Lots of people have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs throughout the pandemic. I am grateful to have built up a piano studio (partially gifted, partially hustled) in lieu of my performance job to make ends meet. Some people have been in and out of work depending on the local changes in policy as leaders addressed health concerns. And some people have had the better part of a year to themselves.
No matter what camp you ended up in, there were still some common questions that came out of the burden of the year, in my opinion:
-Am I safe?
-Am I healthy?
-When will I be able to see my loved ones again?
-What on the face of god's green earth is the Tr*mp administration talking about?
As the vaccine rollout becomes more extensive and shots become accessible, we have a lot more of relearning to do.
For starters, most of the people who will read this want their vaccines for themselves, for their families, and for a chance to return to some semblance of "normal" as soon as possible. (This is called responsibility.) In many states, though, it's still hard to get your shots if you don't fall into the most vulnerable groups and frontline workers. There's an agonizing waiting game at play, and even when registration opens up, it's hard to find time slots. That's extra, stressful labor.
Taxes were easier and simultaneously much harder for me this year, too. I had less income and deductions to worry about, sure, but it was painful to look at all the months of decreased or no income, and to gather the additional paperwork to prove that I had some assistance from unemployment.
As things open back up, there's also relationship pressure. Some people are more comfortable than others gathering indoors, maskless. I am not one of those people, and won't be until I have both shots and complete the waiting period after. I have offended friends by declining to come over and hang out. Some of these relationships have soured, and I wonder if they'll ever be quite the same. I spend a lot of time worrying about this, or grieving it, depending on the stability of the friendship.
Lots of people have experienced loss this year, too. There have been few places to process those loses communally since everyone has been stressed and many people don't have much to give in terms of support. I have been on both sides of this conundrum. I lost two very important people, both very long term mentors, and was unable to attend their funerals. I lost my job. So did most of my friends, also artists. I kept a lot of hurt to myself.
I'm feeling particularly burned out today, and as you can see, I haven't written much the past few days despite having fairly strict writing goals. I'm trying to take it easy on myself; to acknowledge that healing these losses as they arise is important, and that easing the mental inflammation of each new stressor takes energy and care.
I have the feeling that getting back to "normal" will be like learning to swim. One toe in; oof. The water's cold. Now I'm used to it. Let's add the foot. Same thing. Okay, I guess I can cannonball in and just give it a go, but wait..can I tread water? Can I slap my arms around enough to keep this frantic body afloat? And if not, is a lifeguard near by to pull me back to the surface?
Maybe you are more resilient than me, but if we're in the same proverbial boat (biting our nails, staring at the water, fearing a leak should spring up), I'm sending all the best to you. Because the truth is, the new "normal" is not "normal." A lot has changed, and so have we.
Until tomorrow, stay well, stay safe, and stay kind.