Released On 31st Jan 2022
Julia's blog: Light and Shadows
As I write this, news has broken of the lifting of the most recent Covid restrictions. Gleeful WhatsApp messages from fellow parents - “No more masks at school!” - and clients - “Once Bojo releases us, let’s get a drink” (the irony of that message being lost, presumably, on no-one…). Mandatory working from home is to be lifted imminently, my husband is about to leave for a conference overseas, postponed from February 2020, and whispers grow more confident, and louder - is the worst really behind us? Are we finally in a position to leave behind uncertainty, and for many, what has been a period of deep fear, and move joyfully, defiantly even, into a new post-pandemic era?
The emergence of Omicron has shown us - in our case pitching up just as we were zipping up suitcases and kiboshing arrangements to finally visit much loved and missed family in South Africa over Christmas - that it’s too soon to say. We’re seeing this caution to embrace a full return to “normal” elsewhere: I am a headhunter, and while many clients are back out, hiring with gusto, many of our returner candidates are still too hesitant to take a job, memories of school closures still too raw. I think it’s also too soon to forget the traumas of the last two years. For many people - adults and young people - the impacts are well documented and will be long lasting; one statistic I saw recently talked of the almost 100,000 “ghost children” in the UK who have not returned to school since the pandemic began. One hundred thousand children. That is a vast number, and one that makes me recognise my - and my children’s - immense privilege.
I am naturally optimistic and have a fairly non-risk averse profile. I fling myself into new ventures with much less caution than would often be counselled. I may not be fully “leap before you look”, but am certainly more that way minded - I left my secure investment banking job to start my own firm, last year we moved our family of five from our very comfortable house to a total wreck that had no oven, only two habitable bedrooms and a major damp problem, my voice taking on ever more shrill velocity (and convincing noone) as I assured our children that it was just an exciting project and that Christmas lunch (three weeks away) would be undeniably delicious despite being made 100% in a microwave.
Yet despite my gung-ho tendencies, I am not running full-throttle to rebook missed trips, nor to divest myself of the mask that I wore so reluctantly initially and now just seems such an insignificant extra accessory. I’ve surprised myself at the caution I feel, and in fact, at the nostalgia for the lockdown time now passed.
There were some real learnings from the Great Pause - the uninterrupted family time, the return to simple past-times, the requirement to dig deep and find ways to make things special when you couldn’t resort to going somewhere or booking something. I’m so ready to return to more extrovert ways of living, and I can’t wait for the suffering of the last two years to really be behind us, but while the rose-tinted specs are, I have to admit, coming out, the lenses are still tinged with caution. Let’s hope that by spring, all shadows are gone.Following a career in the City, first as a solicitor and then in an investment bank, Julia now runs an executive search firm focused on flexible roles. She lives in London with her husband, a Trauma and Orthopaedic Consultant (who will hopefully, given his line of work, never work from home…!) and who works full-time. They have three children, aged 11, 9 and 6.