'Lockdown made me realise I need human contact to make me a better person'

By Saira Khan

My public persona may give off a sense of confidence and sociability, but in fact privately I am the opposite of that, I’m actually quite anti social and like my own space – I am not really a “big crowd or group” kind of person – I prefer to stay in than go out.

So if I am brutally honest, being told to stay indoors during lockdown and the pandemic, suited me more than most.

As long as I could see and speak to my friends and family via the internet I was not too perturbed.

The thing is, I didn’t really miss the human or social contact too much, I got used to doing my own thing, on my own and in my space.

I’m someone who grew up without a lot of hugs and fuss, so when people were getting down about missing the human contact, I have to say, I didn’t.

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Three social events gave Saira a change of heart (Getty Images Europe)

I also like not making an effort if I don’t have to, again, lockdown gave me the perfect excuse to indulge in my habits, no makeup, no hair, lounging around in my baggy clothes and flats, I loved it.

So as the restrictions have eased and people are slowly going back to life as we know it, I’ve had a bit of social anxiety, but it was three huge events this week that made me think , without putting in the effort , you just don’t get the rewards and I realised through three separate situations that I am not destined to be a recluse, in fact I need that human contact and touch to make me a better person and bring out the best in me.

My first big social gathering where I had to make an effort was at a friends wedding.

I think the last nuptials I attended was about 5 years ago. But attending a wedding after lockdown is a whole different experience.

This couple, like so many had had to postpone their special day so many times and to finally have a date and be able to invite the guests that they had planned for was a truly joyous occasion.

For me, my hubby and 2 kids, this was the first time in 2 years that we were formally dressed and went out to a big gathering.

The emotions got to me – seeing my daughter and son look so smart made me realise how grown up they had become.

The wedding was one big tear jerking happy and joyous occasion – witnessing a beautiful bride and a handsome groom finally getting to tie the knot in front of their loved ones, brought out sentiments in me that I had forgotten I even possessed.

I was reminded of the importance of being with other humans to come together and celebrate a happy occasion, the need for these occasions to be a vital place for people to re connect, catch up and rekindle friendships and family bonds.

I left that wedding feeling that a part of me had been lit up again and I felt more human, knowing the purpose and importance of having other people in my life.

The second event that reminded me about making an effort and to socialise again and get myself out of the lockdown habit of “oh I can’t be bothered” was attending my daughter’s afternoon autumn school festival.

She’d been practising her songs all week and said,”mummy will you be able to come to my concert?”

I needed time off work like I needed a hole in the head and so said, “I’m really sorry, daddy’s going, but mummy has lots of work to do.”

I could see the disappointment in her face, but I knew that as long as one of us were there, she’d be alright.

But when the day came, my hubby said,” this is the first play the kids have put on in the school since the pandemic, it’s her last year at primary school, I think your’ll regret it if you don’t go.”

He was right, I felt so guilty, so I put my work to one side and headed to my daughters daytime concert.

Saira with Ulrika Jonsson and Saira Khan at a red carpet event (GC Images)

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Again, I am so glad to have made the effort, sitting there in the school hall alongside all the other parents who had been through the same home schooling challenges that Steve and I had.

I had forgotten the importance of belonging to a parental community, and whilst we had our masks on we could not smile with our mouths, but we did with our eyes and arms.

Watching my daughter stand there singing alongside all her friends about the beauty of the world we live in and the importance of being grateful choked me with tears.

This was a beautiful way for parents, teachers and the children to all come together to celebrate through music and song the union of school and education.

I will never miss a school event ever again, because making the effort to attend rewarded me with an experience of pure joy and a reminder of my parental duties – to be there for my daughters, teachers and the school.

The final event was to attending an awards ceremony to celebrate inspirational people.

It was a red carpet event which meant I had to get very glam to go into London.

The logistics and timings meant that I had to get up at 5.30am - could I be bothered?

I decided that as I had said Yes I could attend, I therefore could not let people down.

So off I went on the train into the big smoke, got to the hairdressers, put my makeup and glad rags on and got a taxi to the event.

As soon as I got there I was so glad that I had made the effort – it was so wonderful to see London again and so many famous and non famous faces dressed up, drinking, enjoying the conversations and coming together to support people who have strived to help others in the pandemic.

My highlight was meeting for the first time face to face Emily, a young lady I have been working with since January – we have spoken on the phone every week despite never having physically met, so when we did finally see each other’s faces, we hugged and hugged like long lost friends.

Again, making the effort for people I work with rewarded me with a wonderful feeling of belonging, of feeling that I am valued for my work and feeling part of a team.

These experiences really woke me up to the fact that I am not me unless I am with other people, I need their social contact, the human touch of a hug, kiss on the cheek, a smile, laughter and to stand next to people and feel their presence.

All these events in their own special way made me realise that unless you make the effort out of lockdown you will not experience the rewards of living life alongside other people.

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