Updated: Apr 29
Fred, 27, is a writer and English tutor from Galway.
“I remember well when it started...” he begins, “Most of my adult life I've not been a person to stay at home very much. I like to keep active, I'd usually leave the house early in the morning and would arrive late in the evening and head to bed for the next day. I'd always be busy with work, gym, my personal and professional relationships and education. That's just how I am, it's how I function best.
“I wasn't even really paying much attention to the Coronavirus story in the media, it passed me by a bit. That was until they started talking about locking down the country and I remember thinking, 'They couldn't really do that... could they?'”
The lockdown came at an especially bad time for him, he tells me.
“I'd just gone through a difficult breakup. It wasn't through anything bad, we cared about each other, but my girlfriend wasn't from Ireland and she had to leave the country, and I just didn't feel like it was solid enough to move off together and start from scratch in a completely different country. So I took the decision to end it. I felt it was going that way gradually anyway to be honest. But it hurt, it was constantly on my mind, I wanted to try and get out there, meet new people, stop thinking about it as much as possible, the last thing I wanted to do was stay at home staring at the wall.”
Soon further issues came up around housing, he continues.
“I had been living with my elderly grandparents up in Dublin for a couple of years. I was planning to move out soon anyway to get out of their hair and give them some space. They'd been very good to me. But as soon as the lockdown was seriously talked about and fear levels increased they started to panic a bit. They told me I would have to move out and find new living arrangements ASAP. It was completely understandable given their age, I knew everybody was scared, and I felt a bit selfish being upset by it but I won't lie, you know, it was hard...
“It's completely illogical, I know it is, but you start to really beat yourself up, you know? You start thinking, I gave up on a relationship with a nice girl, I could have been more patient. Then it feels like your family is rejecting you. You know it isn't but it feels like it was all your fault, like you messed up and the universe is giving you some kind of cruel and unusual punishment.”
Fred ended up moving into a rented flat, built to accommodate 3 people but actually occupied by 6. There where 3 other people in his bedroom.
“It was all I could really afford at the time, but it was horrible. Really really bad. I had several run-ins with my flatmates and we were all just cramped up in this tiny space, always in a bad mood. I ended up having my deposit taken by a dodgy landlord because other people in the flat were refusing to pay. At that point I thought right I have to get out of here. 2020 is a year I don't think I'll look back on fondly, I doubt I'm alone in that.”
Despite the issues, he says, there have been positives and he always does his best to keep his head up and stay grateful for what he has.
“I'm very lucky in a lot of ways,” he says, “There are so many people who have lost someone close to them, either to suicide, missed medical treatments or the virus, and so many have lost their business or their job and are struggling to pay the bills. I'm still in a job and have never had to take the unemployment payment, even though everything's been moved onto Zoom which is a bit different and less personal.”
Living situations have also improved, he tells me.
“I've moved back in with my immediate family in Galway. We've always had our differences but we've been able to get past most of that, which is great. I'm much more at peace with myself and with the situation in general now than I was last year. Rather than the dread and uncertainty I felt then I feel focused now. I'm trying to educate myself in a number of areas and get ready for what's next.”
So where does he think it's all going? What's coming down the line?
“Well, to be quite honest with you...” he tells me, “If it keeps going the way it's going I don't see any good coming of this. We've already done enormous damage to every area of our society with this lockdown and there doesn't seem to be any sign of it ending, there is no real indication of where we need to get to before we can all get on with our lives. So I think we need to be careful, really careful, where we go from here and come up with a real solid plan to get out of this mess we've ended up in.”