reflections on the covid-19 pandemic, one year in

I still write on this blog, occasionally. Maybe once or twice a year. The truth is, it’s been difficult to write about COVID-19 life in a creative way, especially when I’m thinking and writing about coronavirus in an informational and scientific way all day at work. But lately, I’ve felt the urge to write about life lately more informally, which leads me here.

a year into pandemic life

Having just approached the big 3-0 this past weekend, my “covid malaise” (a term I made up referring to the general blah-ness and lack of motivation that virtual life can sometimes induce) has been cranked up a few notches. Maybe it’s the combination of this “big” birthday, combined with the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 getting serious and life turning virtual around this time last year.

A year ago, on my 29th birthday, was the last time I saw a group of my friends in one place in a “normal” setting, and Oh, how I miss that. We can make substitutions to an extent with Zoom gatherings and outdoor, socially-distanced activities. But it still feels like a piece of myself has gone into hibernation – that feeling of aliveness that comes from a carefree night with friends – celebrating something, exploring a new city, or just being together and happy.

And not to diminish any of the real struggles people have faced and are facing during this pandemic. In the grand scheme of life, I’m very lucky. There are even many things from this past year that I’m grateful for: moving in with my partner, adopting a dog, caring for and playing with said dog on a daily basis, my job and the luxury of working from home, my health, and more.

Despite how lucky I am, I can’t pretend things are totally okay, and I’ve come to despise the term new normal.  I don’t want to normalize living from from behind a computer screen. I don’t want to forget that this is tough, that humans are social creatures, and none of us are built for this longterm. We can carry on for a while longer, and hopefully an end is in sight soon, but I need to carry it with me that this is a massive upheaval, and it’s okay not to be okay all of the time.

productivity and escaping

The main thing getting me through this pandemic (besides my loved ones) has been tapping into my creativity as much as possible and making some progress in my writing career. I published a piece about my pandemic puppy last October and have another creative nonfiction story coming out in the lit journal Belle Ombre next month. I’ve attended my writing group (now on Zoom) religiously – which is a major bright spot in my week – and I’m trying to finish my novel (by which I mean, get it to a place where I can send it to lit agents) very soon.

On the one hand, this culture of needing to be “productive” during a global public health crisis sounds a bit insane, and it is. When I sit down and contemplate this, I think my goal in working so hard on my writing right now is really to escape the crazy reality we’re all living in. It’s because I can’t not write and regardless of how much of this stuff gets published – even in small, obscure literary corners of the internet – I’m having fun creating it.

inspiration

I’ve been binging a lot of writing podcasts, too. Most recently, I’ve gotten into Mom’s Don’t Have Time to Read Books, hosted by “book-fluencer” Zibby Owens, who interviews authors about their process, path to success, etc. It’s unbelievable how many episodes Zibby is constantly putting out there, so I am always finding a new interview with one of my favorite authors or a book I’ve just finished. I’m also super excited to read her quarantine anthology, Mom’s Don’t Have Time To, featuring essays by many of her podcast guests. 

I’ve also enjoyed QWERTY with author Marion Roach Smith, and my local favorite, of course, The Inner Loop Radio, with Rachel Coonce and Courtney Sexton, who run the amazing DC reading series of the same name (now virtual). Their quarantine podcast series, which helps inspire writers during this crazy time, has been especially helpful to listen to.

Last year, in particular, I read so many amazing books, a lot of which were debut novels by women authors, which really inspires me to keep going on my own book. If you need an escape from pandemic life, check out some of my recent favorites: White Ivy, The Vanishing Half, Luster, Writers and Lovers, True Story, All Adults Here, The Four Winds, and Valentine.

I have hope that this pandemic will end soon, or at least will slow down enough and vaccine distribution will ramp up enough that we’ll be able to resume some parts of life….like eating inside a restaurant, going to work, gathering with family for a holiday, traveling internationally. I’m optimistic, but I don’t want to speculate on how long it will take to get there… frankly, I’m tired of doing so. In the meantime, stay safe, everyone. Now, go get lost in a good book.

Until next time,

xo Joanna

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