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Four hard truths: A pandemic year in review

By: Alexandra Hristodoulou and Alissa Lorentz

Back in December, we gave each other a call. It wasn’t planned, and we didn’t have time for it, but we took the time to talk anyway.

We limped through the classic “How are you’s?” and found ourselves digging a bit deeper, talking about the things we were struggling through. It became comforting to feel heard and know we were not alone — that someone else was feeling the “messy,” too.

While we talked, we thought: Is there anyone else out there who needs to
hear this? So, we’ve continued talking and decided to capture our thoughts
to share them with our teammates who have been there with us every step of the way.

Alexandra and Alissa hop on a virtual call to catch up with each other
The virtual call that started it all

A year of sadness and uncertainty

It happened — we’ve reached the one-year anniversary we never expected or wanted, and it’s been hard.

Looking back to the beginning of the shut down last year, we remember feeling really scared, but also full of hope and focusing on bright spots. Back then, we reminded each other to appreciate spending quality time at home with family or loved ones, coped over Zoom calls, knocked out some at-home projects, tried to keep up with at-home workouts, shared memes and caught up on favorite/fad shows (remember “Tiger King?”). Over time, our isolation became “the new normal,” though in many ways it remains far from normal or the life we want.

We shared all the memes with each other from funny to those that felt too real

Spoiler alert: This isn’t going to be a blog post about self-help, bright sides, or how-to’s. We want to keep it real and focus on the mantra:
It’s okay to not be okay.

In that spirit, we wanted to share a few of the hard truths we have faced and are still dealing with this year. Our hope is that in reading this, if you identify with us in any way, you may feel a bit of comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

Truth 1: We are our own unfinished projects.

Speaking for ourselves as Americans and Type-A personalities, the only thing we love more than a to-do list is scratching things off the to-do list. Unfortunately, this has not been the year for that. The new hobbies, workout routines, home projects, wedding planning, and more that we may have started at the beginning of the quarantine have turned into half-painted cabinets, a wedding guest list and venue that’s changed four times, and a garden with no plants.

Proof of the half painted cabinets and indoor garden with no plants

The reality is that the quarantine has uprooted our routines, lives, and relationships. As time goes on, staying self-motivated is harder as the grief and sadness set in. On the hard days, we try to focus on the most basic of accomplishments: hygiene, drinking water, eating three meals, feeding
the kiddos or the cats. It’s not always exciting but sometimes it’s just where we’re at.

Truth 2: Virtual and/or distanced company feels weird.

Doing COVID-19-safe hangouts — with our “bubble,” physically-distanced, properly ventilated/outdoors, or some combination of it all, can be exhausting. First of all, there’s no spontaneity: We calculate beforehand to make sure everyone will be comfortable, set masking and distancing expectations, and so on. Secondly, we show up and fight the urge to hug, high five, or whatever we do to show our friends and family we love them.

Don’t get us wrong, we have had wonderful moments like virtual happy hours, distanced dinners, the freedom to say no to hanging out with people, and even people watching at the park, which we appreciate in a new way. But interpersonal connection was already complicated and emotional before — now it’s been taken to a whole new level. We’re really excited for the days when this level of coordination, consideration, and concern is behind us.

Truth 3: The new normal is overwhelming.

A lot of times, the “new normal” we keep mentioning seems to be a nice way of saying we feel totally overwhelmed. We’ve talked to a lot of people who are feeling stressed about something seemingly tiny, and they say something like, “I don’t know why I’m freaking out about this.” Our response to these people is: We know why! It’s because we are living in confusing times and sometimes one more confusing or complicated thing tips the scale.

We are working where we live and living where we work. We are homeschooling our kids. We are navigating how to manage and communicate what we are and are not comfortable with. We are trying to make decisions for an unpredictable future. We are making plans with the assumption that things won’t go as planned. It’s a lot. And everyone is experiencing it in their own way.

Truth 4: Giving yourself grace isn’t easy.

First, let’s start with a perfect example:

How it started: We were really enthusiastic and determined to write and publish this blog in December.

How it’s going: After five months on our to-do list, we wrote it! It got done and we can check it off the procrastination-makes-us-feel-guilty list. **Sigh of relief**

The point is this: You WILL get done what you need to get accomplished. Right now, it’s just hard to find motivation and although it may feel like we should have all the time in the world, we don’t. We are human beings and we are all doing the best we can to just. make. it. through. Whatever that looks like is okay. If you got out of bed this morning, go you! If you showered, high five! If you finished your project 30 minutes after you planned to, well, you got it done!

Giving yourself grace, particularly when you have our personality types, is hard. You have feelings of being less-than, a procrastinator, or a loser. YOU’RE NOT. Stop with the negative self-talk and replace it with self-love. You’re still here and you’re getting through it. And we are doing it together. We are all in the same boat, and it’s okay to put your paddle down and let others do the rowing for a bit.

The future

This year has been bananas (Did someone say banana bread? Yes, we’ve already made it. Seven times.). No one would have guessed we would be living through a pandemic, but here we are.

Maybe life will feel more normal soon. Whatever the future holds, we realize what we learned about ourselves over the last year is invaluable. We are resilient and strong. We learned to appreciate the small stuff and find joy in the simplest experiences. And when we get released back into the “wild” someday, maybe this was exactly the reset we needed.

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