Deprivation is something we all strive to avoid. There is nothing appealing or aspirational about the concept. Defined as the damaging lack of material benefits considered to be basic necessities, we live in a society where deprivation, unless as an act of self-discipline, has not had much focus in our 21st century lives.
Being kept from possessing, enjoying or using almost everything that makes up the framework of our individual worlds has been a significant and unavoidable effect of Covid. Whether it was our freedom of movement, entertainment, sport, usual purchasing habits, attending a workplace or, worse still, our health, 2020 will be remembered as the year when everyone experienced serious deprivation.
But the yin to this yang is a refreshed appreciation of things we previously took for granted. That first pint when the pubs reopened, the disproportionate pleasure of a meal of our choosing in a restaurant prepared and cleared up by someone else, schools reopening, taking the train again, sitting once more with colleagues in the office. These have all been unexpected highlights since July.
As the bells rang in the New Year a short nine months ago, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that in the months ahead we would get so excited by a Starbucks coffee, a trip out of town in our own car, a haircut. So much we simply took for granted. Quite apart from the emotional deprivation of not seeing our close family or friends, being able to attend weddings or funerals, of fathers not being present at the birth of their children or anyone being allowed to comfort the sick and dying no matter how much they were needed.
Deprivation has delivered a dollop of reality in our lives. We had no warning, there was no dress rehearsal. Suddenly Covid landed and we had to deal with it. Coming through this tunnel of unimaginable deprivation in our daily lives it has become clearer to see just what matters.
The effect is complex. In many ways it has sharpened our experiences and the pleasure we take is more exquisite but so is the expectation. In other ways it has blunted edges that may previously have jarred so that we are kinder and more forgiving because of the collective experience we have all been through.
Like most things, as a body of people, we will be divided in our analysis of the journey we have travelled. For many it will be seen as a year when they were robbed of so much and rightly so for those most affected and damaged by the outcome on their health or financial stability. For the privileged who were spared either of those impacts, some will still consider the forfeiture of what they assumed as their birth right to be an unforgiveable denial. For many more, myself included, will see that we were gifted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Until this year most people, built lives based on their own evolution. Ironically, the deprivation we have encountered has endowed us the exact opposite – the chance to recalibrate every part of our lives and build a new construct with the extraordinary benefit of hindsight. How lucky are we.