My heart and my mind are heavy. All year, the weight has shifted, but it’s never actually gone away. Here we are, December 2020, a full year since news broke of the Novel Coronavirus, also known as, COVID-19. It has been a year of uncertainty. A year of transformation. A year of adapting. A year of learning and reflection. A year of illness and death. A year of loss and grief. And a year of lies and misinformation. No, a lot of this was not new or unique to this year. Some may even describe every year of their lives this way. However, we cannot deny the unprecedented surface area this year has touched.
I can’t say enough how mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging this year has been. We’re experiencing trauma on an individual and collective level. People have lost their lives, lost their loved ones, lost their livelihoods, lost time with their families, lost their friendships, lost their dreams, and so much more. To date, globally, there have been 69,788,140 cases and 1,585,727 deaths. In the United States, there have been 15,632,336 cases and 292,382 deaths*.
I cannot act normal. I cannot act like this is not happening. I do not know if I am capable, but I absolutely refuse to give it a try. If you’re like me, then you may still be taking precautions seriously to protect yourself and others. You may also feel at odds with so many people you thought were like-minded, critical thinkers, caring, or had a sliver of empathy, at the bare minimum. Their denial of the gravity of this pandemic. Their condescending or flippant tones regarding safety practices. Their refusal to wear masks. Even their social media activity indicating a complete disregard for the people they are knowingly putting at risk, especially when those people come from historically marginalized communities already getting ravaged by this virus and other injustices. My perception of a lot of people has changed forever; they flexed their racist, classist, and ableist muscles. The pandemic confirmed lingering suspicions I had over the years. I am not impressed. The one time you needed to be a real person, you didn’t even really try; it was too hard, too inconvenient, didn’t fit your lifestyle, or wasn’t cute. You get to smile for now, but that barista, bank teller, server, custodian, cashier, doctor, or nurse, and their families may be worse off. Do you care? We’re still in this mess for a lot of reasons, but this behavior most certainly contributes to it. Dealing with this also wears on the mental health of the people surrounding them. The individualistic nature of these experiences may prevent them from seeing this. If others are negatively impacting you, prioritizing your peace is the best defense. It’s not always easy, especially depending on the relationships and proximity.
Nothing is normal about what we’re going through right now. A lot of the existing experiences, structures, and systems in place before the pandemic were also not normal. We shouldn’t strive to return to such. Grinding every day isn’t healthy and should not be considered normal. It’s only normalized because of capitalism. Capitalism wants us overworked, tired, and miserable; that way, we cannot think for ourselves and uphold an unsustainable system. Going to work sick because you cannot have paid time off, fear losing your job, or fearing you will fall behind, is not normal. Working 40-80 hours each week is not normal. Refusing to accommodate other people is not normal. Prioritizing corporations and spending over people’s health and safety is not normal. Attempting to live a normal life, without interruption, during a pandemic, is not normal.
As we near the end of 2020, we have to understand that this all won’t go away on New Year’s Day. If this year seemed uniquely difficult for you, you’re not alone, as isolating as everything feels. I try to take each day as it comes, valuing rest over productivity and allowing myself to feel a range of oscillating emotions for as long and as often as I need. I refuse to rush back to normalcy; it never worked for me. I will continue to put myself and my little family first, even if it is at the chagrin of the people closest to us. I won’t back down when it comes to being concerned about the welfare of other people. It’s all very exhausting, it’s triggering, and I am totally over it. I want nothing more than for all of this to go away. And, a torrential downpour of overdue public policies and dismantled systems rain upon us. Until then, we are here. I am here, trying my best. And in the meantime, I am pandemically yours.
*Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/