Pandemic life: "wholeheartedly expecting to crack under the pressure"

Sussex student Jenny Bathurst has been writing for us about pandemic life since lockdown began back in March last year.

Jenny Bathurst
Jenny Bathurst

She has now turned those columns into a book Lockdown Observed: Becoming an Adult Without Leaving the House.

The pandemic robbed Jenny of the chance to sit A levels. But she ended up with three As and is now studying journalism at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne campus).

Here is her latest contribution.

"Public speaking is something that growing up, I often dreaded. Despite placing myself in situations such as applying to be a prefect at secondary school and performing short talks at my local youth group, the thought of more than a few people at a time listening to something I had to say made my palms sweat and self-deprecating thoughts race around my head – and that was days before the occasion even arrived. And to an extent, I still experience this now. Especially in a generation where often every comment you make or side you take is heavily scrutinised and ripped apart, there is immense pressure now more than ever to ensure that whatever you say is entirely thought through and doesn’t offend.

"With this knowledge in my head, I woke up on Wednesday June 30th anticipating my book launch which took place that evening. This required months of planning and preparing, and with the added consideration of the pandemic it was crucial that it was not only an enjoyable night but an entirely safe one. I released my book Lockdown Observed: Becoming an Adult Without Leaving the House nearly a month ago now, and in the relief of pressing ‘publish’ I remember feeling that now the ‘important’ bit was out the way it wouldn’t matter too much how the launch went a few weeks later. I could not have felt more differently when the day finally arrived. I am a self-confessed-but-attempting-not-to-be perfectionist, and the notion of ensuring that everything and everyone was in the right place at the right time wearing the right thing and scanning the right QR code felt admittedly overwhelming. And then, of course, came the public speaking.

"Anybody who was kind enough to have come along may not have guessed this from the interview, but that morning I was a bundle of nerves and wholeheartedly expecting to crack under the pressure. In actual fact, the night was brilliant – one of the best in a long time actually. Well, it was the only night out in a long time, but all the same it was hugely enjoyable. All the fears of saying the wrong thing or performing to just my parents and someone who mistakenly attended the wrong event were dispelled and once again I was told “I told you so” by everyone who had known of my worries surrounding the evening.

"Yes, everyone was wearing their masks, and yes, I was ordering friends and family around to scan this and cover their hands in that, but the evening almost made up for all of the disappointments and let-downs that 2020/21 has bought me. Without these ups and downs there would not have been the emotions that I documented so openly and continue to do so now, and therefore there would have been no book collating these emotions either. Although the event may have been a celebration of my book and its release, I felt it was just as much a celebration of everyone’s stories and experiences. Looking around that room I saw not just socially distanced individuals, but humans who have coped in their own brilliant way through their own brilliant story."