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#personal-essay

Looking Back on a Year in Quarantine

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5 min read

Looking Back on a Year in Quarantine Photo

by Amanda Melhuish | April 01, 2021

Let’s not sugarcoat it: this past year has been awful. As many Americans hit the one-year mark of the pandemic uprooting their lives in many ways, we wanted to take some time to reflect. 

I personally struggled with my roommates suddenly moving home, leaving me alone in an apartment for the first time. Nonstop sirens. Immediate paranoia. I found myself face-to-face with insomnia, anorexia, and a new diagnosis: major depressive disorder. Then I bought over 50 plants, got on antidepressants, and became a teeny tiny TikTok influencer. What a weird year. 

To look back on these ~unprecedented times~, we’re holding space to share unfiltered stories from real people in our community, and how this year impacted them. Stories about what people miss *and* what people have found. It’s our hope you’ll find some comfort reading these — and maybe even see a bit of yourself in them! Names have been changed to protect folks’ anonymity.  

“I’m high risk so my husband and I have taken the pandemic very seriously. Two days ago was my one-year-no-work-iversary. While I am super grateful for the privilege to be able to stay safe at home, the hardest part has been missing human connection and as silly as it sounds, being good at my job. I’ve waited tables for 18 years!” - Misha, 38, Jersey City, New Jersey

“A friend of mine—who was 30 and had no pre-existing conditions—contracted COVID-19 early on. She was in a coma for months. Months. We weren’t close, but I was still so shaken up by it. She’s woken up now and we’ve talked. But to know my parents complain about wearing masks while this happened to a healthy friend...I just don’t have the words.” - Janine, 26, Irvine, California

“At first, I struggled with accepting that I lost my full-time job. Now I work part-time (remotely) and make my own hours. Money is a bit tighter, but the freedom that I've gained from being able to disconnect from work and pursue anything else I'm passionate about has made me infinitely happier. I hope to never have to go back to full-time employment.” - Reese, 32, Brooklyn, New York

“Living alone during the pandemic has meant I haven’t touched another human being for a year. I don’t mean sex. I miss patting someone on the back, holding hands, sitting next to someone so close that your shoulders touch. I miss all the little touches and the big ones. I’m desperate to hug someone. I’m actually afraid of the moment when I’ll be able to do that. I know I’m going to break down in tears when it happens and not want to let go. That’s a lot to put on someone who just wants a hug.” - Morgan, 57, Manhattan, New York

“The hardest part for me personally was a health scare near the beginning of the pandemic. At the end of May 2020, I woke up with a pain in my side that turned out to be a pulmonary embolism and had to be admitted to the hospital. While I don't have an official diagnosis, it is most likely that I had an asymptomatic case of COVID-19 and after the infection was gone, a blood clot formed in my lung. This is apparently something they have seen sometimes happen in mild cases of COVID-19. Four weeks after contracting the virus and being treated, someone ends up with an embolism with no past history of them. 

All of that to say: because of the pandemic, I spent a night in a hospital alone wondering if my insurance (which luckily was still lingering from my job) would cover enough, wondering if this was a more serious underlying issue that would mean I would need to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life, or fearing it could be something even worse.” - Parker, 35, Queens, New York

“I’ve taken advantage of food pantries. I go to NYC food pantries a few times a month. Not paying for groceries is a huge help but standing on a food line is very humbling.” - Morgan

“Everything that I used to spend my time doing has been closed. I sometimes just walk around outside for hours. No place in mind, I just start walking until I get tired. Then I turn around and walk back. That's it.” - Nikita, 44, Bronx, New York

“So I work in production as a stand-in/double. Work was a bit absent when everything was shut down and unemployment was giving me next to nothing. Therapy has been my saving grace and the only routine thing I’ve kept up. Something that’s really helped me out is the reminder that although it’s been a lonely time, I’m not the only one feeling this way.” - Janet, 29, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

“An unexpected joy: WORKING OUT! At the beginning of quarantine, my wife and I both had nothing to do every day so we started working out using workout videos on an app. I usually hate being active and working out, but it's been soooo helpful. It has done wonders for my generalized anxiety.” - Parker 

“I do miss a sense of purpose. Most days making dinner is the only thing I *have* to do that day. Of course, there are a million things I should be doing with all this free time, but motivation has not been my friend. And that’s okay. I give myself grace by saying sometimes it’s okay to have a duvet day, where I don’t get out of my PJs & I don’t give myself a hard time about it. We are in a world-wide crisis after all!” - Misha

“Before the pandemic, I had not been unemployed since I was 16. Now I’ve been unemployed since June. I worked as an inventory manager for a small ticket broker. It was an industry I’ve worked in since the mid-90s. I was happy with my job. I very much liked the people I worked for and with. Even when ticketed events come back it’s not for sure my former job will need me ever again. So I may have to look for work in a whole new industry. I find myself very unqualified and too old for a lot of the jobs that I see.” - Morgan

“Ask me what was good about 2020 in 2022. Maybe I’ll be able to look back with more fondness of what I’ve gone through. Right now it’s all very painful.” -  Nikita

“There seems to be this underlying myth that we should look for ways to try to stay sane, but the reality is — these aren't sane times. Let your body and brain release their tensions in whatever way makes sense to you at the time, so long as you can do it safely of course.” - Reese

A huge thank you goes out to our contributors. It’s not easy to dig deep and think about how things have changed since March 2020. Your vulnerability is impressive — and will help others feel seen. Thank you for your strength and willingness to share.

In that spirit, we’d like to open up the conversation to you! How has this past year impacted you? Have there been any unexpected joys? What do you miss? Let us know in the comments below.

by Amanda Melhuish

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