Experiences of 2020

Temi - Food Blogger

My name is Temi and I run a ‘foodie and bits’ blog called Riki Cooks. About three weeks ago, I completed my undergraduate studies. However, it still has not registered that I have finished university. The main reason is because I could never have imagined that an invisible enemy would bring the world to a standstill (especially in my lifetime). This is beyond the realisation that I will not be walking across a platform to collect my certificate; or, another realisation that just as I am about to start my career, there is a rapid rise in the rate of unemployment.

Being a young black woman, I am in a battle between the real ‘me’ and the ‘me’ that society deems more acceptable. I have to be not too confident, yet not too timid. I have to be not too provocative yet not too modest. I have to indulge in the glorification of ‘being strong’ whilst remaining aware that celebrating ‘being strong’ encourages the perpetuation of the unequal balance of perils faced by women like myself. This ongoing battle is a life-long journey; so rather than controlling the environment, I am learning to adapt my response to the environment. In fact, the arrival of COVID-19 has made the juxtaposition of my experience more evident as well as accelerating my learning process.

An example which revealed a new layer of myself occurred on what seemed to be a normal lockdown day. I had just finished a home dance workout and started to arrange my notes in preparation for exams. Soon, my chest felt tight as though the air in my lungs was being depleted. Rushing out to the balcony, I hoped that fresh air would help, yet this was futile. I started shaking, unwilling to accept that my time of death had arrived. Two days later, this experience returned with increased severity resulting in my flatmate calling the paramedics.

At the time, the campaign was ‘Save the NHS’ and so I was swarmed with guilt that I was wasting an important service. As the paramedics performed checks, confusion settled. They assured me that nothing was wrong, advising that I was experiencing a panic attack. How did my brain concur such a sudden onset of impending doom? How did I achieve absolute certainty that it was time for me to die? It seems that my body had been struggling to come to terms with what is truly an unprecedented time. My attempt at masking the stress by keeping occupied was ineffective. The stress had been exasperated by seeing the news everywhere, monitoring the fast-rising death toll, mourning the loss of each individual, worrying about family, worrying about the future, worrying about the present, reminiscing on the past and realising that there is no quick fix to this invisible enemy.

It has been 78 days since the first panic attack (yes, I am counting). I have learnt again to remain vulnerable, acknowledge and accept that it is okay to feel overwhelmed. I do not have to be in control or even feel pressured into boosting my productivity. It is perfectly fine to spend the day doing nothing or to spend the next day doing everything. As we transition into the new normal, I have found solace in Faith, Cooking, Writing and practicing Gratitude for the present. It is okay just to be…