March 15, 2020.
It was the start of spring break at the university I work in and the first day we were asked to work remotely, after the university said they would be moving to online instruction for the rest of the semester, due to the growing concern over COVID-19.
Our concern wasn’t nearly great enough.
March 15, 2021.
Today, I’m still working remote, though the university plans for things to “go back as normal” with in-person instruction and services starting in August, with us doing a hybrid remote and in-person orientation this summer, starting in June. Despite what my university thinks, the pandemic isn’t over yet, even though we all want it to be. In this, I can only hope as many faculty, staff and students are able to get vaccinated as possible, before being forced to go in-person. I don’t have any control over this.
But, that’s not what this post is about. Today is for reflection. Of course, I can’t cover everything about the past year, living in a pandemic, especially at a global scale. I wanted to recognize that, even if it seems obvious.
No, this post is about my own experience, with punches I’ve personally taken, realizations learned and new hopes realized, and the potentials I hope for the future–some, at least, with more thoughts and reflections surely to come to mind after this post goes live. I completely recognize how lucky I am in so many aspects and how my pandemic experience might not mirror yours at all. But, I think I just need to process the fact that we’ve been at this for at least a year, many longer than that.
- Not getting to see family or friends
- This was really hard for me, as my immediate family I am very close to and, pre-pandemic, I used to visit them every other weekend, so not seeming them for months and months in person has been really challenging. Only meeting my first niece once has been ridiculously hard. Missing friends that I haven’t seen in years is wrenching.
- Struggling with mental health
- Is anyone else surprised that my mental health plummeted during the pandemic? Yeah, me either.
- Being overworked at my day job and not compensated for it
- I’d only been at my day job for three months before the pandemic hit, so not only was I just breaching the learning curve of a new job, but then we all had to adjust to working remotely–something that seemed impossible before–and, since last March, it has felt like trying to put out fires one after the other, with no break in sight. It’s been incredibly draining. Plus, with budget crises’ and raise freezes, that has been…hard, especially when I’m not making what I deserve to begin with, forcing side hustles to stay afloat.
- Less recognition of a weekend
- Weekends used to be something special, something I craved and looked forward to, when I’d have a plethora of plans to chose from, between seeing family, hanging out with friends, date nights with my partner; now, I just get excited to sleep in and ignore my day job email and often struggle to turn out the feeling like I need to keep working always and cannot take a break.
- Feeling guilt for not accomplishing things
- Yet, despite feeing overwhelmed and overworked, stretched too thin to complete what I need to, I’m honestly also completely at war with myself in that I also feel a huge sense of inadequacy; just not completing enough, not doing enough, not being enough.
- Experiencing passion droughts
- I hardly wrote at all last year and read the least amount of books I’ve read in literal years. Even things that bring me joy have been difficult to accomplish.
- Losing a lot of hope for greater humanity
- Traditionally, I’m a pretty positive person, but this has definitely shown me the uglier sides of humanity and fueled my depression in new ways I’m still trying to learn how to combat.
- Gaining a new pet peeve for non-maskers and those who DON’T WEAR THEIR MASK OVER THEIR NOSE, BY GODS
- Your selfishness is showing and my respect for you is non-existent.
- Proving remote work is possible
- I LOVE working remotely and I will be fighting a *lot* to make this a more regular part of my work life at my day job from now on (and, if this is refused, will honestly most likely look for new employment, because the amount of time and money I’ve saved working from home is blowing my mind).
- Exploring a revolution of the work day?
- In the vein above, I am also really over the 45 day work week, the 8-5 locked in schedule, the expectation that you must dress and look in X way to appear professional. So much of this is outdated, unnecessary and toxic, and I want to fight for this to be changed, too.
- Healthier boundaries at work?
- Literally. I haven’t gotten sick since the pandemic started. Not ONCE. I’m usually sick at least three to four times a year. Why weren’t masks always a thing when you’re not feeling well? Or why are we always pressured to go into work, even when we’re sick? Why wasn’t telehealth always an option? WHERE IS UNIVERSIAL HEALTHCARE?
- Challenging gatekeeping
- I think about the publishing industry in particular with this, in how it has always been so focused on New York living requirements that it made it really impossible for anyone but a very select, very privledged to explore a career in publishing. The pandemic broke that illusion away entirely and I hope they don’t try to revert back and “pretend like it never happened,” like my university is doing.
- Willing to take greater risks
- Personally, I’m a major planner and overthinker, so every aspect of my life has to be thought out, considered, pondered over and then planned out. I had grand plans for 2020–including a trip to New Zealand I planned and saved up for for literal years–that was all destroyed in a blink of an eye. Now, while I’ll always be a planner at heart, I hope to take more risks and stop waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect financial situation, the perfect body, whathaveyou. Life’s too bloody short.
- Becoming more selfish
- This also ties into the above. I’m very much a people pleaser and my anxiety makes me overthink things that often don’t exist. Thanks to really recognizing the unpredictability of life, my goal is to be more selfish with my time, my money and my desires, so that I can live a life I want. Not society, not my job, not others. ME.
- Appreciate things I hadn’t prior
- My health, being able-bodied, the fact I was able to stay safe in isolation, my access to virtual therapy, that no one I know has died from the pandemic. I am extremely lucky and privileged.
I hope that you are taking extra care of yourself this week. This has been a hard year for all of us and a first anniversary of a negative thing has a special harshness to it that’s hard to describe or capture, in many ways; coming out instead through anger, frustration, focusing on regrets and what-if scenarios outside of your control.
So, I hope you are safe where you are, you are able to get vaccinated soon, if you haven’t already, and that we all collectively come out of this more empathetic, appreciative and eager to fight against injustice than before (despite what the past year has shown us that humanity is, unfortunately, very much lacking in).