Well, this is it. The one-year anniversary of Sean and I staying at home. On Wednesday, March 11, I was assembling porch furniture at lunch when Sean arrived home from work. He and his coworkers were told to begin working from home effective immediately, and he hasn’t returned since, except one trip on a Sunday to pick up some equipment he needed.
Five weeks before that fateful March afternoon, I drove to St. Louis and sat in a room with 700 other people at a work conference. We ate all our meals at a buffet and crowded around small tables and drank and laughed late into the night.
The night before Sean was sent home, I went to my ceramics class, where we joked about how much the clay sucked the moisture out of our hands, just like all the hand sanitizer we were using. At the end of class, our instructor told us that the final class, in two weeks, would be a potlock. We’d all bring dishes to pass and talk about the pieces we made. That class never ended up happening.
In fact, on Friday the 13th, we got an email that the Art Institute, where I was taking ceramics, would close to the public beginning on Sunday, but we could pick up our pieces over the weekend if we wanted. I had the feeling the closure would happen much sooner, so I ran over at lunch. Sure enough, the Art Institute closed that day at 5 pm.
It’s been a crazy year. At first, there was a lot of confusion and doubt. I remember asking Sean at one point early on in 2020 if I was weird for not taking “this whole coronavirus thing” that seriously. My friend Randi was teaching in Ukraine when this all started, and she told us Ukraine shut down their schools for 3 weeks. I was baffled when I looked up the map and they didn’t even have any cases in Ukraine yet. Remember when we thought the NBA was crazy for abruptly shutting down?
Then there was a lot of camaraderie. We clapped for healthcare workers. We stayed home to flatten the curve. At work, we started doing online programs on Facebook Live for girls to keep them entertained while school was out. We had girls check in from all over the world, and our whole organization was behind us; it wasn’t just the program team hosting these Facebook Lives, it was everyone.
And now? Well, I just don’t know any more. Everyone is burnt out, and it feels like a year without human interaction has caused a lot of people to forget their humanity. Not only do we have a continuation of police brutality and institutional racism that our country has dealt with since its founding. Not only do we have an attempted coup of the United States government. Even when you take out all of the big, what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-the-world events of this pandemic, people are just mean now. Social media, which was never an especially safe space, has become a battleground for wrong and right, even if you’re just arguing over what restaurant someone should try out next.
I have to say, when I first heard the idea of canceling plans and staying home, I wasn’t too bummed. I’m an introvert and homebody by nature. But between crippling anxiety over a deadly pandemic and a sharp increase in the amount I’m working, I feel like I never really got to experience pandemic boredom. Which is such a privilege, I know, but has been absolutely disastrous for my mental health.
That being said, Sean and I have tried to make the best of it. We received a Nintendo Switch for Christmas in 2019 (thank GOD) and I became obsessed with Animal Crossing. Sean learned how to brew beer and now has a mini brewery setup in our basement. I crushed my reading goal last year and am on track to read 75 books this year. And we worked really hard over the entire year to turn our house into a home. (God, I still can’t believe my Word of the Year for 2020 was Home.)
Overall, I’m just really thankful. I’m thankful that I happened to see my grandma one last time before this all started, and that I happened to ask Sean to take a photo of the two of us together, since it turns out it was the last time I saw her. I’m thankful that Sean and I were able to keep both of our jobs. I’m thankful that we have a house where we can continue to work without getting on each other’s nerves. I’m thankful that we have outdoor space. I’m thankful that we don’t have kids yet. I’m thankful that Joe Biden was elected president of the goddamn United States of America. And I’m thankful that vaccines are starting to roll out, with many of my loved ones having already received at least one dose.
I’m thankful for a light at the end of the tunnel. Because even with all of my privilege and all the things I have to be thankful for, this past year has been fucking hard. And I think we all need this to be done now, please.