Asalamualaikum/hello everyone and welcome back to my blog 🙂 Today’s post is a new kind of post I want to try out and is something a little more personal than I’m normally used to sharing on here – so let me know what you think about the change!
Usually on this blog, at the end of the month I have tended to do “monthly reading wrap-ups” but even though I have been reading this month, I haven’t managed to read a whole book. That being said, I thought it would be fun if I could personally share how I found this month as the first month in 2021… highlights, the good, the bad, general struggles, etc! I thought it would be interesting to reflect back on this month especially considering (being in the UK) it was the start of our third lockdown and so many things happened! I’m especially interested to also see your guys’ thoughts on this month as well and the different things I discuss 🙂
Now first of all – a disclaimer that I acknowledge that a whole lot of things have happened this month, not just the UK but globally (*cough* American politics *cough*)… but as a teen living in the UK, I’m mainly going to be focusing on my own personal experiences with what has been happening that I’ve been directly affected by. I don’t want to attempt to talk about something I may not fully be aware/am ignorant of and will leave other people to relate things they have personally experienced concerning other events that have taken place!
On the 4th January, when Boris Johnson announced in his nationwide address that there would be a national lockdown and that GCSE and A Level examinations will be cancelled – despite almost expecting the former, I was completely shocked by the latter. As someone who has always cared (almost too much) about their grades, I have been studying really hard for my A Level exams ever since I started year 12, and now in the middle of year 13, I had been working hard for the mock exams my school had set us for the second week of January.
After witnessing the horrifying ordeal of last year’s results day, with so many of my friends in the year above receiving first one set of grades and then another, I felt optimistic that the government would want to prevent the same situation of exams being cancelled from happening again. I was told by many people not to worry, and that it was very unlikely that exams would happen again, “the government will have one year to prepare for your exams… plenty of time to ensure they don’t need to be cancelled!” Unfortunately, this was not the case, and I felt extremely demotivated and disheartened. Last year’s results day disaster was still at the forefront of all of our minds, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. One thing that I thought then, which I still think now… is that without the objective measurement of exams, everything becomes so much more subjective, grades and assessment become more subjective… and that comes with so much uncertainty and inevitably, anxiety.
I understand that considering the COVID situation, it was necessary for these measures to be taken. However, I do think (and I know I am not alone here) that if the coronavirus pandemic had been handled more effectively and efficiently (which we can see from the example of numerous other countries, that it is possible), GCSE and A Level examinations should not have needed to be cancelled. And you may think… as a student, I should be glad that my exams aren’t happening, and that there is almost less stress and work involved now. Whilst that may be true, the tremendous amount of uncertainty and chaos as to the measurement of grades instead of exams has made it hard for me to not feel more stressed. I think at the end of the day, as a student in my final year of A Levels, I just feel more frustration than anything else. I have friends abroad in their final year who are still continuing as normal, and I think this should have still been possible for the UK, too.
First of all, I just want to say that I am incredibly grateful that I have the privilege of having a roof over my head and food to eat (to say the absolute least!), and recognise that I was and am in an incredibly fortunate position. Even though I am highlighting some of my struggles this month, I still am sooo grateful for the situation I am in because I recognise that there are so many others who are in more difficult situations, and my prayers are with them. With that being said, this third lockdown really brought its own hurdles. After not being able to resume my social life as normal (obviously) since March, school was able to provide at least a bit of that, so I was still able to see friends and interact with people at school normally. Now this of course changed when we were back in lockdown – and combined with the frustration of exams being cancelled and the bleak and cold UK winter, I definitely struggled having to stay indoors again, only going out for walks.
….Now this post isn’t just one long complaint! I had things I struggled with, but I also found solutions for them – which I also want to share, of course! I learned that there was a flip side to every thing that I struggled with this month…. 🙂
the flip side!
When it comes to dealing with uncertainty and stress (I explored this more in a previous post on the Islamic Perspective on Dealing with COVID-19), as a Muslim it allowed me to really increase my faith in God (imaan), and put all trust in Him that whatever happened was for the best (there’s a whole concept of Qadar in Islam that explores this). I was able to take advantage of the time that lockdown has given me to spend more time reconnecting my relationship with God through engaging in spiritual tasks such as reading Qur’an (our holy book), praying and just learning more about my religion in general (eg lectures on Islamic history)… this helped to alleviate a lot of the stress and anxiety I was facing. I also was able to catch up with a lot of my friends (as before I had been really busy studying for my mock exams) which was really, really lovely! We are all in the same boat and all have the same feelings and struggles, and being able to openly talk about them made me feel so much better as well.
In terms of the whole exams situation, I can only speak for myself… after discussing with my teachers, I realised that the situation was really not that bad for me. Even though online school during lockdown in March was a bit all over the place at first, I was lucky enough to be able to catch up on my own, and wasn’t too disadvantaged. I am also fortunate to have been studying really hard and achieving the grades I eventually wanted to achieve in my final exams anyway. I also have a good relationship with all my teachers, and guys really – our teachers only want to help! So having an open discussion with them about my progress and grades made me feel so much better as well, and really hopeful on the outcome of the current exams fiasco.
Also, in general, not going to school has freed up so much time for me! For the first time since my A Levels started, I have had time to read for pleasure! I’ve had time to actually spend more time on my hobbies and things that I love doing, and not constantly having to exercise self-discipline and prioritise studying and other more important things. School just took up so much of my time! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still studying, but now every hour I spend studying is productive in comparison to the 7 hours at school which includes so much faffing. And of course… I’ve been able to restart blogging again – which has been absolutely wonderful! It’s been so lovely to be able to come on here, post and interact with everyone again 🙂
I think it’s safe to say this month has been an absolute whirlwind – however, there really is a good side to everything 🙂 Even though I struggled with certain things, I was able to overcome them and learn so much. Lockdown has given so much opportunity for reflection (which comes hand in hand with self-growth) and I am always one for reflection and deep discussions… which in my opinion, can only lead to a positive change!!
If you read until the end of this long, rambly post – wow, you’re officially a superhero, I’m so proud of you. Thank you so much for reading – and I’m sorry this was so long – I just have way too much to say haha.
But of course… I want to also hear what you guys think! How did you guys find this month? What were some things that were good, and some things you struggled with? If you’re in the UK, how are you finding lockdown and what do you think about exams cancelled? How’s everyone’s 2021 resolutions going??