Let me start by saying that the word Coronaversary feels wrong. “Versary” implies a celebration, a milestone, a reason to celebrate said milestone. And yet, I struggle to come up with a better, more succinct way to say, “it’s been one year since Coranavirus changed our lives forever, y’all.”
That’s the other part of this I struggle with. The fact that it’s been a full year since it all began. I have to catch myself recounting memories of things I thought I did last year because what I really mean is 2019. 2020 was more or less a blur of sameness (save for a few capital B breakdowns along the way).
I still remember the unease and uncertainty I felt as we were all sent home last March. Back when we had no idea how long this would stretch on for and the toll it would eventually take on us.
And yet, here we are a full year later.
Most of us have lost something in that time. Some of us lost jobs, while others of us lost our health or our loved ones. Many of us lost our sense of time and purpose, as the very things that structured our days—the places to be, the people to meet—were suddenly off limits.
As we approach this Coronaversary, here are three questions I’m asking myself, with the hope of bringing clarity to who I am and how I want to evolve. I’m not going to stress so much about the answers. Rather, I’m going to let them bring me a moment of reflection, to get myself thinking not only about what was lost, but what may have been gained in the process of losing.
I invite you to answer these questions with me.
1. Where were you last March?
Take a minute to think about where you were this time last year. And not just where you were living, but where you were spending your waking hours. Where were you emotionally?
For me (and I suspect many others) last March can be divided into two distinct parts: the week before Covid officially sent us into lockdown and the weeks immediately after.
In that first week of March, I was still commuting into Manhattan from New Jersey, riding trains and subways, regularly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers (a thought that makes me anxious now). I was also just returning from a work trip to Florida, where in-between packed meetings, we would hear rumblings about this strange new virus that was happening abroad.
Even then, it didn’t seem like something to worry too much about. It felt like a faraway problem that would surely be resolved somehow and soon before it became a big issue here in the States. I realize now the extent of my privilege and quite frankly, ignorance, to have even thought that.
Here’s another admission that makes me feel guilty to admit out loud: There was a part of me that was relieved when we first went into lockdown. Suddenly, all of the plans I thought were necessary to keeping my personal and professional life afloat were deemed “non-essential” and weeks of meetings and catch-ups were effectively cancelled with no expectations to reschedule.
I realized then just how run down I was. In the quiet stillness, with none of my usual distractions, I saw that I had spent the last several years running as fast as I could. Running from myself and my fears, running away from possible rejection, running towards acceptance that only I could give.
I don’t know if it was a symptom of having faced my own mortality at 30, after I was given the kind of grave diagnosis that changes the way you see things. I don’t know if it’s the people-pleasing tendencies I’ve had since childhood that made me feel like I had to show up for everyone, always, no matter the cost.
My guess is that it was a combination of those things, but no matter the reason, it became abundantly clear that it was something that needed to change. I had to step off the hamster wheel for good and learn how to walk at my own pace, on my own terms.
2. Where are you now?
Again, this refers to your physical location, as well as your metaphysical state.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself back at your parents’ house because you needed help with childcare while you work. Or maybe you decided to give up your expensive lease in whatever city you worked in to live somewhere more affordable for a while.
Over the last year, I have seen countless colleagues and friends move to other places, if even for a couple months, because for the first time ever they could. Without an office or school to report to regularly, many people began to think about where they really wanted to be and what or who they wanted to be surrounded by.
There’s also many of us who didn’t have the luxury of (or the need for) a physical change of space, but for whom the changes that took place were internal, invisible and immeasurable by any metrics, which brings me to the last question…
3. How have you changed in the last year?
Take your time with this one, and don’t feel any pressure to have an answer just yet.
I circled around this question for days, writing and rewriting my thoughts dozens of times, and here’s what I finally came up with: In the past year, I have lost, or more accurately, I am in the process of losing this idea that I am not enough as I am.
In attempting to shed these long-held beliefs and identities, I’ve had to have some very difficult conversations with myself and my loved ones. It’s strange how much we cling to what we know, even when it no longer serves us. Through this unburdening, I am finally learning to trust that I have everything I need to get to wherever it is I’m meant to go.
2020 was a year that no one could have predicted or wanted. And yet, despite the many challenges that affected us personally and collectively, I write this with hope in my heart because I truly do believe that it is the hardest times, the times that break us, that give us the opportunity to break through and build something stronger.