Slipping Back into Normality

And as a result, I’m feeling exhausted. Anyone else?


On Monday, just after 7:30 am, I boarded a train for the first time since March 2020. The chilly air wrapped around my face but gave me some welcome relief from the claggyness of wearing a mask. It was a bit of a surreal moment, but an important one for stepping back into normality — whatever that’s supposed to now mean.

Apart from a brief three-week stint in the run-up to Christmas, Monday was my first day back at work in fourteen months. If you had told me at the beginning of March this was what my life would be like for over a year; I would have laughed. It’s funny how small things — like getting a train — have become so abnormal in the last year. Amidst the excitement of something that seemed so ‘new,’ it was nice to be able to sit on a creaky train and rumble into the town where I work.

Despite customers not fully returning until next week, I found the day to be exhausting, to say the least, but it was nice to see colleagues I haven’t seen for the best part of a year. As I ease my way back into what my life used to be like in March 2020, I want to continue the writing habit I formulated during those empty months. It’s given me a great form of release, creativity and an integral coping mechanism to this uncertain year. It might be harder to fit around work and everything else, but I will try.

I hope this week’s newsletter finds you all well and gradually slotting back into ‘normal’ life. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable to go at your own pace. Only do things you are comfortable with.


Article recommendations 

  • For those of us who tend to have an addictive, obsessive personality, it can be easy to slip into unhealthy patterns of exercise, eating, and restriction. When I used to run regularly, I would beat myself up every time I hadn’t improved my distance or pace. I’ve since been able to have a better relationship with running (on the rarity that I do go!), and Sophie F. writes about this so well — My Experience with Disordered Eating and a Fitness Obsession.
  • A refreshing and uplifting take on why age is predominately a societal construction. For those of us who fear edging slowly but surely towards our 30s, this is a brilliant read by Dan Cadmus — Why I Don’t Fear Turning 30
  • Sometimes I think even I am too old to want to be a writer/journalist and I should have started years ago (I’m 23 for reference), but I know this is silly, as some people start way later in life. This is an inspiring and uplifting article (Are You Waiting To Be Too Old To Start Writing?) about always being prepared to pursue your dreams, even when you think it’s too late. By Vishnu*s Virtues.
  • Everyone has had a different experience of the pandemic. This group article by all the Backbench editor’s (including me!) really shines a light on this difficult year — The Pandemic: Our Personal Perspectives.

Book recommendations 

Image created by the author using Canva

Merging the Drift, Tom Bray

Although this took me a long time to read, this is no reflection on what I thought of the book. I’m reading everything at a snail pace at the moment because that’s all I can do. Also, I read about 3–4 books at once so it’s bound to take me that bit longer with every read. I thought this was a highly original and uplifting book. It’s an intriguing story with lots of twists and turns that all comes together with a satisfying ending. I may be a little biased, as I interviewed Tom for a feature in A Thousand Lives, but I highly enjoyed his first novel. I will be writing a full review soon.

Stoner, John Williams

It’s been a while since I read this (2016, in fact) but I can remember absolutely loving it. It’s a strange, untypical novel that follows the life of William Stoner, born at the end of the nineteenth century. He studies English literature, becomes a professor and falls in love with a student, which is a million words away from his upbringing in a farming family. As a result, he’s estranged from his parents and lives a life of perpetual loneliness. It’s a novel about circumstance, regret, love and the shortness of life.


What I wrote this week



This hefty chunk of reading material should be enough for one week! In all seriousness, I need to up my reading game. Not because I feel pressured to read loads of books this year (quite the opposite) but just because I miss having that quiet time curled up with a book. I hope you all have a great weekend, Violet x

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please consider giving me a tip at paypal.me/Violet977I don’t feel comfortable charging anyone for this newsletter, but I am a graduate who is just starting and trying to make a living. Whether you can donate 5p or £5, I’d be forever grateful. Thank you.



I Went Back to Work for the First Time in 14 months

Observations and thoughts from this momentous day and returning to normality


The sun was already shining into the room before it hit 6 o’clock this morning. I knew as I had been awake before my alarm. The night before, I panicked that I would sleep through because I am not used to being awake at that early hour.

My body was high on the excitement and nerves of returning to work for the first time since March 2020. I briefly did a stint at another store in the three weeks before Christmas, but this was going to be something else. I had to brave public transport, the commute and a whole set of people I haven’t seen for fourteen months.

Despite the lack of sleep and being awake at 6:30 am on a Monday in May, it made me think about how much the world had changed since the last time I took that journey. And most importantly, how much I had, too.


The town I work in somehow looks emptier but packed full of life

As I wandered down all too familiar streets as the morning sun hit the shiny windows, I was struck by how many places were boarded up and empty. Many livelihoods and local businesses had obviously not made it out to the other side of the pandemic. Those people would never be able to make a return journey to a place they knew and worked in before. It was all gone.


But as I walked, I noticed that there were new leases of life everywhere. Another set of people were willing to take a shot at owning a bar, pub, shop or restaurant when a lot of the street had given up hope, thanks to the pandemic. As I went about my day and eased myself back into work, I found myself taking frequent glances out of the window. I was shocked to see streams of people — having been on my own for most of the year.


People were sitting outside in the sun, walking dogs, carrying children and living life for all of us to see. Because for months before this, it has largely been behind closed doors, and our streets have been stagnant.


Life was bursting out of the seams when I looked out of that window, but yet there was so much that had grown lethargic, even motionless.


There’s something entirely comforting about being surrounded by books and like-minded people


I’ve been curled up in my flat for the best part of the year. In the darkest months of the pandemic, I would go for weeks without seeing another person (aside from my partner.) Today felt better. Being surrounded by books in my flat felt like being in a room full of lots of people and stories, because in essence, that’s exactly what they are, aside from physical objects.


And I was getting hints of that familiar feeling by being back at work. In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I work in a bookshop. A wonderful bookshop in a busy high street, staffed by some of the nicest, most welcoming and friendly people I have ever met. As I walked through the door, I was hit by that familiar book smell and the comfort that being surrounded by shelves full to the brim with books often brings.


It takes a particular type of person to walk (and browse in) a bookshop. But we are usually all pretty similar. Being back there today made me realise just how comforting it is and how much it was missed during the empty months that have just been.


Getting up before the rest of the world is tough but endlessly rewarding

Okay, 6:30 isn’t that early. I am exaggerating a bit. However, a lot of people aren’t up at that time. I was dreading it the night before, as I always get this feeling of nervous anticipation before starting something new. I wasn’t worried about going back or anything like that; I just had butterflies in my belly and found it hard to settle (and sleep.)

The thought of getting up at 6:30 when I’ve been treated to a year of getting up on my own terms and having lazy mornings was tough. But when it came round to it, I was raring to go, even waking up half an hour before my alarm.

As I sit here and write this, fourteen hours later, my eyes are weary, and I can feel an enormous weight of tiredness washing over me. My feet ache, and my brain is tired from the constant socialisation. But was it worth it? Yes, always, for the accomplishment it brings. I know my day has been spent well, and I have made another step back to normality.


I wanted to write today, but I didn’t quite know what I would feel up to because of the long day I’ve had. I’m not sure if this adds any value for anyone else, but that’s okay. Writing doesn’t always have to. It’s a means of expression at its finest, and sometimes, it’s okay to be selfish and only mean something to the person writing it.

At its core, this is a snapshot of my day, but maybe it will be enjoyable to read for others. I’m going to try and push through and continue to write whilst I’m at work, even if I’m tired because I love it. Writing to me is one of the only things that make sense in this world, so I have to do it.

I hope you have all had a good start to your week. What are you up to? Let me know if you like 😊

Further reading:

I Was One of the Top 1000 Medium Writers In April

3 History Books That Will Change the Way You See the World


Please note, this was originally published on Medium.com

Productivity pressures during COVID-19

If you’d have told me 2 months ago that I was going to get 8 weeks and possibly more of free time to write and do whatever I want, I would have jumped at the challenge to bash out the next King Lear. I’m only talking about King Lear above all the other plays because everyone keeps banging on about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine…

But now, 7 weeks in, I find myself feeling disappointed. Not because I haven’t written, but because I haven’t pushed myself to write about other subjects I care about. This whole COVID-19 crisis has made me so angry, mainly due to the government’s poor response here in the UK. Everyday I think about writing something about it – my drafts folder on my blog is full of unpublished things I’ve written in the heat of the moment. But for some reason I’ve found that writing about politics and COVID-19 is so hard, I lack clarity when I write, and the ability to form a coherent argument. This is something I did over and over again whilst studying history at university, and because of this – I feel I should be able to do it with more ease.

I’ve been loving writing book reviews – but anything beyond this has been impossible. And I’m annoyed as I could have used this time more wisely – but the words just won’t flow. There are so many things I feel I want to say about COVID-19 but don’t know how to say them. With pushing back my MA for another year, I feel I ought to be ceasing every moment to write and expand my horizons but I lack the confidence to pitch to other media organisations and websites. Why would they want to hear from me? Why is my opinion or outlook any different? But at the same time, I know I could be using this time to work on it. And I know what I have to say does matter too. Self doubt is a real thing, isn’t it?

I keep telling myself it is ultimately fine, as I am still writing and thinking about what I want to write, even if I’m not always getting pen to paper. Or fingertips to keys, however you want to look at it. Being unproductive, and lacking the will to write is ultimately okay – the pressure we put on ourselves can outweigh the energy and creativity that we initially have. The pressure can manifest itself in self doubt, anxiety and lack of motivation – and that’s definitely what I’ve been feeling at the moment. I know I need to be less hard on myself, but it is easier said than done. And I know I don’t need to write the next King Lear(it’s not even the best Shakespeare, lets be honest…)

Image: Pixabay

COVID is here to stay, I don’t think we’ll be only living with it for the remainder of the year, but far beyond. It will become the, “new normal” as they keep saying, thus, I’ve got to get over this writing barrier. Maybe it’s my distance spent from the mental challenge that academia used to bring. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because we are in the middle of a global pandemic not seen on the same scale since 1918, and it is really really hard to motivate yourself to do anything meaningful.

There’s so much pressure in the media and online to make something of yourself during this time, to lose weight, to get fit, to write a book, to bake – and it’s hard when your outcomes do not live up to these false expectations. Because it is not just “free time” it’s a hard time – where everything we have been used to have been taken away from us. Where we cannot access those small comforts we once had, and where our days lack the routine that working life usually brings.

On a serious note – the pressure to make something of this time is real and felt by many. It’s something that I need to shift to the back of my mind and not let cloud my passion for writing. But at times like these, which are very unique and surreal, it is hard to do, and this should be spoken about more. If anyone says to me, “what did you do whilst in quarantine?” and scoffs at my lack of achievements, then they must be the biggest superhero in the world, as this is one of the hardest times – and we shouldn’t treat it as a pathway to guaranteed productivity. And guess what? It’s actually okay to not be doing anything. Especially if that means we take that pressure off ourselves.

What we do with out time isn’t some kind of productivity competition over who can achieve the most – and it is easy to see it as this, when we are all spending more time on social media, which portrays life through a golden haze. But it is a time where we should banish the ideas and pressures behind “productivity” all together. It’s a word that is constantly bashed around in media and academic discourse, but once we free ourselves from its reigns, we may actually find ourselves better off.