COVID - One Year On: A Reflection

At 17, I was an ensemble member in my high school theatre’s production of Rent, and I can remember the hours of rehearsal spent singing the famous lines “525,600 minutes, how do you measure a year in the life?” Back then, they were lyrics to a song I had heard countless times, and nothing more than that. Now, after this past year I realize they have taken on an entirely new meaning. How do you measure a year like this? In the nights spent watching hours of TV on the couch and the disposable masks grabbed frantically on the way out the door? Or maybe in the hours of Zoom calls with friends talking about both nothing and everything. Maybe it was the cups of tea my flatmate and I made each other during our weeks of lockdown, or the miles walked around the same stretch of road during our ‘daily walk.’

There are so many moments that seem so surreal to me now. Packing to come home in March 2020, telling my roommate I’d see her in two weeks - it has been over a year since I’ve seen her. Watching my phone light up with the emails saying our semester has been canceled. I remember the fear flooding my body as I walked into a store for the first time since the pandemic began, and praying the mask on my face would protect me from everyone else. It would be easy to laugh and think of how funny it all is now, but in many ways, not a lot has changed. One year on I still sit at the same desk in my childhood bedroom, walking my dog and queuing up another season on Netflix to make the days go by faster. The world isn’t less scary, we’ve just become used to it, and the mask I remember fearfully donning a year ago has now become a second skin. 

Last fall I would take a walk through Lade Braes and up to Hallow Hill right before the sun set for the day. Standing at the top of the hill, looking down across the changing leaves, the world didn’t seem so big. While I would soon have to walk home, back to the noise and stress of the remaining day, for a moment it was quiet. I’ve learned what it means to breathe deeply, laugh fully, and love widely. Sometimes I think of myself in my first-year dorm, dreaming about life beyond the cinderblock accommodation walls. I wish I could tell her to squeeze her friends a little harder, say yes more often instead of no. But the good memories of the past make me hopeful for the eventual future, where a long-awaited reunion will be that much sweeter.

I realize now that to package this year into one life lesson is to erase it almost completely. It is too early for me to craft this experience into a carefully worded piece of advice. So instead, I have learned to take everything in stride. We have felt all “525,600 minutes” of this year, but because of that, I feel more grateful for every small minute of joy. I have never before appreciated the excitement of seeing my friend’s faces appear on a FaceTime call, or the delight of seeing the daffodils in my yard spring up at the first few rays of sun. One year on, the world looks cautiously brighter, the anticipation of vaccines and summer get-togethers seems somewhat promising. While I have hope for the first time in a long while, I carry with me the pain of the last year. For all the lost minutes and memories that could have been, I look forward to the new ones - the long-awaited hugs, belly laughs, and dazzling smiles from those I love, toasting to new beginnings.