It’s officially been a full year of pandemic and living with all the things that have come with it. 2020 both feels like the longest year I’ve ever lived, and that it sped past so quickly that there’s no chance it has already been a year, right? I look back on my post from the six-week mark and it is laughable how we thought it was somehow going to end soon. I’m somewhat at a loss for words of how to adequately sum up what the last year has brought but feel like, as a writer, I must try.
Many feel that 2020 was the worst year ever. Certainly there are many reasons to think that way. 500,000+ Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, and people are still dying. That’s a lot of people grieving the loss of friends and loved ones. In America violence and hatred abound, politics are like a dumpster fire, and the new adults joining the scene believe they will see another Civil War in their lifetimes. But all that aside, I’d rather look at the positives and silver linings of what living through this experience has taught me.
Dear god, is there anything more toxic in our society right now? I argue, no. I remember many weeks last year where I thought I was being helpful and sharing legitimate science and research as things were shared with me by medical experts – remember, my day job is in healthcare – only to be met with rage and conspiracy theories and general negativity from many of my “friends” on social media – particularly FaceBook. I got so spun up and would sit around the quarantine dinner table venting about the drama of the day, feeling all the anxiety and frustrations it brought with it. Around the same time, I watched the documentary “The Social Dilemma” which rocked my world. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, check out the trailer HERE!
Go on, I’ll wait….
See what I mean?
Sometime mid 2020, I got really clear on the effects that social media was having on my sanity, and my health and wellness overall. This led to what I refer to as The Great COVID Purge where I took my social media back for myself. For years – since I became a published author – I had been juggling this weird dichotomy of “needing” to be a public figure and still somehow protecting my private life. Gone were the days where I didn’t connect on social media with people unless I would both recognize AND stop to talk with someone if I ran into them in a public place. Now, I had a completely segmented audience with “Acquaintances” that were separate from my “real” friends and family. That way, I could limit who saw posts with my kids and my intimate private life. What I realized was that this is merely a manipulative way to measure self worth by external validation and that instead I had become this weird pseudo public view of myself. I deleted hundreds of “friends” who over the years I couldn’t even remember where I had met them and who I didn’t ever interact with. These strangers got to see details of my life just because we had attended the same writing conference at some point and met.
My new motto: if it doesn’t make me happy when I see your posts or I wouldn’t be happy to run into you in real life, you don’t get to see me and what I post on social media. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that many actual people I know and even people I share DNA with in some way are not in that category. For those, it was harder but not when you look at people like my husband who isn’t on a single social media network and still maintains quality relationships. It doesn’t make us not connected in other ways, just because we aren’t connected on social media. Read that again because I’m pretty sure a lot of people have become so consumed and manipulated by social media that they don’t know how to do that anymore. Myself included until this epiphany midyear.
It felt like an extreme weight lifted off my chest and I’ve never been happier on social media minus those early days when it was all brand new. I also have completely changed my social media habits. It used to be that it was the first thing I checked in the morning and constantly checked in throughout the day. Now, I could go all day without popping on. I’m still trying to find the best balance between all the different platforms but overall I have really enjoyed being more authentically connected to people that uplift me and add to my joy in life.
Quality over Quantity
I have always been a very social person with a lot of friends and colleagues in circles that I participate in. But I’ve now been super high risk for DYING if I contracted this COVID-19 virus (remember my shitty kidney disease? Yeah, that has been terrifying!) I couldn’t be with people safely and I literally stayed home to stay safe. For a year. As an extrovert, this was hard when it was happening. It required me to set and maintain boundaries with people who weren’t at risk like I am. Coming through it on what I hope is the tail end, and as with anything, hindsight is much clearer than life as it unfolds around you.
Over the course of the year, it turns out that while I didn’t get to see a lot of people, the people who found ways to stay connected to each other did it in very creative ways. My social circles shrunk, but the quality of my relationships improved – even without social media, go figure. This was also true of my little family – my husband and kids and our pets. We watched a lot of people talk about how their lives were worse because it was so hard to entertain their kids or be with their spouse ALL DAY or whatever it is that lots of people struggled with. Our world became each other. We continued to build on achieving our dreams together. We grew as people and as a family. We laugh and we talk and we connected in a deeper way than we would have if pandemic life hadn’t been forced onto us. For this alone, where we are almost to the phase of life where our children are grown and will soon launch into their own lives, I’m grateful for this silver lining. There’s still no one I’d rather spend time with more than the guy I married over a quarter century ago. That makes me happy.
I also have a shiny new therapist… in case you’re wondering. I argue now more than ever every single person in the world needs one of their own.
So here we are, a year later, lots and lots of people dead, vaccines rolling out across the globe, and hopes rising that it might be over soon. I am re-emerging from this year that happened with not a lot to measure its passing and reconnecting with all the things that make me feel like I’m living rather than merely surviving. Most notably, that includes my website, which has been woefully neglected while my job supporting and innovating in the healthcare IT industry to support frontline workers took far more of my time than it ever has before. I hope your “lost year”, as I think of 2020, brought at least some things you can classify as positive to outweigh the trauma and stress we’ve felt on the global stage as a society.