2020 has been a succubus of a year, slowly leeching out my faith in humanity and steadily destroying small pieces of my soul. Its endless propensity for horrendous events/moments has never let up.
It all started so benign. At the beginning of 2020, I was wrapping up my annual trip to San Francisco for the holidays. I arrived back in New York close to midnight on January 2, 2020.
I had grand plans for 2020. I planned on hanging out with friends, going to special events happening around the city, doing some lite traveling in summer. Basically, just living my best life. In September I was supposed to go on a trip to London (2nd time), Paris and Amsterdam (1st time). I was really looking forward to my first trip to Paris and Amsterdam. In November, I was supposed to go to a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This would have been my first visit to New Mexico. In December, I was supposed to travel to Morocco with a friend for the first time. I suspect that after I got back from my trip to Morocco, I would spend a little less than a week in New York and then be off on my annual trip to the west coast for the holidays.
In January, I enjoyed several meals with friends. On January 14th, I enjoyed an amazing meal at Red Farm with one of my favorite people on planet earth, Becky. On January 24th, I had dinner with my friend Wing at the Russian Tea Room for New York Restaurant Week. On January 31st, I had brunch at Hole in the Wall with one of my closest friends, Jeannie.
On February 6th, I went to lunch with one of my favorite coworker’s, Lynn. We went to Cosmic Diner for a grilled cheese lunch. Our love of grilled cheese is uncompromising. We would periodically go to lunch specifically for a grilled cheese and split a plate of curly fries.
On February 26th, Lynn introduced me to Debra Bushman, a financial planner at UBS. She was helping me find a financial planner. After meeting with Debra to discuss a plan of action, Lynn and I had dinner with her at The Palm restaurant. I was finally moving on to another stage of adulthood: planning my financial future.
At some point in late February/early March, rumblings and new stories were being report about people getting sick and being hospitalized in New York. I distinctly remember thinking, “It’s no big deal. If I get it, I get.” This thinking was led by my belief that if you freak out, that’s when bad things happen. I was still living my normal life. I was taking the train to work, working at my desk in an open office, hanging out with coworkers and friends.
On March 3, I had lunch with my coworker Leonora at Viv Thai. I kept thinking, “I’m not going to freak out.” Then the death tolls rose, and rose, and rose, and rose. Then, March 12th happened. All of my plans changed in March when everything changed.
On March 12th, my office went on “work from home” due to staff being possibly exposed to people who were covid-19 positive. It was supposed to only be for 2 days while the office was deeply cleaned, with the staff returning to the office on March 16th. Before the end of the weekend, we were told that we would be working from home indefinitely.
After this, I started wearing a mask and tracking every time I went out. Being a high functioning germaphobe, I thought it would be wise to note anytime I was potentially exposing myself to others. This was also around the time that cleaning products and everyday items began to be sparse in supermarkets. My mom and I decided to reasonably stock up on basic items and some items that were getting really hard to acquire.
On March 21st, my mom and I brought a ton of meat from Paisanos butcher shop in Brooklyn to stock up in our newly acquired small deep freezer. We also began to stock up on shelf-stable foods like canned tuna, canned veggies and other similar items. Our goal was to limit the amount of time we would have to go out to buy food. After arriving home, I began a countdown of 14 days to see if I would develop symptoms of covid-19, even though I wore a mask every time I left my apartment.
On March 28th, I made a note that my mom was “last out of the house.” I wasn’t only tracking the last time I was out of the house, I was also tracking the last time my mom, whom I share an apartment with, was out the house.
On March 30th, my mom was horribly sick. She was firing from both holes and had developed a cough. I restricted her movements in our apartment as much as possible. It is a given that her room would be a place she could inhabit. The living room and bathroom are rooms we share, but since I rarely spend a lot of time in the living room, I gave that to her. We shared the bathroom, but I completely banned her from entering the kitchen and my bedroom.
At this time, I was doing all the cooking and cleaning for both of us. Since she really couldn’t keep most foods down, I made the only thing she could really eat, chicken flavored top ramen. I would prepare her food and then place it on the dining room table or in her room, but at a safe distance of 6-feet or more. I was not scared at the time, but thinking back on it, I tear up because I love my mom.
Luckily enough, my aunt’s apartment is one floor below us in our building because on April 7th, my mom requested us to call the EMTs. This is when I got outwardly scared and maybe a little terrified. I don’t know what I would do without her. I knew (and my family knew) I couldn’t handle my close family invading our home; there was no way I was going to be able to function with foreign, non-family members in our space. I sat down and wrote a detailed timeline of events that led up to calling the EMTs. My aunt came upstairs to be near to my mom while the EMTs worked on her in our home.
The EMTs came and asked my mom a bunch of questions. I provided them with the timeline I built. They checked her blood pressure and temperature and gave her medicine and electrolytes because she was dehydrated. They asked her if she wanted to be taken to the Emergency Room (ER); she declined. At this point in New York, covid-19 had firmly taken a hold and she was adamant about not going to the ER.
Between the EMT visit and the next week, my mom started feeling better. She was tired of eating Top Ramen and was asking for other food to eat. One day, she asked me to reheat some chicken wings and a few Nathan’s fries. She ate a couple of wings and a few fries. This would turn out to be a mistake.
On April 11th, I have another note in my calendar stating, “mom’s last day out.” I believe this was the first time she went to urgent care because she still wasn’t feeling good; she was feeling bad again.
On April 15th, I took the garbage out, but I forgot to put on a mask. It was very easy in the early days to revert back to pre-covid normal behavior. I restarted my 14-day covid-19 infection watch.
On April 23rd, my mom made her second trip to urgent care. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her and after a lot of discussion with me and my aunt, she decided to go to the ER from urgent care. By this point she was exhausted being sick and was hoping at the ER they would be able to tell her what was wrong with her. She was in the ER until April 24th. Throughout this, she was never tested for covid-19, even though her symptoms matched some of the symptoms of covid. To get tested for covid at this time, you basically had to be knocking on death’s door, and even then, you still might not have been able to get a covid test.
After her visit to the ER, they recommend that my mom make an appointment with an endocrinologist because of her symptoms. She had a virtual appointment with the endocrinologist, and he ordered her to get a colonoscopy and endoscopy to see if they could discover the reasons why she was so sick for over a month. The week of May 11th, my mom finally got a covid test (results were negative) because she had to take one before her tests on May 19th. By this time, she was feeling much better, so they couldn’t tell if her sickness was due to something internal or because she had covid.
For the month of June through July 21st, I rarely left my house. July 22rd was my first excursion outside of my neighborhood. Oddly enough, I had an appointment with my dentist for my bi-annual cleaning. I took the A train 5 stops and walked around the corner. I was scared, but infection and death rates were declining in New York. Also, my dentist had kept me abreast of all the safety precautions they had installed to protect patients. After the dentist, I made a few other stops before going home. This was the longest I had been outside my house since March 11th. I went home and began my 14-day count to see if any covid symptoms would present themselves.
From July 23rd through September 28th, again, I rarely left my house. I went to the supermarket maybe twice during this time. My aunt and cousin went with me. I panicked, but I was able to complete my shopping.
On September 29th I rode the train for the second time. I had an appointment with my primary care doctor for my annual physical. My heart rate was high, but I felt physically okay.
October 1st through 6th I cat sat for a coworker because I was jonesing to get out of my house and this gave me the “feeling” of traveling without leaving New York. I planned very carefully all of the safety precautions I would take during this time, I would not be in my home where I was able to control the environment. The first night I had a visceral panic attack because this was the first time I was outside of the “safe bubble” of my home. I vigorously distracted myself and was finally able to relax. After that night, I was okay.
During my cat sitting, on October 5th I visited my office; this was the first time since March 11th. I went in to clean off my desk and relocate my files and desk clutter to a room in the basement that is part of my department. I decided to do this because if required to come back to the office, I would be able to control the amount of contact I would have to have with people by working out of this room.
Also, on the day of October 5th, I had my annual mammogram. Even though I live in Brooklyn, all of my doctors are located in Manhattan and since I was already going to be in the city, I wanted to kill two birds with one stone.
I returned home on October 6th and on October 7th, I went to the Urgent Care around the block from me for a covid test and a covid antibodies test. At this time, both tests were readily available in New York and I could do both of them at once. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t potentially bringing an easily communicable disease into my home. Both tests came back negative.
November was a very eventful month.
On November 3rd, I had my annual checkup with my gynecologist and a follow up appointment with my primary care doctor to check my blood pressure and potassium. My heart rate was still high and my doctor told me to make an appointment with a cardiologist to get it check.
On November 11th, I went to Manhattan for my appointment with the cardiologist. He scheduled an echo-cardiogram and a halter machine to track my heartbeat for 48 hours.
November 17th-20th, I attended the 2020 AMIA Conference, which was supposed to be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, online.
November 20th was my 43rd birthday. My family ordered Chinese food tres leches cupcakes. We ate in our respective homes.
On November 23rd, I had a video call with a diabetic educator because my doctor said my blood sugar was borderline after my blood work came back.
On November 25th, I went in for the echo-cardiogram and was outfitted with the heart rate monitor halter.
November 26th was Thanksgiving.
December 9th, I had a follow up video appointment with my cardiologist. My heart looked fine and its beating was within the normal range for someone my age. As a side note, because I get very anxious and nervous going out my house, I’m certain that what was affecting my heart rate and causing it to be high.
December 25 was Christmas.
Today is December 31st, New Year’s Eve.
Upon reflecting on 2020, it was a really shitty year. Here is what I learned or some thoughts I’ve been pondering:
- When it really boils down to it, there is a large population of people in the U.S. that really don’t care about other people. I am all for personal freedom and choice when those things don’t impede or trample over other’s ability to experience the same things. When it comes to public health everyone’s actions have a direct effect on others. My closest grandparents died before covid, but even if they were alive, I would NEVER, EVER want to sacrifice their lives for my own. How callous and calcified does your heart have to be to suggest that allowing the old to die is okay? That’s basically like telling them, “You’ve lived long enough.”
I honestly cannot reconcile in my brain or heart people not caring about other people. I 100% will be the first person to own that I do not like people, but I want those people to be able to LIVE!
- I will never again feel safe again doing things that were normal for me. Even though I don’t like people, I have a core group of friends who I loved hanging out with. We would go eat at restaurants, go for long walks, go see special exhibits at museums, travel together, etc. I loved riding around on public transportation and walking around by myself, also.
After this is over, at what point would one feel comfortable doing what was once their norm?
- Traveling to other places will be different. Will I still do it? YES! But I currently question what my ability will be to just relax and enjoy the total journey.
- My government, the U.S. government, only cares about the rich, corporations, and power. I pay a lot of money in federal taxes and I don’t feel like I get anything back. What I say next will probably anger many people, but I don’t care. Republicans (I’m looking at you Mitch McConnell) DO NOT care about the everyday average American. I am no sycophant of the Democrats, but I believe that their intentions are better focused on the American people. The Democrat leadership, in my opinion, is highly ineffective and needs to bury the bull shit that they hold the moral high ground. They need to start verbalizing and vocalizing all of the shit that the Republican do that DO NOT HELP THE AMERICAN PEOPLE! I said what I said.
At this point, I was going to try and put a positive spin on the future and provide hope for 2021. The truth is, I have no hope to give. New Year’s Eve is just another day, just like New Years day is just another day. January 1, 2021 will be the same shitty turd of a day as today. Covid will still reign, help won’t come for the average American from the government, and people will still only care about themselves. There is no magic wand or genie that will be able to wipe the stain of 2020 away and provide a nice clean 2021.
So, here’s how I am going to wrap up 2020:
Facts are Facts. Lies are lies. Your opinion is your opinion, and you are entitled to your fluid opinions. Facts and lies are rigid and don’t change based on your fluid opinion.
I am going to continue to try to live my life while keeping myself, my family, and those I encounter safe. I will vigilantly continue to wear a mask and stay socially distanced from others.
And even though I don’t like people, I will continue to want them to live!
“Return to normalcy” is a misnomer. Once something is abnormal, there is no going back. There is only forward to a new version of normal. Who knows what that will look like?
Winter S., Savory Sweet Neat