It’s been nearly a year since the world went into lockdown. I close my eyes and mentally transport myself back to that time… to March of 2020. I look back and think how foolish I was. I still recognize myself not understanding the magnitude of what was happening. When experts said, “14 days to flatten the curve”, I thought, “Great! This will all be over before my trip to France in four weeks!” Little did I know…
Collectively, 2020 chewed us up and spit us out. COVID ravaged all parts of the world, spreading as far as Antarctica and hitting as close as home. It infested every aspect of our lives. We weren’t safe at home, at work, outdoors, and certainly not indoors. COVID didn’t take a break during the holidays so that we could gather together and celebrate. It didn’t disappear in the summer months like some experts thought it might. Nobody could predict who would be affected, how badly, or if it would cost them their life. I was paralyzed with fear every time I accidentally rubbed shoulders with someone or had to take public transportation to work. And while I was trying to wrap my mind around how such a thing could happen, at the same time I wondered how such a thing didn’t happen sooner?
Our world lives a fast-paced life. We can be anywhere in just a few hours so it makes sense that a pandemic can spread silently and quickly. We take, take, take, and hardly stop to wonder what the repercussions are for the next generation. We’ve wreaked such havoc on our beautiful and incredible Earth that I’m actually happy that I won’t be alive in the next 100+-years to see the devastating effects that our greed has caused.
When I reflect on the past (pre-pandemic) I can’t help but wonder about my role in the world and how I’ve negatively impacted our planet. And when I look back on 2020, I realized that maybe I was due to slow down too. That this was God’s way of saying “Enough. Let’s just sit, be quiet, and listen”.
And so throughout the year that’s what I did. I sat with my emotions, soaked them in, and learned a LOT about myself and others in the process. I experienced all five stages of grief – denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. These stages played in a loop on repeat for 365+ days. And now that the vaccine is here and I feel a glimmer of hope, I still can’t help but find myself wondering… “Will we ever go back to normal?”
STAGE 1: DENIAL
I think back to March and April and still, remember waking up every day as though the previous was just a bad nightmare. I expect to turn on the TV and not hear news of COVID, instead, I think I’ll hear about the sick joke that was just played on us the past few weeks. I still worked hard at planning my trip to France never doubting that I wouldn’t be able to go. And while I stayed at home in my small one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, I spent all my energy willing life to return to normal. And while outwardly I was treating the pandemic seriously – staying home alone, wearing a mask in public, social distancing, washing my hands religiously – inwardly I was in complete denial that this was our new normal.
STAGE 2: ANGER
Once April came and went, my move to Saudi Arabia and my trip to France along with it, I became angrier with each passing day. I was angry at others for “not doing more” (however, looking back, I think everyone did and does the best that they can in the situation they’ve been given). I became angry at my trips being canceled, at wearing a mask at work for 13+ hours when others didn’t take masking seriously and angry at each state that treated the virus differently. I woke up angry and went to bed angry and it felt like there was no in-between. This anger lasted for weeks.
STAGE 3: BARGAINING
By the time I entered the bargaining stage, spring was in full bloom and summer was near. I was looking forward to a trip to Portugal to see Taylor Swift and I just kept thinking, TAKE ANYTHING ELSE, I won’t complain and I will be happy and content as long as I can go to Portugal in July. I became the queen of brushing things off my back… my travel nurse contract got canceled and I barely batted an eye. I welcomed any adversity that came my way and just kept thinking, “I still have Portugal”. When lockdown continued much longer than was originally expected I didn’t care because I still thought that collectively we would beat COVID and end this pandemic by the time that summer rolled around.
STAGE 4: DEPRESSION
Once my trip to Portugal was canceled I hit a full-on depression. I moved home, with no job, and no plans. And while I made the most out of my time in Nebraska, it felt as though the year was just slowly slipping away. There was no light at the end of the tunnel and the future felt like a grey, dark cloud.
STAGE 5: ACCEPTANCE
It’s now been a full year since the pandemic ravaged any sense of normalcy in the world. It took me nearly a year, but I have finally learned to accept the world’s “new normal”. I’ve stopped fighting what I can’t control and instead focus on what I can control. Long walks in the sunshine, being around co-workers at work, and FaceTime with friends across the country. Disruptions in plans no longer bother me and instead, I take it all with a grain of salt. It’s hard to get upset over things when you look back on the millions of people whose lives have been taken by this terrible virus.
And while 2020 was an impossibly hard year, I look back and think… I AM one of the lucky ones. All of those disappointments and setbacks in life don’t even pale in comparison to what some people have been through. I look back on 2019 with joy and wonder as I had no clue what was around the corner. And I look back at 2020 with a sense of respect. Knowing that life is short and fleeting and can be taken from you in the blink of an eye. I only hope that going forward I can respect others, respect our planet, and not take a single moment for granted.
Here were my original thoughts about the virus, one year ago when I was still in blissful denial: My Thoughts On Coronavirus As a Nurse AND As a Traveler