2020: A Year Lost, A _______ Gained.
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2020: A Year Lost, A _______ Gained.

“Maybe we should get groceries…”

“Yeah, let’s go before it gets too busy.”

This was the conversation my husband and I had on this day, 1 year ago.

We were both working from home. He, because his office had flexible working arrangements, and I, because, the day before, had already decided that my team would work from home indefinitely. We had also already decided that neither of us would be going to our local gym anymore, but that morning, we still weren’t sure about how this would all play out. It wasn’t until the NHL announced they would be suspending their season, and that the news was reporting that 30-70% of Canadians could be infected, that we really understood the havoc that COVID-19 was going to cause.

We hopped into the car after I grabbed a mask that my mom had given me a few days before. We had been out for dinner and she pulled one out of her purse that she had brought from home – a mask that she had saved from the days when I had my own IV machine (in 2012!). I thought it was a little silly that she had been keeping them for so long, at the time, but I was grateful for her hoarding tendencies that afternoon.

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My husband and I got in the car and drove to our local grocery store – it was clear we weren’t the only ones with this idea. The store was packed, but we pushed through, grabbing as many things as we thought we could keep in our cupboards or freezers for a while (it was a little tricky with a vegan diet, but I found what I needed).

While we were waiting in the self-checkout (we already felt that using it was safer), we suddenly heard a bunch of people behind us in line, answering their phones.

“What? Oh my god, well, go pick them up!”

“This is getting real.”

“What about March Break?”

These were moms and dads finding out that the Ontario government was shutting down the schools.

It was then that I knew, we’d be staying home for the foreseeable future.

groceries-stockpile

Besides some trips to the grocery store the first few months of the pandemic, some drives up to our new family cottage on the lake, and that unfortunate trip to the ER, I have remained inside the walls of my condo since last year.

The spread of the virus, along with the new variants, has scared me. That, and the fact that there are still people who feel they need to be out shopping for decorative baskets, or who need to get their hair dyed, or who are “secretly” visiting friends who have also “secretly” visited other friends, thinking “no harm, no foul,” makes me feel much safer avoiding that risk. I have had some people tell me I am being overzealous – paranoid, if you will – but, to me, with the immune issues I have, staying inside is my best option. I’m sure most of you have been doing the same (whenever possible).

Staying inside this long has brought back strange memories of the years when my Crohn’s Disease progressed to my almost inevitable death. I spent the better part of 2 years at Sick Kid’s Hospital, and when I wasn’t there, I was at home in bed or on the couch, basically unconscious – when I wasn’t in pain. At that time, I was stuck in a small room or at home, had very little social interaction, and couldn’t do much more than watch TV or play video games. I’ve been saying to people who ask me if I’m sick of being inside, “I trained for this.”

Despite having done this lockdown thing before, and even though it hasn’t been too bad, I still know and feel that so much has been lost for me (and, of course, for so many others).

I feel like I’ve lost a year spending time with my 93 year-old grandmother (who thankfully, is staying safe inside and getting the vaccine very soon!)

I feel like I’ve lost spending time with my little niece (husband’s brother’s daughter) who is getting so big so fast!

I feel like I’ve lost some of the connections I’ve had with friends simply because video calls don’t quite cut it.

I feel like I’ve lost the time I needed to freeze my eggs (just in case I ever wanted to have kids!)

I feel like I’ve lost the time to catch some medical issues from arising (I haven’t had any of my preventative doctor visits or procedures).

I feel like I’ve lost a year where I could have been progressing my acting career. I submitted 1 audition tape at the beginning of the pandemic, but the idea of having to be on set with so many other people (even protected!) was not worth the risk to me. (I did quite enjoy having my husband audition with me, though!)

However, despite how much I feel like we’ve all lost, when I sat back and reflected on this past year, I realized how much this year has given to me, and hopefully, things similarly for all of you.

Yes, I feel like I’ve actually gained a lot:

A STRONGER RELATIONSHIP GAINED

You never know how much you love someone until you are stuck in a condo with them for 365 days+. I knew I loved my husband, but I didn’t know how much I could appreciate someone until this year. Not only has he been the best Netflix and chill buddy one could have, but he’s been my errand boy doing grocery pickups and running to the store to get meds or random snacks because we were out. He also doesn’t care that I only wash my hair every 8+ days (it’s better for it!) and that I wear no makeup at all now. He also lets me focus on work when I need to get things done, and he lets me bug him while he’s working when I’m procrastinating. I already made the decision to spend the rest of my life with him, but I couldn’t be happier than I am now that I did.

A TEAM GAINED

I am very lucky that I have built a business that operates online, because I was still able to work without risking my life, unlike so many others. That being said, the pandemic hit some of my company’s clients hard, and other clients stopped working with us because they were not sure what would happen in the world. I had to reorganize my company to handle the changes, but in doing so, some employees that no longer fit the team left and was I was able to bring new ones onboard. I was able to hire new employees who are not only great at their jobs, but are people whom I actually enjoy spending time with. Yes, we’re spending all our time together online (we have a Google meet link on all day where we strategize, review, brainstorm, and talk about literally nothing together!) but I actually really like every single person I work with. It has been such a breath of fresh air to have team members joke with me, play games with me (Mario Kart Tour, anyone?), and even tell me I’m a “cool boss.” What’s even better, is knowing how much they love working at my company and how much they love the other people who work there, too. Every day is a huge love and I couldn’t be happier.

A BUSINESS SUCCESS GAINED

Again, I am thankful that I run a digital marketing agency that operates and delivers our work online, but it has also been the best industry one could be in right now. I lost some clients at the beginning of the pandemic, but we gained new ones – and not just clients that would pay our bills, but we brought on clients that we also genuinely enjoy working with. At Christmas, since we couldn’t do a real party, my company hosted a virtual comedy show and invited our clients to join. We all had such a blast and it really solidified strong friendships that make working together even more fun. We also made some new business partnerships and networking relationships with other companies that operate in our space. I get to hang out with a whole group of people in the industry almost every 2 weeks! Without the pandemic, there would be no reason to bring so many people together from all over North America on a virtual call!

A HEALTHIER WORK/LIFE BALANCE GAINED

Ok this one might sound silly, especially because it’s not like there’s much in life that I can do right now, but, I have made it a priority that at the end of the work day, I will not answer emails. Since I’m stuck in the same walls I work within every day, it was the only way to build some separation. And I am not mad about it.

A NEW APPRECIATION GAINED

I’ve always felt that those in the medical profession were amazing people, because, after all, a good chunk of them saved my life! However, knowing that there were, and are, so many health professionals who not only have to risk their lives every day but are willing to do that, is something I will always remember. I know some of these medical professionals personally, and others whose stories I’ve read online or seen on the news. The amount of courage, strength, and sacrifice it takes to walk into the room of something with a deadly and extremely contagious virus is not something I will ever be able to comprehend, but I am forever grateful.

I also have a newfound appreciation for frontline workers. I always appreciated those working in retail because I, too, worked in retail (a time long ago, now.) That being said, if this was all happening when I was still in retail, would I have been able to go to work? I probably would have quit and stayed home because I had the privilege to be able to do that. I recognize that so many others do not have that same privilege, and are risking their lives in order to survive, and I feel for them, care for them, and appreciate them even more than before.

NEW PERSPECTIVE GAINED

I think the most important thing that I’ve learned during all of this is how precious life is. I mean the term “life” both in the sense of living it and actually being alive.

Ok, I know I say that appreciate life is important a lot. But this time around, it feels so different.

We’ve all lost the life we once knew: The life of seeing family, going to the movies, taking vacations, going to work (or going to work feeling safe), shopping, and just being able to have the freedom of choice. That has all been lost.

Others have lost their actual lives: Doctors, teachers, retail workers, the elderly, the already immunocompromised, the healthy person who wasn’t careful enough, their mothers, acquaintances, co-workers, and friends.

If you are reading this blog, you are alive. And that means a hell of a lot now.

A NEW FUTURE GAINED

So where do we go from here?

I, for one, am waiting for my vaccine. My GI doctor has said it’s safe and anyone in Ontario with IBD qualifies to receive the vaccine during the second phase, scheduled for April. I also have already seen my friends and acquaintances in the US getting their vaccines. My company is already planning marketing strategies for when things re-open. My team and I are already planning our next company retreat.

We can see the other side.

But what happens when we reach it?

Will everything just go back to the way it was? Do we want things to go back to the way they were? Better yet, should they?

Things have definitely changed for me this year: My priorities, my friendships, my respect for others, my business, my family, my relationship, but all for what feels like the better.

Maybe this crazy year was what we all needed to reset, rethink, and restart. 

At least, that’s the positive spin I am putting on it.

Stay safe, we’re almost there. ❤️

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Jessica Grossman
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