine friends are, made me cling to my faith like never before, made me grieve for the weight of the world, grieve for all the missed experiences I should be having in the sunset of my twenties (selfish/societal expectations or not). It was unfair. It sucked.

2020 also, taught me a lot. As I wrote on Instagram on January 1st… It has increased my vulnerability, compassion and resilience. It has reinforced what matters most. It has made me educate myself and grow in knowledge, challenge and examine long-standing beliefs, privilege and fragility.

Writing has definitely helped me process my experiences over the last year. I started journaling (semi-regularly), writing down thoughts, prayers and reflections. Most of which will never be shared, but helped me work through my emotions and navigate new territory. I’ve grown as a person, stepped more fully into who I am, deepened friendships and shed away toxicity. I’m incredibly grateful to be here.

We had another couple of mini Auckland-lockdowns in February and March, we aren’t out of the woods yet, and neither is the rest of the world. Who knows how long this will go on. I hope the vaccine helps. I miss my family and friends living overseas. It’s hard to imagine the world returning to “normal”. Maybe it never will, or it will be a new normal at least. I’m still full of hope, dreams, aching to get out and keep exploring, growing and expanding. Let’s see what the next 365 days bring.

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