How do you even begin to summarize the hardest, strangest, most taxing year you’ve ever lived through? How do you digest and metabolize all of the trauma and grief and loss and change into something that makes any sense in hindsight, into an experience that points toward any direction forward?
If I was off the map before the pandemic, I am surely shellshocked and wayward at its (hopeful) tail end, blinking bleary eyes into the blinding sun of some foreign future, willing the world to once again come into focus. I don’t know what comes next, and each fleeting possibility pinballs through my brain like an electric current, challenging me with the tenacious mercy of a second chance, a precipice beneath which there is an entire new world. And it’s as terrifying as it is exhilarating, all of this uncharted life left to live.
I’ve spent the waning days of this bitter, disorienting winter mostly digesting, ruminating, reading, listening, planning. Everything and nothing is changing. My friends are getting vaccinated, my brother is having a baby. Daffodils are pushing through the frozen earth, the sun is starting to linger later in the day, painting the western sky and snow-capped peaks these melancholy golds and pinks. Everything is askew, off its axis ever since a year ago, and still there are birthdays and heartbreaks and tentative vacation plans being made, engagements and moves and major decisions to weigh. Life marches ever-onward. It’s all so cyclical, and it’s all so strange.
It’s been a year since I — like many in the US — started working from home, since I last saw my coworkers in our Los Angeles office. I remember grabbing the bare necessities I figured I’d need to weather a few weeks, maybe a month, from home — laptop charger, spare hand sanitizer, rations from the kitchen — leaving my desk more or less intact. One year on, several seasons since leaving LA, I haven’t returned to it yet, and so much has changed that I’m not sure when or if I’ll have the chance to. But colleagues who’ve made the trek back to our shuttered offices have reported an eerie sort of frozen-in-time effect; plans for a presidential campaign trail that all but disappeared, newspapers dated March 13, 2020; so many things we used to care about in the Before Times now rendered irrelevant.
It’s a sort of time capsule, an archeological relic, a reminder of how little we knew then about how different the world would become. And that’s how change so often happens, I suppose. Gradually, and then all at once. Until one day you awake and you are on a different shore. Until the life you used to live feels impossible and foreign. And still it was real. And this is, too.
What would it have been helpful to know a year ago? Maybe, knowing what I know now, I would’ve left LA sooner. Or made the park dates with my friends last a little longer. Maybe I would’ve been gentler on myself, paced my mental and emotional energy, settled in for 365 days of heartache and unimaginable change and growth that felt like burying past versions of myself, surrendering to the fact that control is an illusion. Or maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to know. Maybe this has been a reminder, as I have said aloud and to myself near-daily since this began, to live life one day at a time, carving out rituals and moments of peace, each day inching closer to the person you want to be.
So much of this past year has been about taking stock. Figuring out what is working, and what is not; what you need, and what you do not. When the wildfires came last fall, flames licking the foothills surrounding my childhood home and blotting the sun a blood-orange, my mother growing increasingly frantic and the air heavy with ash, I thought about what I’d take if it came time to run. How much do you truly need to make a life, and what constitutes your existence, tangibly? If it all went away, if you were forced to start all over again, how much of you would there be left? And if you must shed your skin, are you a truer version of yourself, or someone new entirely?
It will surely take time to grasp just how much this year has changed ourselves, each other, the world. But still I hope, despite the heartache, that some of it will be for the better; that we’ll spend the years to come picking up the pieces, but also finding what germinated and bloomed in these pockets of silver linings, too.
On life as it is, and as it will someday be:
“I know you work in media, but it’s OK to skip cable news most nights.” “Use your vacation days this summer.” “Buy a damn desk right now.” “Trump loses.” - What We Wish We Knew At The Beginning Of This Mess
"Now, in the cold, dark, featureless middle of our pandemic winter, we can neither remember what life was like before nor imagine what it’ll be like after." - Late Stage Pandemic Is Messing With Your Brain // “There is so much I’ve grieved these past 11 months, but perhaps most acutely I miss the company of women.” - In The Company Of Women: The Pandemic Void Only My Girlfriends Can Fill // “They were developing their own freedom and space, and during lockdown they lost what they had just started to experience.” - ‘What’s the Point?’ Young People’s Despair Deepens as Covid-19 Crisis Drags On // “I encourage people to practice compassion and gratitude, not just for the things that you have, but for the fact that your body has fared you up until this point, gratitude for all the ways you have been able to provide [during] this pandemic.” - How to Deal with Crushing Vaccine FOMO // “Every single person I see needs therapy right now. They come back and say, ‘I’ve called 20 people and I don’t know what to do.’” - ‘Nobody Has Openings’: Mental Health Providers Struggle to Meet Demand //
(Seriously, call your therapist if you’re lucky enough to have one!!)
“Talking to God in prayer or profound, moving, emotional experiences that happen in nature, that happen with art, that happen with falling in love—all of these things get labeled spirituality.” - Gen Z Is Deconstructing Religion And Finding Faith
“Many millennials who have turned their backs on religious tradition because it isn’t sufficiently diverse or inclusive have found alternative scripture online. Our new belief system is a blend of left-wing political orthodoxy, intersectional feminism, self-optimization, therapy, wellness, astrology and Dolly Parton.” - The Empty Religions of Instagram
A few last, late-pandemic recommendations:
This copper Yeti thermos, for keeping my coffee warm and dog hair-free for now — and for the road, and reusing in coffee shops, in what I hope is the not-so-distant future // This silk pillowcase has helped keep my curls quite fresh for Zoom calls, a thing that has both saved my sanity and perhaps made me a little more insane // The book Three Women, as recommended by a friend, the only reading that has fully captivated my frantic, frazzled little rat brain in quarantine // Marrying Millions is back for season 2, and it is truly giving me life (well, serotonin — same thing) // And Nomadland, which has only further fueled my post-pandemic plan to go wander around this world for a while (though I don’t think I have the guts to go fully off the grid.)
I’ve been a bit of a music rut lately, save for cycling through Valley, Dayglow, and this eccentric little song from CMAT, because I’ve been feeling a very Western cowgirl typa way.
Anyway, we’ve managed to make it this far, and there’s light at the end of this tunnel, yet. Thank you for being here, thank you for surviving this year. Be kind to yourself, and remember to set your clocks forward this weekend. Here’s to better days ahead.