Today (March 14, 2021) marks one year since the full-fledged lockdown in Spain first began.
Thankfully, we by no means still live in a locked down state, but we were confined to our homes quite strictly for fifty days and didn’t return to the “new normal” until ninety-seven days later.
During that time, my husband and I had very few excuses to leave our home as we are not essential workers and got our groceries delivered (which were two of the few approved reasons to leave in the early phases). Of course, I know that the Coronavirus was spreading long before March 14, 2020 but that was the day this pandemic became very real in my personal life and so that is a milestone in my mind.
Life has changed a lot since then.
With the vaccine beginning to get distributed, things are now opening back up and the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. Still, living through a global crisis has meant that it’s been one of the strangest years in my life and that seems like something that requires some reflection.
On the other hand, March 14, 2020 was a turning point for me in my writing career and so it also feels like a special date in my mind.
The week of March 14th was when I decided to write a collection of short stories! I didn’t know it would become Fairly Familiar at the time but the two days leading up to March 14th were when I finally made the decision to go back through two months of free-writes and select the excerpts I thought had the most promise to be developed into short stories. That was when I realized that almost every one I selected had the theme of family in common and, from there, Fairly Familiar was born.
Perhaps it wasn’t March 14th in particular that the idea was birthed, but that Saturday represented the space in between. The week before, I was trying with a different project all together. Then I was merely looking back through old writing, looking to see if there was anything worth salvaging. By the time Saturday rolled around, I knew exactly where I was going next. That following week, I had a calendar worked out for exactly which stories I would be working on each day. I had a game plan, a vision, a start on my first ever published work.
So, yes, March 14th was a dark day for most in Spain. It was when we were catapulted into this new way of life that, at the time, felt impossible, suffocating, and scary. For me, though, it is also a moment I look back on with great fondness. It’s interesting to have such divergent feelings about the exact same point in time.
I’m aware that I have a tendency to look back with rose-colored glasses. This used to frustrate me, as if it were inauthentic of me to sugar-coat the past. However, living through this year, I now realize that it’s something I appreciate about myself. I’m able to work through all my feelings, adapt, and change perspectives so much that when I look back I truly feel differently. It’s not an act.
I actually feel grateful for the strange year the pandemic brought BECAUSE OF all the ways it forced me to come to terms with my emotions, forced me to be flexible, and forced me to look at life from a different angle.
Please know that I am fully aware that it is only from an incredibly privileged position that I can look back and say life since last March has been good. I know that this is not the reality for many people and my heart goes out to everyone who has truly suffered.
I know that many people fought horrible battles against this virus. Many lost loved ones. Others needed to continue to work in essential jobs despite the uncertain, vulnerable situations. Many lost their livelihoods. So many hardships were faced over this past year and I do not wish to skim over that. I’ve simply been very lucky to be healthy and safe during this time and, because of that, I was able to embark on a beautiful chapter, too.
As you may or may not imagine from the timing of it all, my dedication to creating Fairly Familiar was not prompted by lockdown life. I didn’t suddenly find myself at home with lots of time to dedicate to a passion project.
Full-time writing had been my plan since the end of 2019. When I started, I had no intentions of writing a short story collection, but you can read more about why it turned into short stories here. Even so, I find it beautiful that the two very distinct realities—lockdown and my writing career—overlapped seamlessly.
I certainly had my bouts of frustration, cabin fever, and melancholy during those months we were confined to our homes, as I’m sure many can relate to. Still, I believe that without my writing focus, things would have been far worse. I truly don’t think I registered how strange and unnatural it was to be forbidden from leaving our apartment during the first couple of weeks because I had fallen so deep into my new project.
My mind was occupied with something I loved and for that I will be forever grateful.
I know that for the rest of our lives we will look back at this time as the age of the pandemic.
I look forward to the day when we can reminisce about it all and laugh over how we used to have to wear masks everywhere and meticulously sanitize ourselves and our belongings each time we returned home from an essential trip. I’m sure that future generations will feel like it’s this unimaginable thing of the past and I take comfort in that.
And yet, for me, 2020 was also such a huge, beautiful year. For the first time in my life, I focused on my creative writing and followed that spark that has been inside of me since I was a kid. In a weird way, 2020 was when I embarked on my journey towards self-actualization. I’m definitely not there yet, don’t get me wrong. It’s simply that, for the first time, I was truly able to focus on my higher needs and strive after that which fulfills me.
How wild is it that that would come for me at the same time that some of our most basic human needs—safety and community—were stripped away from us? The irony is not lost on me and, again, I recognize how fortunate I am that this has been the case.
If I could sum up what this last year has taught me, through life in a pandemic and life as a new author it would be this:
Everything is always changing, but I am always here. These are not my own words, but rather a phrase I have borrowed from Ryan Weiss’s morning meditation for The Sanctuary Challenge.
Through focusing on this challenge to create a sanctuary within myself, I was able to start 2021 with a level of clarity that was difficult to conjure up during 2020. However, I believe this particular line resonated so much for me because I had already grown to see and acknowledge its truth.
Change is never easy. It rarely feels (completely) good. But it is a constant and it is unavoidable. Through all the turmoil and uncertainty though, one of the few things we can rely on is ourselves. We remain. We learn, change, and adapt to the extent we allow ourselves but the essence of who we are does not falter.
This is why I believe I was able to find a sense of self, calm, and growth this past year, even though it was also the most unusual moment of upheaval in my life thus far. It’s because I am always here—and you are too.
I hope in some way, to some extent, this crazy year has provided something valuable to you, too.