In the year since the pandemic began, people learned to be together while apart and mastered the pain of feeling apart while together. Small and large screens became important links with the rest of the world.
Activities and routines that ruled the crowds – visiting museums, attending concerts, exercising, studying, traveling, partying – stopped or found new life online. Holidays, usually celebrated at family gatherings, have had ramifications.
Memories of a prepandemic world where people could stand shoulder to shoulder with bare faces felt like dreams – as did moments of unexpected connection.
In other cases, couples got stronger when held together. Engagements and pregnancy announcements seemed to be popping up all the time on social media. And there were many weddings.
For many single people, dating was impossible during the first few months of the pandemic. Sales of sex toys increased. Eventually, emotional and physical needs began to weigh heavily, and people across the country found ways to meet and connect within the confines of their comfort.
Young people around the world, cut off from their usual social lives, have faced a “mental health pandemic”. In one study, almost a third of the adolescents surveyed said they felt unhappy or depressed.
At the other end of the age spectrum, older adults have been unable to see their children and grandchildren. Some spoke to them through panes of glass. Retirees have put off long-term plans such as travel and volunteering. Covid-19 outbreaks have been all too frequent in nursing homes. More than 163,000 residents and workers died from the virus.
Although some Americans were able to be at home with their kitchen tables and couches turned into makeshift offices, others continued to work in public spaces. Delivery drivers dealt with health risks, theft and bodily harm. Airline workers who were not on leave faced passengers who refused to wear masks.
Perhaps no group of workers felt as isolated as those in health care. In the spring, hospital workers across the country grappled with the terrifying horrors of a steep climb in some cases. But the stress didn’t let up when the case numbers did, and it grew again as the fall infections increased. Doctors and nurses tormented themselves with the endangerment of their families and dealt with intense burnout and wage cuts. Some said that the fact that they were being characterized as heroes by the public left little room for them to express their vulnerability.
Grief and loss ruled the past year. Around the world, the virus has killed millions of people and deprived mourning of the usual rites. Funerals and final goodbyes took place over video calls, if at all. Widows and widowers joined online grief groups to deal with the pain of loss in isolation.
But in the past few months things have slowly opened up as the cases have fallen and people have been vaccinated. This week, President Biden promised there will be enough doses of vaccine for every American adult by May, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated people will be able to congregate indoors again – a sign that people will soon be on their way back will find each other.
If you’re wondering what’s next, so are we.
Are you afraid that things will never be the same? Or are you afraid that we will return to “the same” way too quickly? Or is there something seemingly small that you are happy to do? Let us know.