In 2017 I was recovering from a near death scare which forced me to retreat from school, work, and my friends as I attempted to let my body recover. It was about this time of the year that I began the terrifying prospect of reintegrating into society by going to school in an attempt to finally finish my associates degree, and then by summer I was ready to try to work again. I was still physically weak, anxious about germs, terrified of a flare up that would force me to let down the people around me yet again – forced to retreat back home with life on hold, yet again.
After three years of near total isolation, tomorrow I start working again at the very bookstore I started at in 2017. When my insecurities wander I start to feel like I have taken six years worth of steps backwards. Six. years.
But that’s not true. I’ve gotten married; completed not only my associates degree, but a bachelors as well; I’ve gotten a taste of my dream career; sat in a waterfall; read over 300 books; entertained people from all over the world simply by being my silly goofy self; been academically published twice; lost my furry best friend and gained a new one… But most of all, the biggest achievement, and the biggest parallel to 2017, is that I have healed.
March 2020 was hard on me. My longest dream of walking the UW campus and working in a museum every week was ripped from me after only 6 months. I went from nearly 22,000 steps a day to 200. All the ways I had occupied my mind and distracted myself from my health halted and I was overwhelmed by all I had avoided. Once again, forced to put my life on hold, I retreated into myself. I muted the voices in my head with podcasts, music, movies, video games, books. I avoided phone calls from friends, struggled with being present in my remote classes, and cried at least everyday. I was grieving the life I had gotten a taste of, I was grieving the future that I knew was monumentally changed, I was grieving the honeymoon we didn’t get.
I have spent the last three years pushing myself to try new things; to reflect on my childhood and the abuse that was inflicted by men I trusted; to take medication to better manage anxiety and depression I had been ignoring for nearly ten years. It is WILD what comes to the surface while working through your mental illness – the new diagnoses, the repressed memories, the new strengths and weaknesses you find within yourself.
So here I am, six years since starting over. Three years since life was put on hold again. And again I have made progress in healing myself. But the difference this time is the illness keeping me indoors isn’t in remission, and it isn’t going to be for a long time – maybe ever.
Over a million people in the United States have died. All but 3 people close to me have been infected. According to the New York Times, over 20,000 average new cases are reported each day as of March 23, 2023 – and that is only the reported cases. Nearly 300 deaths daily. It is now the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, moving general accident related deaths down a rank since 2020.
So the idea of reintegrating into society, picking back up at my previous workplace, trying to find ways to go on little adventures – all while trying to stay safe in a world that seems to think we should move on…. It’s terrifying. But if I don’t do it now, after three years, when should I? What is the right amount of time to try to live again? To have my honeymoon? To see my friends?
I love streaming, I love the community I have built and the opportunities I have had – but it doesn’t make up for blue skies, fresh coffee, waterfalls, window shopping, and new exhibits at museums.
When is it long enough before trying to be an archaeologist again? To apply for grad school? To find a field school? And why does this attempt at a new start also feel like giving up?
Sources: (please excuse my disregard for proper citation formatting).
CDC website: (specifically) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
NYTimes: (specifically) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html