Thought for the week – 26 August

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This week Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, reflects on how we’ll be navigating the coming months of uncertainty.

Last week I went into a hair salon for the first time since the March lockdown; it was a strange mix of being a banal and yet a most rewarding experience. The salon scrupulously followed all the necessary protocol and other than the face masks and the absence of a cup of coffee, everything seemed as before; my hair actually looked good after a very long time!

The stylist, a bubbly and chatty young woman, spoke of her initial anxiety and feelings of deflation when lockdown began. She explained her frustration at not being able to see her clients in person, “My life is all about talking to other people as I make them feel good about themselves. When I couldn’t do that any longer, I didn’t know how to make myself feel good.” As I walked out I thought about the different ways we all work. As academics, most of us are trained and often happy to seek and work in solitude. But those whose livelihoods depend on a daily interaction with diverse clientele, will have found the last few months particularly challenging, even lonely.

We’re all taking small steps each day, and these steps reflect our mental and emotional resilience. It’s true that some have enjoyed this period of relative quiet, but many also feel strangely suspended between different worlds. At the moment we don’t really know how things will be when the semester starts in September as so much will have to change. But looking after ourselves, doing the best with what we have, and appreciating small daily joys, is all we can do just now to stay hopeful; it may sound banal but it’s a sign of real progress.

Photography: Sam Sills