You did it!

I don’t know all of what you did, but I know you’ve done a lot.

Today marks one year since I started working from home – or living at work, as I’ve come to call it.

I don’t have the energy or interest to write about all of the last year, but I do find it interesting to think about the anniversaries that have recently occurred.

In January, it was one year since I left the country. I went to Washington DC for a friend’s wedding; there was an impeachment process underway (some things change; some things are repeated). My mom told me not to get too close to people in the airport because she was worried about what she’d seen in the news about the virus in China.

In February, it was one year since I flew on a plane. I went to Ottawa for a series of meetings. The same group just repeated those meetings over the past few weeks – virtually, of course, which made me realize that I’d never have imagined a year ago that an online conference could be as productive or interesting as I now expect such events to be.

Later in February 2020, I spent an afternoon with friends in local breweries. When we were curious about each other’s drinks, we sipped from each other’s glasses.

I went out for dinner with my so-called book club (we’ve long given up on reading, but still enjoy eating and drinking). Purely by coincidence, we got together on the same night one year later…we sat in my backyard with snowpants and blankets, and I don’t know when we last met inside one of our houses.

In early March 2020, I went to Edmonton for meetings by bus. I pulled out the tray table on the bus for my laptop and wished I had hand sanitizer to clean the tray. Imagine not having hand sanitizer! Imagine shrugging and setting up the laptop anyway!

When I returned to Calgary from that trip, I had plans to meet someone in a Tim Hortons. I ordered my coffee to stay and the woman taking my order said, “You want a paper cup though, right?! The virus is here!” I thought she was over-reacting. Surely we could still trust dishwashers?

Around the same time, Dr. Hinshaw gave her first press conference in Alberta. Like many others, I thought, “Wow, here’s someone calm, wearing a dress printed with the periodic table, and people are listening…maybe science is going to prevail instead of emotionally-charged, divisive politics.”

Little did I know.

A few days later, an official pandemic was declared. A day after that, the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in my office tower. I saw someone online refer to the virus as COVID-19, and I noted this more official-sounding name, not realizing I would soon use that same term multiple times per day.

I was supposed to teach a class at UofC the next day. Instead, all classes were cancelled. Eventually, we awkwardly moved class online. In this year’s version of the course, I’ve never met any of the students in person.

I went to the grocery store on this same weekend in 2020. I wondered (still wonder) what makes the milk supply chain more resilient than the egg supply chain. The pasta and toilet paper aisles were empty. Speaking of toilet paper, can you believe I ran out last week?! (It had everything to do with household mismanagement and nothing to do with the pandemic.)

In a few days, it will be the anniversary of being asked to dust off my crisis communications skills and help staff my employer’s emergency operations centre. We had our temperatures checked on the way in. The first person doing these checks was a security guard; she wore no PPE. Later, we hired nurses to do the job and they came in full hazmat suits. We all carried Lysol wipes from room to room as we held meetings to devise and communicate evolving protocols for workers across the country.

My mom sent me a homemade mask in the mail. I wasn’t sure it was necessary. Now I have nine.

Honestly, I don’t remember much more about last March. I know there was sidewalk chalk, and rainbows in windows. I remember people cheered for frontline workers and generally trusted advice from health professionals. I didn’t think I’d be returning to my office in a regular way in April…but maybe June? Rescheduling of large concerts was being discussed for November.

Since then, a lot of other things have happened. A lot of feelings have been felt.

Things that used to feel easy or normal can now be difficult: things like going to the grocery store, getting a haircut, living alone…I could write a book on how much I miss being hugged and I wasn’t even a person who loved hugs.

And without a doubt, everything that was already hard is even more difficult now: Being unemployed, ending a relationship, losing a loved one, letting go of a dream, struggling with mental health, fighting an illness, addressing racism, reassessing a sense of self.

That’s just the list of “regular” hard things that I’ve experienced directly and/or through people I’m close to. I can’t fully imagine what it must be like to face issues related to housing, violence, hunger.

Anniversaries can be a useful time to process grief, and we’ve all been grieving whether we admit it or not. Anniversaries are also a time to celebrate what’s been accomplished. I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but I hope you give yourself space to process, and time to be proud.

Regardless of your situation, you’ve done a lot this past year. It’s been immensely hard. And you did it.

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