For Christmas 2019, a family member gave me one of those page-a-day calendars as a gift. This one featured a fun piece of new movie trivia every day. As someone who basically lives on IMDB’s trivia pages, this was like a perfect gift for me. I brought it to work in January and started each work day with a new piece of trivia to enjoy.
That calendar is still in my office. It’s permanently stuck on March 16, 2020, the last day I was at work before everything shut down due to the pandemic. In the scramble to get what I needed to work from home before the library was closed, I didn’t think to take the calendar with me. The one time I’ve visited my office since then, I decided to leave it. By then, it was August anyway.
I wasn’t expecting to be gone so long. I remember seeing news reports even at the time that said this was a crisis that was going to last at least a year, maybe two, possibly more depending on how things went. But my mind couldn’t fathom such a long period spent in crisis mode. So at first I took it two weeks at a time, since that was the period covered by each stay-at-home order by our governor. Then I told myself 100 days was all I needed to get through. At the end of 100 days, things would either be better or I would be used to this new reality.
In a way, both ended up being true. Positivity rates started going down in the summer and things started opening up again, even though they probably shouldn’t have. And I felt a little more confident about my ability to navigate this new world we were living in, including wearing masks everywhere and washing my hands more thoroughly and more often than I had before. The new reality wasn’t comfortable, exactly, but it felt like something I could exist in, for a while at least.
Now it’s been 365 days and sometimes I feel like I’m struggling more now than I did at that 100 day mark. I said at the end of 2020 that one thing that the pandemic has given me is a better awareness of my privilege compared to others. The reason March 16, 2020 is frozen on my calendar is because I’ve had the opportunity to work from home this whole time while others haven’t, whether because they’re required to go in to work or because they don’t have jobs at all thanks to the pandemic. Because I’ve been employed, I’ve also had access to mental health care this whole time. So while I do struggle, I’ve been luckier than a lot of other people throughout this last year. I don’t want to pretend otherwise.
If I had to name another lesson the pandemic has taught me, though, I would probably say that it’s one that has to do with the need for connection. I’ve always been an introvert who greatly prefers time alone to time spent being social but I never realized what a privilege it can be to just, like, sit in a room with another person for a little while. Alone time is all well and good but it turns out full-on isolation basically sucks. Luckily, some part of me must have seen this coming because at the start of the pandemic, I started scheduling coffee and chat sessions on Zoom with former and current colleagues/friends as a way to stay in touch and check in on each other. I feel like doing this has strengthened my connection to these groups, an opportunity I never would have had (or would have taken even if I did have it) in more normal times. So I guess that’s something else to be grateful for.
Anyway. All of this to say: I can’t believe it’s been a year. Time is weird. I don’t know what will happen in the coming year or the next 100 days. Hopefully it will be good. Hopefully it will be better for all of us than it is now. I feel like there’s reason to think it will be but I’m sure even better things and a return to “normal” will bring challenges, both expected and not. But given what we’ve been through so far, there’s reason to believe we’ll get through those challenges, too.
Until then, stay safe and well.