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The past two years have brought us catastrophic bushfires, a coronavirus pandemic and one of the world’s longest lockdowns.

Sarah Liversidge is nervous about what could be in store for in 2022.

The 40-year-old communications student says she felt naive after hoping that life might have returned to normal in 2021 and is tempering her expectations this New Year’s Eve.

After two gruelling years, Sarah Liversidge doesn’t know what to expect next.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“My partner and I were joking that 2022 will be the year of the flesh-eating zombies,” she joked.

“[I have a] bit of apprehension going into 2022 that I disguise with dark humour and a little touch of nihilism … because that’s a coping mechanism for me and that covers up that I’m unsure.

“What’s really come to be in the last few years is that we have no idea what’s coming next.”

Like Ms Liversidge, as 2020 drew to a close, many Victorians wished each other a better 2021, hoping the worst of our pandemic trouble was behind us.

But after another gruelling year, a fresh outbreak and new variant, some are less certain about what the new year will bring. Social media is awash with anxious memes.

Vintage furniture restorer Kate Hopkins said she saw a joke on Twitter by comedian Kirsty Webeck suggesting we should all agree to ignore 2022 until it showed us it had learnt from the two previous years.

“I just thought ‘yeah, that’s how I feel’,” she said. “When it was 2020 there was that real sense of hope [for 2021] and then, of course, it didn’t take long for that to fall in a heap.”

The Brunswick West single mother said she had been left exhausted by the last two years, which included home-schooling her 11-year-old son Jasper, and had accepted that the pandemic might continue to affect life in the coming years.

Kate Hopkins and her son Jasper had a tough year home-schooling. Credit:Chris Hopkins

“I’m just trying not to have any expectations and I feel like we’re just going to have to ride it out,” she said.

“I really hope that it’s with minimal pain and suffering to people and pressure on the healthcare system.”

Melbourne University psychologist Lisa Phillips said feelings of apprehension were appropriate and a reflection of the uncertainty most of us were facing during this time.

“Many people are facing 2022 with a bit of trepidation and weariness,” she said.

“It’s probably likely to be a reflection of fatigue with the situation and being knocked down over and over again.”

To combat feelings of helplessness, Professor Phillips said it was important to remind ourselves of the progress we had made in living with COVID-19, such as the imminent vaccination of children and our increased knowledge of how to mitigate our personal risk.

She said instead of focusing on long-term goals, we could plan for the near future and be flexible if something came along to get in the way.

International nursing student Divyangana Sharma, who also works at a COVID-19 testing centre, said this mindset was exactly what she had gained through the previous two years.

Frontline worker Divyangana Sharma says she has become more flexible as a result of 2021 and has learnt not to set too high expectations for 2022.Credit:

The 22-year-old, who arrived in Tarneit, in Melbourne’s west, from India in February 2020, struggled living in a new country, unable to make friends or experience student life as the world locked down.

But she learnt to adapt, finding new ways to meet friends and forging strong connections with a smaller number of people than she had anticipated. She rediscovered her love for writing and was motivated to get support for her mental health.

“2021, I had huge expectations, but I’m going to keep it simple in 2022,” she said.

“We might have to change our thinking and start living with [the virus]. We can’t hope to get back into 2018/2019 life.

“2021 taught me that no matter what, you’ll always find a way to live life. Even if we have lockdowns, I have no complaints.”

Ms Liversidge, who lives in the CBD, said she tried to focus on positives, such as the availability of booster shots and the apparent mildness of new variant Omicron.

Ms Hopkins said the state’s high vaccination levels gave her hope for the prevention of serious disease in 2022.

To help cope with our precarious times, RMIT University psychology lecturer James Collett suggested that in lieu of making resolutions this New Year’s Eve, write down what worked during lockdown to draw on in the case of another.

He advised planning how to adapt if faced with further restrictions or hardships while in a good mental state.

Dominique Yohanes, who moved Christmas to December 27 after her family was forced to isolate after visiting an exposure site, said she had also learnt to roll with the virus after the past two years.

The 23-year-old project editor at international student centre Study Melbourne, who lives in Lysterfield in the city’s south-east, has planned a move to Singapore in the new year. She insists she would accept the news if her trip was cancelled due to COVID.

Dominique Yohanes says she has learnt to roll with the virus.Credit:

“I’d like to think I would still be optimistic,” she said. “If it’s not going to happen now, then it’s going to happen sometime soon. It’s just the ups and downs. We just go with it.”

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