'I just started my 20s. There are a million moments I won't be able to get back.'

A few weeks ago, I cried down the phone to my mum.

She was out on a walk with a friend, and, as happens after a particularly difficult day, I found myself spiralling into a whirl of negativity.

"You. Don't. Understand," I said between sobs. 

Watch: The things you never say in 2021.

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You see, I'm 20 years old. 

And this week, I'll be going into my eleventh consecutive week in Sydney lockdown. 

She can understand this situation completely, in theory.

She's endured just as many lockdowns as I have. She's dealt with the routine testing at the hint of a cold. She's diligently checked in at every venue. She's even isolated for 14 days after being in the wrong place at the wrong time, while fully vaccinated.

But what she can't understand is the immense loss I've felt for my 'best years' that are wasting away without a Euro trip or club-made vodka raspberry in sight. 

It's trivial really. 

An extremely privileged grief to experience. 

But it's a grief, nonetheless.

2020 was a year I'd spent my whole teenage life dreaming about. 

19 years old and fresh out of a four-year-long relationship, I was excited to finally experience the world as was intended for a single uni student with little responsibilities other than assignment deadlines. 

And for a moment there, I did. 

Celebrating a new year at Field Day festival. Jan, 1, 2020.


On the first of January, among lingering bushfire smoke, I was surrounded by sweaty strangers at a musical festival. 

I kissed a guy I didn't know the name of. 

I had a few too many vodka Red Bulls than is ever a good idea. 

And I got a taste of what it meant to be young and carefree. 

Just as quickly as I savoured in that freedom though, it was ripped out from under me. 

2020 descended. Fast.

I don't need to retell that story, because each and every person reading this would have one of their own laced in "flattening the curve" anecdotes and our first introduction to the dreaded lockdowns.

It's funny, reflecting on that time now. 

I was swept up by the rules so quickly it felt novel. Fun... almost. 

I remember, in early March, writing a note to myself dated to May 2020 asking, "Is COVID still a thing?"

Well, it's certainly still a thing. 

It was still a thing when I finished my Bachelor's Degree online, on an unceremonious Friday in November.

It was still a thing at Christmas when, living on the Northern Beaches, I wasn't allowed to see my family on the other side of the bridge.

And it was still a thing thirteen-ish weeks ago, when I woke up after a long-awaited, far-too-many-venues-for-contact-tracers, night out - only to be told my housemate was a close contact. 

The six months I've lived in my 20s; those same 20s that I was told would be the best time of my life, have been shrouded in disappointment, fear and guilt.

I cannot measure the disappointment I've felt for the loss of millions of tiny experiences I'll never get back. 

The ever-present fear of being labelled a "selfish 20-something" in the news, should I have contracted COVID while out of lockdown and living with a certain level of normalcy.


And guilt for feeling shitty about it, when I am so insanely privileged to not have been affected by, or lost a loved one to, this virus.

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Right now, I'm struggling to find Gladys' "light at the end of the tunnel".

While I can't wait for restrictions to ease, it hurts to know I won't be having an uninhibited early 20s. And it hurts to look back at the 18 months I've already lost.

Because the "new normal" isn't normal.

The new normal doesn't have international travel in the cards - a luxury I sacrificed a gap year for, to get my degree done quickly. Who could have known it would be paused indefinitely?

And the new normal doesn't allow for getting lost in the moment with strangers from anywhere and everywhere. At this point, I feel like wishing for otherwise is ridiculous.

As the pandemic rages on, so does life. Birthdays come and go, young people grow up, and getting too drunk and dancing on a bar table has an age limit... right? 

I'll be fully vaccinated in under a week, and for that I'm so grateful. 

But for now, among all the terrible, horrific things going on in the world, I'm upset that I won't have the crazy 21st I've dreamed of. 

And that's life, I guess.

For more from Emma, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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