A letter in lockdown from David Owen
Dear young people: the story of this pandemic belongs to you
Dear young people,
The way you are feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic is valid. I hope somebody has told you that already. If not, I want you to know it.
The story of this pandemic belongs to you more than anybody else. Not just because of what you are losing – have already lost – right now: the exams painstakingly prepared for, the final years of school and university alongside your friends, the jobs, internships and apprenticeships. Your generation has had to fight harder than any before it for these opportunities and now they have been snatched away.
This pandemic may define your life for decades to come as it threatens to stunt opportunity in a – I’m sorry – unprecedented fashion. So much of what has been lost can not and will not be replaced. The fight begins now to ensure you will have a leading role in deciding what is rightly consigned to history and how we will rebuild to put you at the centre of a fairer future.
Before the worst is even over, many across politics and the media will do everything in their power to sideline and ignore your story.
Despite everything you are sacrificing now to follow the rules, despite being given no say in when you can safely return to school or work, soon enough you will once again be labelled overly-sensitive, lazy, and entitled. Your concerns, passions, interests, and bold attempts to succeed in the post-pandemic world will be written off as selfish and fanciful.
Do not let them.
Do not let them forget everything you have lost.
It might feel like there is nothing you can do. It is okay to feel tired and hopeless right now. You can still take the first step in seizing control of your story.
Record your feelings, whatever they may be, in writing, photography, video, or something else entirely. Create art that reflects your experience. The simple, regular act of documentation or creation can help give shape to these strange days stripped of purpose and routine. Let it provide catharsis for your pain, boredom, and despair.
And in the weeks, months, and years to come, when you are told your feelings about these times are wrong, when others will try to write young people out of the story, these records will contain the irrefutable truth of your experience.
Your anger. Your confusion. Your fear. Your sadness. Your resolve.
The story of this pandemic should be left for you to tell – the people who will live with its impact most profoundly. This is the time to make your voices heard and use this extraordinary upheaval to push for permanent change, to shape a better world for yourselves in the wake of this crisis.
The way you are feeling is valid.
Do not let them forget.
David Owen’s most recent novel, Grief Angels, handles the themes of grief, loss, friendship and masculinity with grace and sensitivity. We’ve all been experiencing different forms of grief over the past few months, mourning the loss of the lives we knew, the simple things we now cannot do and many have been dealing with the loss of loved ones. We hope you might find comfort in this book.