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Lessons Learned After a Year in Quarantine

Mid-March last year, I had my coworkers over for a last supper of sorts. We made pizzas in cast iron pans, ordered a pie from Hoosier Mama, and spent the evening talking about how much the world might change in the coming months with COVID-19. I don’t think any of us expected just how much it would change.

Somehow, here we are a year later. The last 365 days have held a lot of stress, a lot of tears, a lot of challenges; they’ve also held plenty of space to grow. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned after a year in quarantine:

Quality Friendships Matter

Growing up with shows like New Girl or How I Met Your Mother, I had very specific expectations for adult friendships. When I first moved to Chicago, I had a lot of anxiety around finding the perfect group of six friends who I would go to the bar with every night. 2020 taught me that quality, substance, and consistency make for much more lasting relationships than fitting to an unrealistic model made for television. I entered 2021 with a few less ‘friends’ than 2020, and I’m at peace with that.

Slowing Down is Okay

If you know me, you know I’m a planner; I love my activities and spreadsheets. Pre-COVID, I had every night and weekend mapped out. When that all came to a screeching halt, I had a hard time adjusting. I went through the five stages of grief at the loss of my plans. With a lot of therapy, I’ve accepted that spending a night on the couch doing nothing is okay. Opting to read a book instead of going out is okay. I used to glamorize busy; I’m slowly unlearning that tendency.

Boundaries are Your Friend

2020 seemed to be THE year of setting boundaries, whether it was physical (stay six feet away from me, please) or mental (no, I will not discuss conspiracy theories). I’m guilty of lending my time/efforts/sanity for the sake of others in the past, but this year forced me to take charge of my own needs and safety. This wasn’t without difficulty or conflict, but the ability to set boundaries is something I hope I continue to work through post-pandemic.

While I can appreciate these learning experiences, make no mistake: I’m still hoping, praying, begging, and pleading for a light at the end of this tunnel. I miss going out to my favorite bars and restaurants. I miss seeing my friends and family frequently. I miss having an excuse to change out of sweatpants. Actually, that’s a lie. I love wearing my loungewear. But regardless, here’s hoping another year of quarantine does not lie ahead of us.


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