Life After Lockdown

We’re back in the thick of a lockdown no one expected. The last 18 months have been a roller coaster of emotions with the impacts of COVID-19 being felt locally, nationally and globally. As the world ground to a halt, one Mid North Coast woman found a silver lining. Free from distractions, Elize Strydom was able to reassess her life and work out what really mattered.

“And this is a pause worth savouring because the world will soon be complicated again.” – Jon McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

Life on the Roller Coaster

Early last year, I met up with a good friend to plan the workshop we were going to present to high school students the following week. We’d made a reservation at our favourite restaurant so that it felt like a fun catch-up rather than a work meeting. Esther apologised that she’d have to leave at 8 o’clock because she had to be up early the next morning to go to the airport. I told her there was no need to apologise as I too had an early start. 

“I’m busy all the time,” she sighed. “I find myself rushing from work to yoga to a birthday dinner and then squeezing in another hour of emails before bed just to get a head-start on the next day.” 

“Me too,” I lamented. “My to-do list is never ending!”

We didn’t come up with any solutions that evening, just agreed that our current lifestyles were unsustainable. I’m sure you can relate. A constant quest for scale, optimisation and hyper-productivity doesn’t sit well with many of us. Despite our best efforts, slowing down can seem impossible. It’s as if we’re riding a roller coaster – once it takes off, there is no stopping it. And so we hurtle through life, powerless to do anything but hold on tight and brace for the ups and downs.  

Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head by Elize Strydom
Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head by Elize Strydom

A New Normal

COVID-19 brought the world to a grinding halt, and I panicked. What about work? And that project? Could we keep overseas holiday plans? I wanted it over with as soon as possible and wished life would return to normal. But as the days passed and we all retreated to our homes, I eventually began to see the value in this global slowdown. After years on the go – cramming my life with more activities, more friends, more experiences, more trips and more work – I was forced to pause and reflect. When everything was stripped away, and innumerable distractions weren’t vying for my attention, I was able to acknowledge what was truly important to me and realise how I’d crowded it out my life.

When statewide restrictions prevented me from having a sunset picnic on the beach with friends or driving down to Coffs to go for a bush walk with my nieces, it became clear that what I valued most was off the table. As simple as it seems, I rediscovered that spending quality time with friends and family in nature is what adds meaning and pleasure to my life. This realisation was the first step in honestly assessing my lifestyle and the things that consumed my energy. Did my average week allow me to focus on what I really valued? What needed to change so that once restrictions lifted, I could spend more time with loved ones enjoying all that our stunning coastline has to offer?

Life After Lockdown

I allowed my mind to sift through its memory bank and recall special moments. Smiled remembering the first time my niece Oak rode a wave at Arrawarra. Reminisced about a camping trip to Black Rocks in the Bundjalung National Park with my girlfriends. I longed for afternoons at Lake Ainsworth in Lennox Head and mornings surfing in Byron Bay. Remembered traipsing over the sand dunes at One Mile Beach in Forster. I dreamt of relaxing on the rocks by the Never Never Creek south-west of Coffs. 

Once lockdown ends, I’ll be more determined than ever not to take these experiences for granted. Carving out time to soak up their beauty with friends and family by my side will be a priority.      

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Life After Lockdown

About the Author

Elize Strydom is a writer and photographer who lives in Byron Bay. She grew up in Grafton, went to university in Lismore and worked as a local radio journalist before moving to Sydney to take up a position with the ABC. Elize returned to her beloved North Coast in 2018 to be closer to family and enjoy a slower paced lifestyle. She feels incredibly blessed to be able to live and work in paradise!