What A Difference A Pandemic Makes

I was looking through old notes in my phone the other day and stumbled upon some things I’d written before the pandemic. It was really interesting and insightful for me to see where I was at during that time several years ago, particularly in relation to where I am now. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve always loved journaling, being able to look back and track the learning and growth that has taken place and reflect on the chapters and journey that is one’s life so vividly. The comparison of life pre and since (as we’re clearly not post) pandemic, however, took this aha moment to a whole new level.

THE FIRST SNOW 
Pre-pandemic. 2019. Inspired by “A Day in The Life,” written in 2018.

Same subway commute, different wet face. This time, instead of sweat, it’s my runny nose and watery eyes soaking my face, causing me to break out my tissue every few steps. Why do I even bother putting makeup on anymore? Oh yeah, that’s right, because I have bad skin. Dealing with new allergy and sinus issues is a fun part of adulting.

Navigating NYC (particularly during rush hour, which you already know is my favorite, but really at any given time) is like a video game. Who needs a PlayStation? People cutting you off, stopping dead right in front of you, walking out of stores directly into you…and then you throw in bikes and scooters and cars, oh my! 

The train is particularly slow today so my nerves regarding whether or not I’ll be late to work kick in and in my line of work, you simply cannot be late. It is entirely possible to lose all future job opportunities based on being late just once. For that reason, I always try to leave extra travel time to account for, well, NYC. I just yelled, “Get the fuck out of the way, pigeon!” which made me laugh despite the seriousness of my potential lateness.

During my commute, whenever I have a patch of internet service, I login and check my gym’s website desperately hoping a spot in a class has suddenly opened up just in case I happen to get out of work in time to make it to one. Wow. Handful of issues to explain in that sentence. First, my gym has membership levels and I am a basic bitch. Surviving in NYC requires saving money whenever and wherever possible. But this means I can only sign up for classes 12 hours ahead of time when they are already full with higher paying members who can sign up a week in advance. So, I have to stalk the website during my 12-hour window until someone cancels and I can miraculously get in. And yes, this is my everyday gym life. I know your next question is going to be about the price difference in memberships and is it really worth it and I will kindly remind you that hard work, dedication, and cutting costs are key if you want to make it in NYC. 

Now comes the part about my work schedule. I am signing up for classes at the gym that I don’t even know if I can take because every day in tv/film is a mystery. I have learned to embrace it and even see it as exciting…but fuck making any sort of plans. I usually don’t know yet today if I’m working tomorrow and when I do, I don’t find out what time until 9pm or later tonight, and I won’t really know what time I’ll be done tomorrow until production literally tells me I’m done. The day could be any amount of minutes or hours long. Try to wrap your head around that. Takes some getting used to. I usually have weekends off but that’s not a guarantee either. Of course, I have the power to make my own schedule and take days off if I want to but I dare say it again – hard work, dedication, and money.

FIRST DAY BACK
Since (not post) pandemic. Written in 2020 upon returning to work.

I often have this nervous, nauseous feeling in my stomach which has only been magnified with the pandemic and is now almost constant. It used to be before big events in my life or speaking in public. But now, normal, everyday tasks cause me intense, almost crippling anxiety and borderline panic attacks. Things that I wouldn’t have batted an eye at before nor should I really. Things like going to a job I’ve done for almost 8 years. 

Words I have lived by have become ones that I try to talk myself into. I say them to myself but it’s like I don’t believe them. “Embrace adventure and fear because that’s truly living and that’s where the learning, growth, and greatest rewards come from.” I’ve always been a proponent of positive self talk and reframing, that what we tell ourselves is important – these are skills I even studied for years in graduate school. I “know” I have nothing to be scared of but the anxiety remains all the same. This makes me feel like a failure and a hack. How can I possibly help others if I can’t practice what I preach?

Today is my first day back at work (on set) in awhile and I’m super anxious about it, though I will say, anxiety, excitement, and anticipation can feel quite similarly and excitement is definitely in there too. It would have been very easy for me to say no. I didn’t feel ready. It didn’t feel worth it. I’ve been contemplating a career change. I’ve been saying I’d only do stand in work if the right opportunity came along. And then I was contacted by a show I’d previously stood in on and loved. My gut reaction was to decline but I quickly identified that was fear talking. Now was the time. I jumped.

It feels pretty uncomfortable going into this but I am doing my best to put other words I often say into action. “Trust the process,” “Do things that are uncomfortable.” “Feel anxious, do it anyway.” The discomfort isn’t going to kill me. Au contraire, it might actually save my life – metaphorically, that is. It might help me feel like myself again, or better yet evolve into a better, stronger person, find joy in things I was previously passionate about, live my life to the fullest, take chances, open doors, have fun, build and foster relationships. Or it won’t. I could discover that this isn’t for me anymore, that this chapter has closed. And that’s okay too. Either way, I’m learning things about myself and how I want to live this one precious life.

Reflection

Upon reading my thoughts on these two very different days, I couldn’t help but ponder others’ stories, their before and “afters.” Things are different. Things have changed. We have (hopefully) changed, after all we’ve been through. The tragedies, the deaths, the challenges. Things can’t go back to exactly the way they were, they shouldn’t. But they can be good again. The scars and wounds may remain but we can move forward and live our lives with new perspective, whatever that looks like for you. This is the/our new normal.

(Photo by Dash Combs)

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