A Whole Year Later and Nothing’s Changed

A whole year later, and this still doesn’t feel real. I question almost everyday if the pandemic is part of a dream or some alternate reality. How could we have let this happen? Why isn’t it over yet?

A year ago this week, I had just finished “Ragtime” at Salesianum School Theater, I went to dance class, and I made plans to watch a movie with my friend. Little did I know that this was the last time we could hang out together indoors without masks for a long time.

I jumped into virtual school relatively easily, enjoying the relaxed schedule and the coming spring temperatures. I walked daily, played video games with my siblings, and even maintained my no-sweets Lenten promise. I celebrated my Disney-themed Sweet Sixteen with my household and made sure to check up on friends frequently.

Life was good, except for one thing: Cancer and COVID-19 don’t mix. When I was in elementary school, my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. At the time, my sister and I were too young to understand how badly his “germs” affected him, so we simply accepted that he was sick but then got better. At the start of quarantine, my dad was fine, but he was at a high risk for COVID and this worried us. Since my parents are divorced, they decided to keep us at our mom’s until quarantine ended.

Needless to say, quarantine lasted more than two weeks. We didn’t “break” quarantine until July when a funeral on my dad’s side allowed us to return to our 50-50 split between households. I loved being back in my other bed, seeing both sides of my family every week, and catching up on our missed time.

Unfortunately, the bliss didn’t stick around long. In October, I could tell my dad wasn’t feeling his best. I told myself not to make a big deal about it, but the diagnosis in November only confirmed my worries: The “germs” were back. My sister and I had to return to our mom’s full-time indefinitely, and while it’s nice to wake up in the same place each day, it just does not feel right.

Including our regular schedule and socially-distant visits, my sister and I saw our dad 83 days out of the past 365. 

Eighty-three. That’s all. 

Some months, we spent 18 days together, and others, maybe one. March 17, 2020 marked the last “normal” day with him.

January 2021 was likely the toughest month of this whole ordeal. My family and I rung in the new year with another funeral and multiple COVID diagnoses. Not fun at all. 

I came down with COVID in the second week of the month, and I spent almost two weeks isolating in my bedroom. My symptoms were minor—cough, congestion, sleepiness—but I also lost my taste and smell. Luckily, it came back within a few weeks, but the entire experience was grueling.

However, I will admit that the previous summer of 2020 was pretty great considering the circumstances. Fulfilling one of my dreams, I started volunteering at the Air Mobility Command Museum on Dover Air Force Base as a tour guide. I’ve made some great friends who share my interests, and together we’ve done World War II reenactments and talked to a variety of visitors.

Dance class is another activity that makes me extremely grateful for our adaptations to pandemic life. My group finished the spring 2020 season over Zoom, but we were lucky enough to return to the studio in the fall with safety modifications.

Like dance and volunteering, returning to in-person learning was absolutely wonderful. Walking the halls brings back memories of the “good old days” that I took for granted. Each day, I feel lucky to be in the building amid a pandemic, even just twice a week.

It’s when I return home that I’m reminded of the gravity of this predicament. I’m bored even though I have work to do, I’m lonely even though I live with five other people, and I’m tired even though I’ve barely done anything.

I miss the fun part of quarantine from March to June. Not that it was good, but it was new and different. I miss thinking isolation would only last a few weeks or months at the most. I miss catching up on movies with my sisters and discovering cool TikTok trends. 

I want to go back to those three months where I was on top of my work, Zooming with friends and family, and excited to play games or go outside with my family.Most of all, I guess I miss having hope about the future. 

Today, I’m in my best physical shape, but mentally not so much. The last year has really tested my always-positive mindset. I try to remain optimistic about this tough situation, but this is totally different than anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve learned that it’s okay to admit something is bad—there won’t always be a happier side to the story. 

Sometimes when I’m at my low points, it’s helpful to remember that we are all getting through a pandemic. It’s a valid reason for feeling sad, lonely, nervous, and angry. I have endured separation from my dad, a COVID diagnosis, boredom, and much more. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned about myself, but I wish it didn’t take a global pandemic to discover those things.

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