Under The Same Stars

Here we are, back in lockdown again… I’ll resist the urge to get all political and go on a rant, I promise!

As you’ll know if you’ve read my NQT year blogs (an ongoing project) I am an avid journaller, writing every day if I can. While being invaluable for recounting my NQT experiences, it’s also useful for looking back at how lockdown felt the first time around.

“There’s talk that all this – the lockdown, the social distancing, the school closures – could last six months or more. It’s a very sobering thought that all this could go on until September.”

29th March 2020

Reading those words, neatly put on the page in fountain pen (like now, I was at liberty to take the time to let the ink dry) I am very glad there’s no such thing as time travel. If I had known back then that nearly twelve months later nothing would be different, it would have been very difficult to find motivation for anything.

This lockdown is equally as difficult as the first, though for different reasons. The first time around, we didn’t know what to expect; this time, we kind of do, in that we know how grim it can be to feel trapped indoors! In the spring, I remember finding it hard to keep my house cool, whereas now it’s commonplace to hear variations on “Were you born in a barn?” or “Who’s forgotten to close the door behind the dog?!”

I should point out that for me, there are some major differences in my lockdown experience, First – last year, I had boldly gone out into the world, living with a schoolfriend in our first taste of young-professional freedom. For a whole collection of reasons, we’ve had to give up our house and move home to our parents’, which was really not part of the plan! Second – last year I had a full-time class teacher position, therefore a class to teach remotely and a rota of days to fulfil, teaching and caring for key-worker and vulnerable children at school. This year, as a school-based NTP tutor, I don’t have this. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be delivering tuition online or whether I will be furloughed. It’s hardly an ideal situation, and thousands of others are experiencing similar uncertainty.

Having upped sticks and moved twice in eighteen months, you can probably imagine the absolute chaos that is my assortment of belongings… My rented storage unit is the place of nightmares!

But I found something interesting the other day, that transported me instantly back to that first lockdown. I have a whole box full of notebooks, and slipped between two of them was a slip of paper, hastily scrawled some time in April, I think. I remember having plans to blog about it at the time.

So, nearly nine months on, we reach the crux of this post – the reason why it’s called “Under The Same Stars.”

Early in Lockdown 1, I took great solace from my work group chat. We all found it hard to suddenly be away from school and the close-quarters working life that a single-form-entry school can create. The whatsapp was full of memes, gifs and daily tales of lockdown life, though beneath the laughs there was undoubtedly an undercurrent of worry, fuelled by the uncertainty spawned by constant media speculation of reopening schools and regular spells of internet teacher-bashing. We muddled along as best we could.

One evening late on, I sat at my desk in the corner of my room, my attention split between the piece of writing I was working on and the little notification light on my phone, that relentlessly remained lit. The whatsapp was alive and kicking, and I put down my pen to join in.

Everyone was looking for a group of satellites in the dark sky: rumour had it they would be easily visible that night, and as luck would have it we had a clear evening. Some of us leaned from windows, some stood in gardens, others ventured out of their front doors for the first time in a while. We all gazed skywards, looking for the moving lights in the sky. And then came the perfect message, that brought inordinate joy. “Are we even looking at the right thing?”

I was alone in my bedroom but it still made me laugh out loud. True, we had no way of knowing if we were looking at the fabled satellites, or even if we were all looking at the same thing in the sky. But in that moment there was such beauty and warmth: it didn’t matter that we were spread out in our own homes having not been together for weeks. We were united by our separation, all looking up at the same night sky.

So if you’re feeling alone in lockdown, missing your friends or family or even the old normal of cramming into an overflowing train carriage, remember to look up. We are all under the same stars.

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