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2020: the year modern culture and individuals got held at the red light

2020 has generated more time on the clock to reflect, rethink and reimagine. At a significant moment in history where modern culture and individual lives have hit the pause button, we have been given the gift of time to reboot our engines as we sit at the red light and wait for the traffic lights to turn green.

This year has been the most unprecedented and destabilising year for our generation. As January 1st came around and the lights turned green, the sign at the start of the 2020 lap was simple: ‘keep driving ahead’. With our foot on the peddle as we made future plans and set out new goals, we geared up our speed incrementally from January to February before intending to go full steam ahead. Then just as we go to slam our foot onto the peddle in March, ready to take on our 2020 plans in our pursuit to make it the “best year yet”, in walks the coronavirus pandemic. With no choice but to protect ourselves and those around us, we slam on the emergency break. The traffic light turns red and there we are left at a crossroad junction, with no sign of the light turning green and our journeys’ indefinitely delayed. Forced to stay indoors, work from home and with limited opportunities for social interaction, suddenly we’re not running frantically against the clock in a rapid race against time. Sat patiently at the red light, we are forced to slow down, sit still and reflect, without the usual speed of external distractions which come with rapid speed of modern industrial life.

Our modern industrial lifestyles are fuelled by the demands of consumerism and business. With the rise of digital and instant communication, we have created more demands to be productive at almost every second of the working clock. Until now, our engines have been running around at 100mph and our minds and bodies set on autopilot. We fall into automated patterns and routines of rushing for the 30-minute train, walking 20 minutes to the office, doing our usual work shift, and spending another hour re-embarking on the journey home. With our 9-5 days, stretched either side from 7-7 (on a good day), we haven’t had a chance to look out the window and see the wood for the trees. Within the usual pressures of daily life, our car sails down the motorway ignoring all the possible junctions, with just the odd pit-stop at the service station for some food and fuel to get us through the rhythm of life.

Whilst many of us continue to work from home, time structures have nonetheless loosened. Our working days more accurately reflect a 9-5 schedule (as opposed to a stretched out 7-7 we never signed up to anyway). In a year long stint of government restrictions, theatres, music venues, leisure facilities, restaurants and pubs as spaces for meaningful interaction have also all closed, meaning our opportunities to socialise and explore life opportunities have never been so limited. Now our idea of fun is taking a well deserved screen break to the coffee shop, and a walk in the park with your dog and a friend. For the first time in industrial history, we have been forced into a state of pause and reflect. And in this year-long moment of stillness we find ourselves in, we are collectively coming to the realisation thatwe have prioritised industrial speed, efficiency, innovation and instant communication, at the expense of our own inner selves. Within an external world of turbulent flux and adversity, many have contrarily created a sense of calm and balance in their lives. Perhaps it forms a shield and mechanism for resilience in the face of adversity, but it has nonetheless paved the way to individual people living more authentic lives liberated from the external pressures of modern life.

Whilst it feels like the world is on pause, as we work from home and have limited access to leisure time, we have been given the gift of space and time to reflect on who we are, rethink our priorities and determine exactly what we want to achieve from life. Parents have found more time to devote to their children, people have developed new hobbies, moved locations and countless news articles are reporting people taking career changes and starting up new businesses during lockdown. Taylor Swift wrote and released a whole new album, and celebrities are starting to realise what a normal life doing their own laundry and taking the dog for a walk feels like. Our lifestyles have been revamped and reshaped, and despite the undeniable struggles 2020 has come with, we have been given the time to go deep into our inner selves and realise passions, hobbies and interests we never had the time to even realise we had. We have become dreamers, with more time to imagine, visualise and explore new possibilities. Constantly in a state of questioning, perhaps COVID-19 has opened up doors to dig deeper into our authentic selves as we sit her patiently at the red light.

With the promise of a vaccine and the end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight, there is no doubt that the pace of life will ramp up again as the demands for business and consumerism creep their way back into our everyday lives. But perhaps with a year of reflection, comes an opportunity to reboot and restart the engine. Rather than waiting for the light to turn green, take the time to deconstruct the engine, solve some of the issues, rethink the parts it needs and subsequently go on to replace the nuts and bolts accordingly. That way, when the light turns green, your rebooted engine will move forward calmly and seamlessly into a more authentic future.


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