Alex Archive

Archive: Life After King’s

A few months ago, my school got in touch with me asking me to write a piece for their newsletter about what I’d been up to since leaving last June; this is what I came up with. There’s a bit of life updating and a lot of reflection on how Covid has (somewhat) changed my life trajectory, similar to earlier pieces I wrote while I was still at school. If you’re reading this when it drops, make sure read my new piece too; otherwise, enjoy, I guess.

A lot can change in a year.

I am sat writing this on a cold Edinburgh evening, watching the snow melt outside the window of my university accommodation. I am eternally envious of my friends on the floors above me, who get views of city rooftops on one side and the familiar silhouette of Arthur’s Seat on the other, while I spend my nights looking out into the street and the block of flats opposite. Even though it’s not quite as idyllic as my friends’, or even as Bruton, it’s something that, for the time being, has quickly become home; if nothing else, watching the vast array of random passers-by on the street is an everyday reminder that I’m not alone.

A year ago, I left King’s for the February half-term having had a whirlwind of a month, from the House Music to the rapidly-approaching debate final to my 18th birthday just a few days before. Covid-19 was still confined to the backs of minds and jokes on the Internet. Unbeknownst to most, it was about to send most of our lives upside down—mine especially since I was about to be taking my A levels and leaving school. As far as I was aware at the time, I was headed for a pretty normal future. I was still waiting on my offer from Edinburgh, where I already had my heart set on going to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and was anxious to do as well as I could in my exams to ensure that I met the requirements. I was terrified by but looking forward to my last term at school and the chance to conclusively close five years of dedication to its community. What I did not happen to expect at the time was that that all would disappear within a number of weeks.

March 18th, the day A levels and GCSEs were cancelled, remains clear in my head; I remember watching the press conference in the Lyon House common room and feeling the whole room be struck by a wave of uncertainty (on top of our admitted elation). The subsequent months of the first lockdown are, I think, going to be ones we reflect on a lot in years to come. What struck me most about them was how they granted the world a time to press pause, and reflect on where we all were, what we were doing, and where we were going. Perhaps, as someone caught between two such important points, this effect was more prevalent for me; despite its obvious major impacts on me in that light, I was anxious to see that those whose livelihoods had been seriously adversely affected were supported through it all. Otherwise, I spent my copious amounts of new-found free time over summer playing American Football with my brother, reading to prepare for my university course, and writing articles for my blog. I also got a buzzcut, which I am sure would’ve been to Mrs Grant’s utter dismay (she will be relieved to know that my normal hair has subsequently grown back, however).

My experience at university so far has obviously been pretty different than your usual. My room is my new library, my computer screen my lecture hall, and my kitchen my nightclub. I think it would be pretty easy to get bogged down in the negatives of how impacted and changed my life has been by this new world we’re living in, but I have tried my utmost not to; honestly, I am still loving every second of my time here. I really miss King’s in so many ways, but the move up here has been a refreshing change of scene; being able to live independently, especially in this beautiful city with which I am already in love, is a dream come true. I’ve even managed to cook for myself, something which I strongly doubted I’d be able to manage (but trust me when I tell you that I miss the King’s catering department more than ever). I love my course, and I find myself more excited to learn every day than I’ve ever been before; despite the fact that I dream of in-person lectures, I am reassured that they will one day be a reality (although preferably sooner rather than later).

In May, I wrote a piece for the Dolphin about lockdown, and how it had flipped the world on its head, but more importantly about how it had brought everyone together; there was a certain nationwide atmosphere of solidarity, and a common belief in embracing the hand we’d all been dealt. If I’ve learned anything since leaving King’s, it’s that—though on my last day at school I could never have seen this year going the way it has, the best thing I can do now is to make the most of what I’ve got. Life doesn’t always go the way that you’d hope or expect; sometimes, the only thing you can really do is just live it, and know that that’s enough.

The Meadows. Edinburgh, February 11th, 2021. Photo taken by me (for once).
Alex Archive

Archive: “A Generation, Lost in Space”

I thought I’d take a minute to backlog a few pieces I had written earlier this year for my school magazine. This one is about lockdown and its effects on the teenage generation; it’s a bit sappy (it was a school magazine, alright) but it was a fun one to write. See if you can spot all the references (they took a lot of effort to fit in). The other archive piece should follow tomorrow; I’ll try and get some new main articles out soon.

Call it the day our music died; on March 20th, 2020, in a move not made in over 130 years, the UK government cancelled all GCSE and A level exams for this summer. The news was hardly unexpected; the exponential spread of covid-19 had already caused the government to shut all schools as potential viral hotbeds that Wednesday, and most universities had already closed their doors. But what this move effectively did is leave hundreds of thousands of teenagers and schoolchildren totally aimless— the focus of their lives, the goal of years of their work, had been swept from underneath their feet.

But though our summer swelter will be endured, for the most part, indoors and separated from our friends, we haven’t let that crush our spirit. Facing indefinite months in isolation, I spoke to my friends about how they were going to pass the time; I was shocked to find many already had plans in place, from learning Chinese flutes, to picking up new languages or running every day. I resolved to attempt to emerge from lockdown somewhat prepared for University and learn to cook (I can report that so far, zero kitchens have been destroyed in the process). I’d honestly expected most people to give up and sunbathe (an equally tempting option), so seeing them plan to put their time to good use was heartening.

But not only have we bettered ourselves; many have made efforts to emerge from their fallout shelters to better their community, too. Within days of lockdown beginning, teenagers (and even some teachers) had banded together through social media to nominate each other for a “Run 5, Donate 5” campaign where over £5.6 million was raised for NHS charities. And this was only the start; through making masks, social media campaigns, and volunteering to deliver shopping or even just call those who are, unfortunately, spending these months alone, our weeks divided as a school community have been spent making a difference at home, wherever we may be.

And though we’re split apart, these events have brought our nation, and our world, closer together. I now speak to my grandparents and cousins more than I ever did before (for the most part through the now-ubiquitous online quiz); neighbours seem friendlier, and my friends less far away. I suppose that lockdown, more than anything, has brought us all together, because we’re all in it together. In a way, right now we all are in one place, facing the problems of social isolation, economic insecurity, and fear of the virus; but in sharing that experience, we’ve all become that bit closer to one another. Of course, those of us who go to King’s are in a much more privileged and safe position than most in the midst of lockdown; but I think that this situation has given us space to reflect and build empathy and awareness for those less fortunate than us. I hope that this crisis will indeed give us time to start again, as a generation and as a country, and build a more understanding and united world.

For many of us, lockdown has taken away the ends of our school careers, and some of the most important summers of our lives; holidays and gap years have been postponed, and any whiskey (and indeed rye) and singing will have to be enjoyed with our parents, not our friends. In March, when this all began, I was worried a community usually so active and connected would end up becoming isolated, depressed and broken. Yet what the past few months have created is a sense of unity and responsibility; though our exams and our school, for the moment, may be gone, we have found new meaning in embracing the situation we’ve been placed in. And though the courtroom is indeed adjourned as to when we will be able to see each other again, and our music may have gone quiet for now, it is anything but dead; to hear that, you only need listen every Thursday.