Born in Mexico, Mabel Encinas is a senior lecturer in higher education in the UK and when the restrictive measures were enforced, she thought she would have time to dedicate to herself, but, as her working hours are longer, the time is still slipping through her fingers.
When the pandemic reached the UK, and the lockdown was imposed, Mabel was affected without too much awareness by the concatenation of the events.
In the beginning, when the lockdown started, because of the social dystopia in which people were living and with everyone staying at home, she started suffering from insomnia.
Her university started the same official day as planned, although in her area they asked students to start half a week earlier because they had lots of material for teaching online, and also because they have some people who are vulnerable.
So, she realised that it was going to be difficult to come back to normal and Mabel was feeling worried about the implications especially for people who are in more vulnerable situations.
In Mabel’s life, the pandemic changed many things. She started going for walks, doing exercise at home and at some point she even started running a little.
She realized that she was not aware how much exercise you do just going to and from work: “Very often I complete the ten thousand steps my telephone tells me just because teaching in a university you have to go up and down stairs several times”.
Also, she says her relationship with her partner “is 99% good but with the pandemic we are 98% good, which means we have twice as many problems”.
She makes this joke because she thinks that it has sometimes been stressful to be at home.
That’s why they started to alternate going out for walks and doing exercise at home, because if they were doing only exercise at home they were missing something.
The other thing she noticed is that when she didn’t have the journey to and from work, she would have about two hours more time each day.
Unfortunately, in practical terms she didn’t gain absolutely any time. She jokes about it saying that, for some reason, a thief of time came and stole all the transport hours. What happened is that she was actually working longer hours, as there were many more issues that she had to solve and also she had to dedicate more time to students, providing them with all the necessary support to study in these difficult times.
Mabel likes working from home. She would really like to have a combination of working more days from home and going to the campus part-time.
But in her university, there is very much the idea that they have to work from the office, so she had to go in every single day. At the beginning it was good having some days working from home, but she thinks that this won’t happen once the pandemic is over.
The truth is that the pandemic has greatly changed her daily life with the university.
Before the pandemic she normally scheduled short tutorials with her students, and she used to give carefully written feedback and then the students had to be prepared and ask questions.
This took some time because they were students of different ages and there were several aspects to take into account.
But with the online classes this started to take more time because problems arose that meant she had to interrupt the tutorials to email the students and say, sorry I have a delay. Then she realized that she was finishing two hours later.
Also, in her university, there were many changes, for example, the deadlines for re-submissions or because many students now apply for mitigating circumstances because they could have got the coronavirus.
Mabel works with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in her university, who were more affected by the pandemic. In fact, one of her former students died as did a colleague in the university from the BAME community.
Others luckily recovered but there was a lot of stress and she imagines that this was part of the reason that her sleep was affected.
Working longer hours as a lecturer also meant that she had much less time to dedicate to her work as a poet. It was harder for her to process all her thoughts.
However, some poems emerged from this new situation and she also had the opportunity to enrol with a group of Spanish speakers who were working on poetry centred on the pandemic.
Where probably of the lost time end up, is her evenings, which are full of different kinds of activities. For example, she was following various webinars that sometimes were run from the US when it was one in the morning in London.
Also, she is reviewing or writing new poems, as she has to present material to the poetry group.
But at the same time, she is not sure whether she has been more creative than before, because although she had to physically go the university, now the working hours are longer and she also has the chance to do more online events, attending round tables with different people, lectures or discussion groups.
In the next edition, Mabel will share with us her thoughts about how the government is dealing with the pandemic.