When 2020 began I had just moved into an apartment with a friend and out of my parent’s house for the first time since college. Various factors had finally lined up to take that step, where I’d be cutting my commute to work each day in half, have a carpool buddy to switch off driving days with, and be living with friends. Great, right?
In the two and half months before lockdown began, my roommate and I were busy with getting settled – buying furniture, filling up our kitchen with cooking essentials, groceries, etc. Work was steady in a brand new building the company had just relocated to months before, as well. All in all, it seemed like the new decade was kicking off with some form of progress (I mean, we had an arcade room at work now).
Then in March the pandemic hit the U.S., and while I can’t say it caught me off guard exactly, I certainly didn’t know just how uncertain the future was about to become. The company I worked for was in the travel industry, with a large focus on cruises, so I had been following news of COVID-19 since late November of 2019 as an increasing portion of China was going into lockdown. Then in January came the first cases reported in California. The idealist in me believed then that containment was very much in reach and following the seriousness of the situation in China, people everywhere would be doing what they could to stop the spread.
The travel industry began to idle in February – future bookings were tentatively being made, current itineraries were still embarking – until it stalled at the end of the month. Stories began dominating the news about large ships stranded offshore with thousands of passengers unable to disembark at various ports as the virus infected the ships, or ports were closing for the same reason, making previously scheduled dockings untenable.
Uncertainty ruled the day. My job had been to create content and handle social media for the company but a global pandemic will really put a damper on getting people excited about travel. I joke, but as March sent us into lockdown and April saw only increasing numbers of infections, there became a real difficulty at work on how to continue to provide content to help the company stay on its feet and yet remain tonally in sync with a world riddled with anxiety.
In my still new living situation I was, in all honesty, enjoying the lockdown. Not having to deal with traffic after seven years of driving 100 miles every day in rush hour traffic was a blessing. Although the pandemic brought anxieties of its own, not having to worry about the everyday stresses like picking out the right clothes and doing my makeup correctly, having breakfasts and lunches together, being ready to smile at everyone, every day, has done wonders for my mental health. I have gotten more sleep in the past year than I have since I was probably eleven years old.
I had some good friends around me – my roommate and two mutual friends that lived in the same complex with whom I could create my pandemic “bubble” with. We had “family” dinners together each week, trading off on cooking and binging shows or playing games. Every day we would take walks together and between our two apartments, we had some respite from the same spaces. Things were good.
And then one day in June my place of work scheduled a company-wide meeting on Zoom. Half of us were laid off. Six days later I turned 29 and was applying for unemployment. For the first time since I was 17 I found myself without some form of work. At first it was strange, waking up and not having to worry about getting something done that day, and stranger still, being the odd man out of the four of us in our bubble without a job. While my friends were dealing with ever increasing stress of their 8+ hour work days in these difficult conditions, I was in an odd limbo of feeling “less than” for not having a job but also (respectfully) enjoying the freedom afforded by that very same thing.
I know many people have been hit hard and are in much more difficult situations than myself, and I don’t want to downplay the hardship for many this past year. I am grateful to have been in a position where I had some security and didn’t have to immediately worry about surviving day to day. I was fortunate to be in a place where I could see my situation as silver lining. My job, though not all bad, had never been something I saw myself doing forever and it had become increasingly difficult to be motivated. A few people I had become close friends with at work were my saving grace for getting through each day.
Now, for the first time in a long time, I had time on my hands. I started writing again, creatively, and am working towards pushing myself to actually finish some projects in this pursuit. I’m lucky enough to have people looking out for me, offering advice and helping me get in touch with some folks in the fields I’m interested in. When the Coronado Eagle & Journal reached out with an opportunity to work part time writing for them in September, I was immensely grateful to have something that’s helping me build more experience with writing (and yes, get paid) while remaining flexible. These past few months interviewing people around town and writing weekly articles has given me a chance to reconnect with Coronado on a level I haven’t had since graduating high school here.
As 2020 came to an end I found myself once again packing everything up, having to move back in with my parents. Irony aside, if one year was all I was going to get there, it really was the perfect year to be able to have had my own place. I love my family dearly, but family is family, and a whole year cooped up with them probably would have made lockdown far more stressful than it was with friends. The pandemic gave the four of us the chance to connect on a level that we never would have in a regular year with work and busy schedules, and for that I’m grateful for the experience we got to share together.
Now in reflection as we reach the year anniversary of the effects of COVID-19 here in the U.S., I’ve come to think that maybe life isn’t so much a box of chocolates as a Bingo card we’re all carrying around and checking off boxes as we go. As lifetime Bingo events stand, pandemic on a global scale wasn’t something I expected to be marking off, but then what is? Terrorist attacks, war, inequality, natural disasters, economic recessions…it’s a strange thing when you come to the realization as you grow up that the things you learn about as history and think won’t be happening in your lifetime (Great Depression, the Plague, civil rights movements, take your pick on wars) are not, in fact, things of the past.
Even though life seems to be dealing us a game of disaster Bingo, I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t still an idealist. So even as we seem to take one step forward and two steps back, what I see is the constant struggle to keep taking that next step forward. As I sit here writing this, I’m going on my third month of life back in the old bedroom I grew up in. There are ups and downs, of course, and I’m largely still trying to figure out my life from here. Limbo has persisted as has the pandemic with many things being shut down (recent news of Comic Con officially pushing back to 2022 hit hard, I won’t lie), but with vaccines in full swing I’m hopeful for a new start in 2021. Maybe 30 will mark my next, personal, step forward.