The arrival of a brand new decade was just the incentive I needed to kick my butt into action, after spending two years away from the hustle and bustle that had worn me down to the ground.
2020 meant the beginning of something that could change my life overnight, but I would have to flee from my current status in a nondescript town that doesn’t have much to offer outside of the much-needed respite that was no longer fueling my creative drive.
The plan was to book the almost 3-hour train ride to New York City, during the first week of March 2020, and reunite with one of my besties, who was ready and willing to host me for as long as necessary, so I could zoom around the concrete jungle, reviving old contacts and establishing new ones.
In the meantime, another good friend located on the West Coast was excitedly planning her mid-spring trip to NYC after almost a decade; complete with a Broadway show and shopping excursions at Canal Street. We had promised to link up since I had intended to stay in the city for as long as I could manage it.
The week I started shopping for my one-way Amtrak track ticket was when breaking news about the coronavirus began to intensify.
Until then, the nightly news updates seemed so far away from my reality, and while I was definitely intrigued by the audacity of a mysterious virus that had taken hold of select regions around the world, for whatever reason, I was able to distance myself from what I couldn’t adequately process, due to the convenience of being too removed from the chaos.
All I remember is literally going from 0 to 100 overnight, as the day for my ticket purchase out of a stifling environment that had grown too small for my increasing demands turned into a brutal reckoning, that was heightened by my West Coast friend’s phone call, confirming the cancellation of her highly-anticipated East Coast vacation.
Suddenly I was hit with an avalanche of critical information that didn’t bode well for the immediate future, and despite the foreboding nature of a global pandemic that was rapidly hitting New York City with thunderbolts of verified new cases and dreaded death count, I was reluctant to release the lever of selfish mode.
By the end of that fateful first week in March, it was clear that there would be drastic alterations to the itinerary that was stuck in motion.
A year ago, I was making ambitious arrangements to test out the job climate in my former home city, which made sense, since I was looking for a quick fix to better my chances of reigniting the fire that would catapult a chain reaction for a positive flow both professionally and personally.
But then it all came crashing down the moment it was understood that America was under attack from a deadly virus without a cure, accompanied by real threats of scarring our very existence beyond recognition.
At first, making those adjustments to accommodate an unprecedented time in history that was both fascinating and frightening, didn’t seem all that intimidating, based on my timeline that trusted we would be out of the dark by fall 2020 — just in time for us to pick up from where we left off.
Well, a year later, it’s hard to fathom the naivety that was slowly butchered by the piled up months that seemed to go by really fast and unbearably slow at the same time.
Granted, we are no longer driving around an apocalyptic zoo in desperate search of key items that were within reach just a month prior, like toilet paper, bottled water, and other basic necessities. And we are now able to move around with more frequency and far less paranoia about droplets in the air and incessantly washing our hands with vigorous phobia.
But for those of us who were forced to stay put against our wishes and with the torment of not being young enough to waste away precious years of vital activity — the nationwide lockdown wasn’t just the abrupt pause on life as we know it.
There’s also the complication of reconciling with the acute fear of never being able to catch up, after a prolonged period of social inactivity that becomes the unwelcome setback, that gets more threatening as more time passes in the shelter that starts getting tight enough to suffocate.
The truth is that I didn’t want to believe shit was going to hit the fan until it did.
And the mental toll of quarantining without an end date has evolved into a physical one, with nagging insomnia and warning signs that my daily workout on a treadmill can’t compensate for the horrible habit of being glued to the couch with my MacBook Air, without much movement.
But as far as the wider scope of what it has meant to live through a global pandemic that hasn’t yet been defeated, but a year later we’ve made great strides via vaccination programs that’s aren’t perfect by any means, but still provide the rainbow of optimism we hoped for — the tangible lessons won’t easily be discarded.
The ravages of COVID-19 brought the absolute worst and best in mankind, and for me, it shed light on the blazing heroism of first responders, including my aunt, who shares her harrowing tales as a nurse, who has witnessed the unimaginable, and yet preservers in the light of goodness that does stream in on good days.
Nothing exposes systematic fractures in government like a national health emergency that renders working Americans vulnerable to the ramifications of a nationwide shutdown, resulting in the loss of jobs, health insurance, and the destruction of households that were barely making ends meet with paltry paychecks.
Watching pampered, privileged politicians weaponize their positions of power by shaming the needy for not being able to build robust saving accounts with their measly wages, for the preparation of the unexpected disaster of being unemployed until whenever, due to a once-in-a-lifetime global catastrophe was the traitorous revelation that explains how ultra-wealthy countries oppressively gained and sustain their riches.
I’ve also taken note of how the subject of mental health is more of a trend rather than a viable initiative that’s adequately funded and factored into budgetary funds that lawmakers hassle over, for the betterment of a weathered nation, that has undocumented data of lives lost from the deadly battle of mental illness, while sequestered in lockdown.
But there’s also the mind-blowing testimonies of superhuman resilience that includes you, me and everyone out there, who have all bravely held on during the rollercoaster of seasons that has brought us full circle.
People like us didn’t benefit from the luxuriousness of being trapped in sprawling grounds of a private utopia, and we sure as heck didn’t have the advantages of boarding private jets headed to a rented island decked out for the pleasure of helping us forget what we were enviably surviving with unlimited resources.
No, we had to contend with meditative episodes and other creative mechanisms to carry us away from the monotonous days that promised to make us lose our minds, without the luck of ever retrieving the sensibilities we absolutely need, after making it to the finish line.
It’s not over yet, we have to brace for the inevitable dip before we finally rise from the ashes.
A year later, I truly believe in the beauty of the human spirit, now more than ever, and while the really bad days are quite turbulent, I can do the recaps, and push myself to take it one step at a time, with the reverence of what we’ve all lost, and gratitude for what can be gained.
Stay safe. Keep your head up, and MASK ON.
If you have thoughts to share about the Pandemic Anniversary — check out this page for inspiration.