Technology consultant and UCL Recent Alumni Graduate Network member Milan reflects on family bonds, the importance of mental health and the benefits of a good jigsaw.
It is so easy for us to neglect our mental health in quarantine. With our interconnectedness, we often compare ourselves to others and feel pressure; sometimes I feel like I am not doing as much as I should be because I am always home. In these moments, I reflect and think more positively, both in my personal and work life.
I have learnt to appreciate the time I have at home with my family. As I listen to my 84-year-old grandmother (my Boju), who lives with us, recounting stories from her past, I reflect on the similarities and differences of our lives in different parts of the world and am thankful to live in a country with free and exceptional public health service.
My mum works at the local NHS hospital in the Linen Service and being in such close proximity with potentially infected linen and a shortage of PPE has been concerning for the whole family. My Boju has atrial fibrillation and hypertension; when she showed mild symptoms of the virus, we self-isolated for two agonising weeks. The three of us later tested negative.
Since her return to work, I have driven my mum to and from the hospital so she does not have to use public transport. Whilst I still worry every day that she is at risk, I know that her service is of utmost need now more than ever. I truly hope she feels appreciated and has heard the support from the community through the clapping that echoed on Thursday evenings.
We are lucky to have received lots of help from friends and family who happily adhere to our needs. My cousin even went to the supermarket to buy ingredients when I was craving cheesy pasta! The age of the internet also means we are equipped to speak to each other from our screens as we have a drink together or even just watch them cook a curry.
In my spare time, I have found comfort in reverting to hobbies such as jigsaw puzzles, binge-watching TV shows and listening to podcasts. As tiring as it may have been, I’m proud to have completed two 1000-piece jigsaws in two consecutive weeks!
Before lockdown, I also attended a UCL Connect event with the Recent Graduate Network committee and had begun planning an event of our own. Given current circumstances, we are now focusing on increasing engagement in the UCL Alumni Online Community, reaching more graduates through our LinkedIn page and helping out with UCL online events. I have also volunteered with Code Your Future, a non-profit that provides free courses for refugees and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We need to take care of ourselves and our health, first and foremost. Everything else should be secondary. I know it might seem difficult to stay optimistic but please look after yourselves – and start a jigsaw. I can guarantee that it will be worth it.
If you’ve been inspired by Milan, you can engage with the Recent Graduates Network, visit the Alumni Online Community (AOC), or find out more about UCL’s digital volunteering opportunities.