A day of lasts: At the beginning of the pandemic

Forgive me, as today begins the long list of memories that are about to flood my social media accounts.

One year ago today, I took my last in-person improv class. I stayed until midnight for the optional student jam to get one last class in. We played a game called elbows and wrists, in which we could only touch our peers using elbows and wrists, a way to “acclimate” to new touching procedures that may be implemented.

One year ago today, I hugged the last stranger I’d ever hug. She was a friend of my nephew, and I’m a hugger. We were at my aunt’s new house, celebrating her move home.

One year ago today, I ate inside a restaurant for the last time. I met my friend, Kristen for dinner before my class. We only talked briefly about the pandemic in hypothetical terms and not in a we’re living in the end times way. We both knew something was coming and a lockdown was inevitable, but we weren’t sure what, when, or how.

One year ago today, I got dressed in one of my favorite Disneybounds to date, a gorgeous belted dress/top ensemble with a baller accessory game.

Chrissy Disneybounding as EVie from The Descendents wearing a blue dress and belt with black leggings and an evil queen purse.

I didn’t wear a mask. I didn’t carry hand sanitizer or Clorox wipes in my purse. The phrase, “social distancing” was only just starting to rear its ugly head. Hand sanitizer was made available, and I knew that even if we had an in-person class the following week, I wouldn’t be there.

I was already nervous, worried more about my family than myself, and preparing for my own personal lockdown. Much of the last year has been an introspective journey for me, and I know that I’ve learned a lot about who I am, and who I want to be.

But I wish I could bottle that last night in a jar, take it out and consume its essence. It was representative of everything my life was in the Before Times. Performance and play, dress-up, friendships, restaurant meet-ups, and family. Sure, all of those are still a part of my life, though some in a vastly different capacity. I knew it was going to be a long time before the world resumed as it had been, but I never realized the little things I would miss, or the memories, tiny bright sides, and glimmers of hope I would cling to in the darkest moments of the year.

The day I got in my car, drove to a parking lot nearby and sobbed for an hour. I finally called my mom, and she told me to come over. I played with my toddler niece and felt that rush of joy I had been missing.

Toddler niece surrounded by toys in a backyard patio

The Easter Brian and I spent alone, the first and hopefully only holiday we ever spend without family, brightened by the nicest bottle of bubbles we had in our wine rack and a feast for 10, for 2.

Easter dinner with lamb roast, vegetables, rolls, salad, sweet potato casserole, and champagne.

The two weeks we should have spent in Italy, spent instead trying out local Italian patios and take out orders and relaxing waterside in my blow-up kiddie pool.

Chrissy twirling in front of a mural in downtown Naperville with the caption "twirls in 'Italy' (Naperville)"

The Halloween without our annual party, made just a little more festive by the small single household of friends who came for an outdoor fire.

The Christmas not spent surrounded our extended and immediate families, made a bit lighter by getting drunk with my parents while watching White Christmas and eating mostly carbs.

Brian and Chrissy masked and drunk on Christmas

All the while planning, dreaming, and hoping. Learning what I’m not willing to give up and what it’s time I say goodbye to. It’s been the longest year, and it’s been shitty at the best times.

2.63 million people have died. We can’t change that. There’s no positives to that. Millions of families have lost loved ones to the virus. That doesn’t have a bright side.

But we have a vaccine. We have hope. And we have a future.

It’s okay to find a bright side, as long as you remember that your bright side might not be the same as someone else’s. And it’s okay to be depressed and negative. And it’s okay to mourn your past life. It’s okay to feel all the feels. But it’s not okay to negate the feelings of others.

So feel how you feel, and try to remember to have some compassion for people whose experiences are different than yours. Your empathy might save someone’s life.

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