525,600 minutes. 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year? This week is a special one for many, if not all, of us. But not in the way we'd expect it to be. It was one year ago on 11 March the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic after its initial beginnings from Wuhan, China, spreading to all across the globe, even after the city shut down. What happened next is nothing short of unexpected. As the cases began to appear in the US one by one, and then dozens by dozens, and then hundreds by hundreds, life as we knew it abruptly stopped. Schools, restaurants, offices, arenas, cinemas, museums, theaters, and so much more were ordered to shut down. Some by choice, others from orders from the state. We were literally forced to keep apart from everyone we pass on the street. No hugging, handshakes, fist bumps, or even kisses were allowed from people outside of the inner circle. Indoor dining was practically banned. Shopping in store at malls and grocery stores was like playing Russian Roulette. School sports were cancelled, along with proms, graduations, and end of the year traditions. Trips to distant lands were out of the question. Going to see the next big film was no longer in the plans. In other words, things were pretty much miserable because we couldn't do the things we wanted and loved to do. And these were simple pleasures that we'd often take for granted. Sure, there were people who totally disregarded the rules and did things their way, and unfortunately, karma has a way of getting teaching people a lesson in the worst possible way. And it doesn't always end well. To put it bluntly, this year was a challenge for all of us, and I do mean ALL of us. No matter where you were in the world, we all struggled with being far apart from loved ones who lived in different places. It was a lesson in frustration for parents to balance work and school and taking care of the home all at once. We questioned whether it was safe to even go to the grocery store or retail shops. Children were confused and angry as to why they couldn't even play with their friends next door. The best way to contact loved ones? On the computer through a series of squares and rectangles that's called Zoom or Google Meets. Staying six feet apart wherever you went was a challenge, and don't even get me started on how fast people can scatter after someone coughs or sneezes. Don't you see? Nobody had to face this alone. This wasn't just an individual problem. This was a GLOBAL pandemic, and every single life was impacted by this. It pains me that there was so much selfishness involved throughout the pandemic, in both small and big ways. Whether that's not wearing a mask outside or in stores because of your "God-given right to breathe," or staying six feet apart, or even hoarding all of the toilet paper and disinfectant wipes for yourselves. It was also from parents who didn't see teachers as human beings but rather as baby sitters for their children and urged schools to stay open so that they would no longer bear the brunt of responsibility for their children's upbringing. It was also from narrow-minded individuals who didn't believe that black lives matter, and thought that all of the Asians in this country were responsible for what is happening and decided to bully and abuse them in every possible way. It was also from people who didn't show an ounce of compassion from the over 500,000 people who lost their lives to this deadly virus, no matter how old or young they were. None of these people cared. If they did, it was only for themselves and not their neighbors and strangers who needed help. It's truly heartbreaking what this year has shown us in terms of people being selfish and cruel to others. But maybe, just maybe, this year has also shown us resilience, creativity, empathy, understanding, gratitude, and love. Maybe this year wasn't a total loss to everything that we've held dear. Maybe this year has taught us something about ourselves and how truly strong and capable we can be. Maybe there was even some good that happened this past year. The lyrics from Rent said it best: how do you measure a year? How about LOVE?
It's true that March 2020 came in like a lion, quite literally. Nobody could've known what would happen. The news was everywhere at this point, but some of us had the thought that "it could never come here" or "it's under control, right?" We couldn't be further from the truth. My mom put it best this way, "it's already here." And indeed it was. After the first case appeared in the US, it all went downhill from there. Our lives were upended, and we didn't know what to make of this and what to do with ourselves. As people, we crave going out, seeing friends, traveling, just being out and about in general without any limitations (as long as we're following the law, of course). We're constantly moving, and we have no time to slow down. Time off to spend with the family? That's only for vacations and holidays. An evening away from the computer or the smartphone? That's a laugh! Who has time for that anyways? But that's where we've been and how we've coped this past year, and for many of you, that hasn't been that easy of an adjustment. We can all focus on what's bad about this past year, all the things that were taken away from us, the people we couldn't see or interact with, the events that were cancelled or postponed, how our health became front and center in our day to day lives (physical, mental, and emotional) and every ache, cough, sore throat, or sneeze can be a bad sign, how long distance traveling is no longer safe and wise, how our holiday plans were thrown to the wayside, and every little detail or thing that was wrong about March 2020 to March 2021. We could grumble, bemoan, complain, throw temper tantrums, cry, and do whatever to make ourselves feel better about what we've been through in a year. Not saying that's not okay, but it seems like that's all people are doing to the point where it becomes almost annoying and repetitive. But let me ask you this: Was there anything that was actually GOOD about this past year that you feel proud of? I'm sure there was. In fact, I know there is. A lot can happen in a year. That much is true. And we have a choice to make on what to do at the beginning of the new year. We can either stay exactly the same as we were the previous years and make no effort to be challenged, inspired, enlightened, and transformed. Or we can keep an open mind and heart and allow ourselves to let the lessons, events, and people we encounter to change ourselves for good. Each and every instance has an opportunity for us to grow into the individuals we were meant to become, but we have to be the ones to make the choice whether to water the seeds of positivity and hope that need to sprout and blossom within ourselves, or we give into the doubt and critics and allow ourselves be trampled without any consideration or compassion. No one truly stays the same year after year. Each and every one of us go through some form of transformation of sorts, and we're never the same people we started the year as. Perhaps this year you actually experienced a transformation of sorts that was actually good. Maybe you opened your heart and mind to the possibilities of what can happen, even during a pandemic. Maybe there were unexpected blessings that came to you that you never thought would happen, and it showed you gratitude and joy. Maybe there were new beginnings and letting go of the things that were holding you back, and feeling lighter for doing so. Maybe you found a deeper appreciation for where you are now, and it sparked a flame to propel you to move forward to a new adventure. Maybe you truly discovered who you really are as an individual, and didn't want to be defined by your mistakes, shortcomings, and the past. Maybe this year was actually a good year for you, when you think about it. There must've been at least one good thing that happened to you this past year that you're proud of. Or maybe there's more than that. But who's counting? This year wasn't and shouldn't have been a total bust for all of us, no matter where we are and how we view the pandemic. I choose to find the good in every situation, no matter how small it is. Even in a year like this. And I'll let you in on a little secret about March 2020 - March 2021. I actually had more good things and opportunities happen to me than I ever imagined it would. This past year did far more for me than I anticipated, and I'm not sure if I want to go back to who, where, or what I was before. Yup, you read that right. March 2020 - March 2021 has actually been a very good year for me, even in light of the circumstances. I know what you're thinking. How is that possible? Were you living in an alternate universe? Are you out of your cotton picking mind? How can you have more good things happen to you during a pandemic? You just got lucky. You're lying. Believe me, I'm not lying about this at all. Nor did I get lucky. And I'm not crazy, either. This past year actually transformed me in more ways than I imagined it would, and much of it has been for the better. And I don't want to go back to my old ways, even if they're comfortable and usual. I'm not sure you would either if you had a transformative year. There are times when I don't recognize who I am because of all of the hard work, lessons, and experiences I've had this past year that really molded and shaped me into the individual I'm loving more and more each day. How was this past year good for me, you ask? Well, I can give you some examples. I lost 70+ pounds, and I'm still keeping it off. We moved to a larger apartment in more walker friendly area. I participated in five courses, ranging from the Irish language to everything about the arts. I've learned to let go and move on. I got better at doing self-taping. I was discharged from the clinic I attended after over six years and I'm doing much better mentally, emotionally, and physically. My medication dosage amounts have been lowered because of my upward progress in mental, emotional, and physical health. I literally uprooted my worst memories and thoughts from my past and threw it away for good. I created my website, which includes blogs for you to read on a biweekly basis! I took on projects to make where I live feel like I home. For instance, I took pictures from my travels and put them in frames. I did a Marie Kondo week and discovered what truly made me happy, and what I can let go so that others can find happiness from what I've held on to. My acting career is starting to take off, and I do mean TAKE OFF! So many virtual theatre opportunities and networking with individuals that are amazing. And I don't think it's going to stop soon. I'm finally starting to believe in myself and the gifts and capabilities I have. I celebrated a wonderful birthday, in spite of the circumstances. I got closer to my mom, aunts, and uncles. I did plenty of self care. I did more cooking. I continue to be kind, understanding, empathetic, patient, hopeful, positive, and loving in so many ways. And so much more... It may not sound like a monumental year to you, but it was to me. Yes, there were still so many things going on in the world that made me angry, frustrated, sad, confused, and scared. But the best way to handle all of this? Let go. That's right; you have to let go and give it over to a higher power, whether that's God, the universe, fairies, or whatever you believe in. Trying to fight it or even force things to work for you on your timeline will not bring you what you want or need. Believe me, I've tried that, and it always backfires on me in the worst possible way. Be willing to take action on making changes and transformation in your life, but please don't force things to happen because it's not going according to how you want things to be. The good things that you dream about and desire are coming to you, and I know how much you want them. But please, just let go and trust that it will come to you. Trust is hard. But it'll be so worth in the end. I realize that many of you reading this aren't willing to look for the good in this past year because of all that's happened. You were probably glad that 2020 ended and cannot wait for 2021 to show up. But there must've been something that you were glad about, or even grateful for that happened between March 2020 - March 2021. You health? Your family, even if they do drive you crazy? Your job, whether that's in person or remote? Your home? Your friends? Your creative skills? Your music, TV, books, podcasts, audiobooks, and more things arts? Your car? Your journals? Food to eat? Hot water for baths and showers? Your bed? Your stuffed animals? The sunshine? The changes in the seasons? Warm blankets for cold days? A new day every chance you get? What if there was a project or task you never had time for, and you finally got it done? What if a new opportunity came your way and you decided to take it? What if you had the chance to start over again, and it felt both scary and amazing to do so? What if you decided to let go of who and what didn't bring you you joy anymore? What if you allowed yourself to trust in the possibilities that are coming to you, and believe that they are coming to you? What if you took moments to have a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with your loved ones, and began to understand them as individuals? Did you experience anything like this this past year? (It has been an absolute joy writing biweekly blogs for you, even in the given circumstances. But once again, much of what I write are based on my observations, experiences, and feelings. You are welcome to disagree with me on anything I say, but you are not allowed to attack, harass, belittle, or even abuse me in anyway. I will delete those comments. This should be a safe space for everyone who reads my blogs and to express their feelings.) Yes, this past year has been hard on all of us. And I do mean ALL of us. Lives were lost. Our daily schedules were thrown out the window. We've had to make adjustments. Some sacrifices had to be made. We were without in person contact or connections. The places that brought us the most joy and ease were shut down. To put it bluntly, nothing made sense this past year. All we did was try to make it through each and every day, with a small glimmer of hope. And most times, that's all we had to rely on. But I ask you to take a moment now and reflect on this past year. Look back on it, and remember not just the struggles, but all of the good things that March 2020 - March 2021 gave you. It doesn't even have to be an enormous event. It can be as small as enjoying the sunshine pouring through your windows. It could be sipping tea or coffee with your loved ones in the kitchen. It could be all of those Zoom calls with those you miss and love dearly because you can't be with them face to face. It could be reading a great book, or listening to the audiobook version of that story. It could be binge watching for hours on end with Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+. It could be going out for walks while staying safe. It could spending more time with your family and getting to know and understand them better. It could be tackling all of those projects you've constantly put off because you were "too busy." It could be learning to say goodbye to people and things that no longer serve you. Whatever it was this past year, I urge you to hold on to the good memories of what this year has taught you. It may be an inspiration, an invitation, a challenge, a work in progress, an opportunity, or however you want to look at. Look for the good that has happened this past year, even as a pandemic raged on. The 500,000 lives taken from us wouldn't want you to grieve what was lost this past year. They'd want you to keep going and find times to celebrate the small and big victories. I want you to do the same. This past year has blessed me in many ways, big and small. And I hope it did the same for you, too. If it hasn't, I'm praying for better times to come your way very soon. And just remember that I'm in your corner rooting for you, and also trying to get to know you and treasure you as a wonderful human being that you are. The only way to go from here is onward and upward. I hope this year is measured in so many little and big ways, especially LOVE.