One year ago, I had never used the word pandemic to talk about anything other than the cooperative board game or historic events. I hadn’t spoken about coronavirus and actually knew nothing about it except that as a virus Lysol claimed to kill off surfaces.
In fact, on the cusp of 2020 my thoughts were about what I could personally accomplish during the coming 365 days. I was thinking about the concerts I was hoping to see (including Cher at the Kohl Center with my sister), the movies my friends and I hoped to see, the places I wanted to visit and the fact the United States would at some point be inundated with election ads. Only one of these happened and, of course, it was the one I was least looking forward to.
Now, as the calendar turns to 2021, I realize 2020 was going to be an unforgettable year, not because of what we did, but more about what we were not allowed. It’s the year I jokingly told my friend should be referred to as “the year that shall not be named.”
I imagine how 2020 will be presented in history textbooks. What will be put in and what will be left out? If 100 years from now, people opened a 2020 time capsule, what would they learn from artifacts? How would they reflect on a package of disposable facemasks and bottles of hand sanitizer?
Instead of already looking ahead to 2021, I decided to reflect on what 2020 meant to me and here’s what I came up with:
• Words used in nearly daily conversation – coronavirus, COVID-19, personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, essential workers, front line workers, quarantine, pandemic, and
• Hoarding cleaning supplies and toilet paper – store shelves became bare of cleaning supplies as everyone bought an abundance of Clorox wipes and anything claiming to kill viruses. I understood this. The toilet paper thing still irks me; coronavirus is a respiratory virus so why the need for all the toilet paper? Did the population seriously believe toilet paper and cleaning supply production would cease? It reminded me of Y2K when people were stocking up on toilet paper and bottled water in case all the computers went down.
• Snapchat and Zoom -– My friend Melissa and I communicate using Snapchat on a daily basis and I credit it for helping keep us sane. She and I actually saw each other in person once this summer when her daughter’s softball team played in a tournament hosted in Lake Mills. We sat 6 feet away from each other; it was great to be able to be in close proximity with my friend instead of sending Snaps. Also, my friends and I had a few larger Zoom meet ups before those fizzled out. I admit, virtual meetings and hangouts can in no way replace being able to meet with people in person.
• Learning to appreciate the routine – It was months before I could get a haircut, something I always took for granted. The same goes for the library, which had always been available on a nearly daily basis. When there were restrictions on both plus the fact many stores that were considered non-essential shut their doors, I recognized how I put no thought on going somewhere on a whim. I admit, I was OK with having my dentist appointment pushed back a few months.
• Ava Monster – OK, so her legal name does not include Monster, but it’s what I like to call my niece who was born in early June. My sister spent the first half of the year pregnant. I can’t imagine going through all of this while pregnant and then having an infant. Once Ava and my nephew, Bennett, are old enough, I plan to regale them with stories about how back in my day “everyone wore masks and we couldn’t visit family or friends. Schools were closed and there were no big holiday celebrations.” This will especially come in handy if they complain about doing something routine.
• Proximity to family – If my parents didn’t live in the same community I do, I would have spent the hours not at work alone in my apartment. I can’t imagine that being good for my mental health. Yes, I realize how lucky I am that I could see my family as part of my “quaranteam.” I can only imagine what type of psychological damage the isolation of always physically being alone would have on my mental status.
• Some days felt downright normal – I was lucky enough that my job was deemed essential and I could go to the office so my week was broken up with time outside my apartment. And I do enjoy spending a majority of my weekends by myself, keeping occupied with my books, music, and other solo activities. Simply put, I was content with not leaving home on the weekends. It felt normal. But, just because I can spend massive amounts of time alone, doesn’t mean that’s how I want to spend all my free time.