Hello everyone! Today, I thought I’d share some thoughts I had now that we’ve reached one year into this pandemic.
As I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog, March 12th was the last time I was out in public without a mask. I remember that because I went to go vote at my early voting location, since I didn’t want to have to wait until election day. At that point, I had already brought home everything from my desk at the office that I thought I would need for the next few weeks, since we had heard that we were likely going to go into a lockdown of sorts for a little bit. But more on that later.
In any case, it’s been a full year for me staying mainly at home and feeling the effects of the pandemic. It’s always hard to see people out and about, both here and abroad, but it is my reality here. I’ve managed to avoid the virus this long by staying at home, so I’m going to be keeping that up for sure!
How did it all start for me?
Well, I had been travelling in January and February a ton. Around mid-January I travelled to what would end up being my last work trip to Houston, Texas. I don’t recall there being any super serious talk of Covid yet, but I do remember that it was around when it was starting to get around that there was a virus in China. And I remember worrying I’d get sick because if there is a flu to catch, I have a talent for catching it. I did end up getting a little sick after I got back home but it wasn’t so bad.
Then, after a week at home, my mom and I headed to Mexico. At that point, no one around me, myself included, was worried about the virus at all. In fact, I remember thinking that people wearing masks around Chicago’s O’Hare Airport were so dramatic and over-the-top. I was in Mexico for two weeks and over that time news started to come out of China that some giant hospital was built in record time. My family and I sort of brushed it off, assuming it was China trying to be all extra and bragging about how fast they were at building stuff.
When we got home, that sort of attitude persisted. As March approached, things started to look more serious but I was working in the events industry so upper management’s attitude was to be more careful about travel, but that it was otherwise business as normal. And it was for the most part. Our clients started talking more and more about it, everyone was monitoring the news but clients were unwilling to cancel and lose out on a ton of money if it ended up not being an issue. I had two big events in April I had been working hard on, and everyone was assuming we’d be able to have the events, no problem.
Then, we started to get weekly company meetings towards the end of February. We were told that if we weren’t comfortable traveling, to let our managers know and it wouldn’t be an issue. Then, clients started to have to seriously consider if they would cancel before their penalties would be even higher, per their contracts with vendors and venues. Then, they actually did cancel. My giant April event in Houston, with it’s partner event in Detroit a week later, were both canceled first from what I remember. The client’s attitude had been to keep the event running unless they were shut down by the government, but they ended up realizing that they’d be endangering too many kids (along with their families/local communities) and at that point various countries had started to restrict international travel. Their event was a giant international robotics competition, so if their teams couldn’t get there, there would be no competition. They ended up canceling their big competitions and canceling or trying to postpone the smaller qualifying events that were still happening in the weeks leading up to the Houston/Detroit events.
Honestly, we were all in shock. This was the biggest event of the year for the department I worked at. It was one of the biggest clients of the company, and losing the business for that year sent most of my superiors into a bit of a panic. I was sad to miss out on a trip I’d taken every year for I think three years at that point. I loved Houston, I loved the client, I loved the event, and I really loved the travel aspect of my job so I was sad to see it canceled. In fact, these trips were what convinced me that it was my goal to move to Texas someday. They were that enjoyable even if I didn’t get to see too much of Texas because of the long work hours! But that’s a story for another day.
My much smaller but earlier in April event was an anime convention in Boston. It drew people from mostly the east coast and they were determined to have their event but they eventually had to cancel too. Unlike the robotics competition, they had been in almost complete denial and I think that the city of Boston had to be the ones to shut down the event, but that was only a rumor I heard so I’m not completely sure. This client was much smaller and mostly volunteer based, so I know they relied on the revenue of each year’s event to put on the next year’s quite heavily. They had much more to lose, so I don’t entirely blame them for desperately wanting their show to go on, but they had to cancel too.
And, after all of that, we started to hear rumors that there would be a statewide lockdown soon.
So, as I mentioned, I had jumped onto the lockdown train pretty early. By the time my work decided to tell everyone to work from home for the foreseeable future, I had already decided I was going to. From what I remember, March 11th was a Wednesday and I packed up my stuff at the end of the day and went home, not intending to return for awhile. At that point, I had gotten a feeling that something really life-changing was going to happen but no one around me really did. I told a few people around the office not to expect me the next day or even the next few weeks if I could swing that with my boss.
At that point, no one really thought it was super weird for me to say that because they knew I hated being in the office because my old bosses made it a super toxic work environment for me and that my new boss didn’t care where I worked out of because he was a remote employee. I also regularly worked from home Tuesdays and Fridays, but had gradually started adding Thursdays without telling anyone so it wasn’t a huge shock to anyone that I wasn’t going to be there. Then, I think we got an email the next day saying we could work from home if we felt like we needed to, and if our jobs could allow too. So I told my new boss that I’d be completely remote (he didn’t care) and at the end of the day I went to go vote early.
At some point late that week or maybe even the next week (I can’t exactly remember) we got the notice that we were going to be put in a state-wide lockdown for I think six weeks. At my work, people started to get nervous because clients were starting to cancel that had events which wouldn’t happen until the summer and we did start to hear rumors that furloughs were being considered. Management had to do a complete 180 shift because they’d started out by saying they would do anything except let people go and they ended up having to do that. Their official stance was that they would furlough people based on workload so I knew that I was heading out. My next big event wasn’t until June and already there was an expectation that they might have to cancel as we headed into April. And, to be honest, I hadn’t had any work to do since my April events cancelled. The June event wouldn’t require any heavy work until May and all I was doing was watching training videos that the company provided or busy work. By that point, my position had been merged with another so instead of being the only person in my position for the department there were four of us. I was the only one good at both but I had no work so I got furloughed. And honestly, it was the best thing for me! Like I said, it had been such a toxic environment, I hated the new merged position (I had held the other position before and had hated it so I wasn’t happy that my job was going to have those responsibilities now too), and anyone staying on was taking a pay cut so I decided I was better off being furloughed. I am so grateful that worked out for me. I was given a tentative return date of August, but I knew I would turn down any offer to return if given to me.
Anyway, as we all know, the lockdown was extended, I heard that all the events I’d had for the rest of the year were cancelled, and I had my 29th birthday in the quarantine. The spring passed with nothing to really note, and I was completely at peace staying home.
As we moved into summer and the lockdown continued, it got harder to stay home. Summer in northern Illinois is a gift to us for surviving the tough midwestern winters. In the past years I would regularly go to Chicago for museum days or to go see musicals downtown, I’d visit my sister in the city, sometimes take trips up to Milwaukee or at least be out and about at local fairs or hang out with friends at bars.
I would also note time passing based on what my expectations had been for the summer. In June I would have gone on a work trip to Anaheim for VidCon, all through the summer I’d had various musicals I’d planned to see, in August my sister and one of our friends were supposed to go to Universal Studios in Orlando for our newly annual trip (we’d gone to NYC the year before and loved traveling together so we’d decided it’d be an annual thing to travel somewhere together). Oh, and I eventually got an official termination letter from my employer. I was free! But there was nothing to do but to sit and wait.
I got up to a ton of fun things though. I had my puppy niece over for two Camp Cuddles and she really lifted my spirits. I had a little garden to maintain and loved every minute of it. I would regularly walk around my subdivision, do virtual ballet at home, and even participated in outdoor craft lunches and outdoor book club at the library. I tried to do outdoor actives that could be socially distant too. I met up a friend for a socially distant chat, went strawberry picking at a local farm, and went to the beach. It was a quiet and lovely summer despite it all.
In the fall, things felt a lot like summer. I still had the garden, I was reading a ton of books, and in general I was living a very creative lifestyle. My official termination date came and went, and I was finally seriously job hunting but nothing really came of it. Fall was different from spring because I was already used to the lockdown life and it was different from summer because I’d never really had concrete plans for these months like I had with the previous season. So fall was unique that I felt so free to create and thrive.
At this point, places had started to open up again and people had calmed down enough that I was able to get out more, with a mask of course. I still didn’t spend too much time out of course, but it was nice to take a trip to Target or TJ Maxx every couple of weeks or so. And talks of vaccines was starting to ramp up so things were looking good!
Winter is always tough for me because I always feel so trapped. I always ignored those seasonal depression signs because I was working or going to ballet or other events in the area, but I always hated that I had to be constantly checking the weather for snow and change/cancel plans at the last minute based on it. This year was especially tough because I couldn’t do anything! Planning a trip to the store was stressful because of the weather, the annual Christmas market was cancelled, and everyone in general was horrible. People were complaining that they couldn’t see family for the holidays, people were yelling at each other on social media, and there was nothing to really look forward to. Plus, my annual trip to Mexico didn’t happen and seeing my photos from previous years come up on my memories was so tough. I missed my grandfather and exploring tiny bits of Mexico! But there was no way I was going to hop on an international flight and risk exposing my elderly grandfather or the rest of my family.
I ended up feeling like I was doing nothing over the winter although I know that’s not completely true. I ended up writing the rough drafts of two novels! But even so, it felt like a very sad and unproductive season overall. But I think that’s just because it was winter.
One Year Later
Looking back on the past year, I think I have no real grounds to complain. I didn’t get covid, so that’s already a win. I had no real financial hardships despite an unsuccessful job search due to the fact that I was able to get unemployment when I lost my job and I live with my parents that meant I’d already been keeping my living costs down. I’ve had time to read many books, and even write a few. I’ve watched a ton of TV shows and movies but so has everyone. And I’ve gotten my Animal Crossing New Horizons island to five stars! (That is a big deal to me, okay?) I’m grateful that I have so many positives in my life.
Of course, there were plenty of hardships. The top one for me was that I couldn’t see my grandfather. He’s the only living grandparent I have left and I have rarely seen him because he’s in Mexico. He’s in good health but he’s in his 90s, so I want to see him as much as possible but I know I can’t right now. I’ve also struggled with feeling unproductive because I’m unemployed. As relieved as I was to be free of that horrible workplace, I have had a very frustrating and unsuccessful job search, so it’s been hard dealing with that personally. I think I haven’t been able to fully escape from the pressure of society to lead a “productive” life and that has really weighed heavily on me, even if the productive life I’d had before was unfulfilling. I feel like this current life isn’t too fulfilling either though, so that’s also weighing heavily on me. Oh, and something kind of silly but I’m really bummed that I’ll be turning 30 and not be able to fully celebrate it. I mean, my birthday isn’t until May and I could celebrate it after but still!
My goals going forward though are pretty simple (I think). I want to find a job of course. I need to have an income regardless of anything else! Oh, and health insurance so I can get a vaccine would be nice in addition to other benefits. I want to keep working on my writing projects. And I want to be more mindful of living a good life instead of living a “productive” one. Oh, and I want to move to Texas. I’m over these Illinois winters. I do have other goals too like I would like to adopt a dog someday but those were goals before the pandemic too.
Anyway, if you read all my ramblings, thanks! I guess this is a blog post that I wrote purely for myself as a sort of reflective, journaling-like way to sort out my thoughts. I don’t know if anyone else will really care for it but it was nice to write this all down.
Thanks for reading!
(but feel free to call me Ella! I’ll explain in my next coffee chat LOL.)
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