A hurricane I never saw coming: Reflecting on one year of lockdown
March 16, 2021
In March 2020, I took a personality test to learn a little bit about myself, and my MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) was ENFJ. I fell on the extraverted side of the spectrum, a happy go lucky and born entertainer.
But that was then. After six months of quarantine, it was ISFP. My quieter introverted side had now become the center of attention.
The result somewhat shocked me, because I had always been bubbly and outgoing — The life of the party, so to speak. It hadn’t hit me that six months of going to virtually the same three places had quite literally changed me. Six months of empty promises for normalcy, only for them to be broken.
I: The storm is approaching, but it won’t be long, right?
The pandemic hit two weeks before my junior prom. March 13, to be exact. I thought two weeks and everything would go back to normal. I’d have my junior prom, I’d have my second season as girls lacrosse manager. Take the SAT in May. Gear up for my first Nationals. Just two weeks to get things under control and life would be normal again.
But one case in New Jersey turned into five.
And by the end of those two weeks, there were over 1,000 cases in N.J.
I watched in disbelief as the second half of my junior year disappeared, piece by piece. Junior prom, lacrosse, SAT, dance. Everything was ripped away from me.
I felt empty. All I could do was nod and say “OK.” All I could do was stay home and wait. Wait for some sort of glimmer of hope. Wait for a sign that just maybe everything would return to normalcy. That I’d have my prom, that I’d get to have a lacrosse season as manager again, I’d get my life, as I had always known it to be, back.
I never did.
II: Trapped in the eye of a storm.
My home, a little tudor in my one square mile town, had always felt like a warm hug at the end of a long day. I’d walk in, hear the pitter-patter of paws racing against the wooden floors as my labradoodle with boundless energy greeted me with a wagging tail, as if she’s saying “How dare you leave me for more than 10 minutes?!” For the first time in eight hours, I would feel at ease.
I haven’t felt that way about my home in 11 months.
I don’t look forward to going home as much. It feels like a task, like an inmate going back to her cell. Granted, a fully functioning home with a dog waiting for you is much more luxurious than a prison cell, but when it’s one of an exceedingly small set of places you consistently been to for the past year, it no longer feels like a hug. The excitement and relief of ‘we’re going home’ after a long day isn’t really there anymore.
Sometimes, I feel stuck. Stuck in between the same four blue walls of my bedroom. Staring at the same small screen of my phone. It’s sufficient at the moment but I feel empty. There’s no prom. There’s no feis (an Irish dance competition, one of my personal passions and outlets) on the weekends. There’s nothing of what my life was like 14 months ago.
I, like everyone, long for that void to be filled once more. The void of the life I had always known for 17 years. No masks, no social distancing, no restrictions on gatherings. But wanting it to be filled once again feels selfish. It’s a silent unspoken wish I feel I can’t say, because the sacrifices I have had to make are the bare minimum compared to the sacrifices of those in hospitals, in grocery stores, in ambulances.
“I want my life back.” Yeah, don’t we all?
“I just want one promise to be fulfilled. I want to see my friends. I want to compete at nationals.” Tell that to the overflowed hospitals and healthcare workers who haven’t seen their families in months in order to protect them.
It is almost as if normalcy can’t be longed for. You feel empty because what you love to do isn’t safe, but wanting it back makes you greedy. So you’re stuck in between the same four walls drowning in your thoughts of what you should be doing right now. Overflowing water suffocates you, and all of a sudden, you no longer feel anything. You’re just numb. Numb to what makes you happy, numb to every broken promise.
III: Lost at sea … will anything pull me back to shore?
“A dancer dies twice—once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful.” – Martha Graham.
Oh for god’s sake, Ciara, can you go one day without talking about this sport?
Irish dance has been a part of my life for 10 years. 10 whole years of the most grueling, physically demanding sport that captured my heart from the very first day.
My love for dance had always been unquestionable. Ask anyone, and they could tell you how I lived and breathed this sport. A certain peace took over me everytime I danced.
But then COVID struck.
Classes were suspended for a while. I stopped practicing five times a week. I stopped scrolling through Instagram pages filled with shiny dresses and videos with ear candy beats.
And for the first time in nine years, I had questioned my love for dance.
It scared the living [expletive] out of me.
Was nine years all for nothing? Was nine years all she wrote? Was I giving up before I had even started? Was my love for dance taken over by something else?
The dancer within me was flatlining. Her heart that had always beaten to a count of eight, was beating to a count of two. The first death of a dancer was dead ahead, drowning in waves of doubt, like water in the eye of a hurricane.
But her heart found its rhythm again and she pulled back to shore. The heart once more was beating to a count of eight. The dancer within me said, “Today is not your day.” Slowly, I gained that love back. As life adapted to COVID-19 and had a sense of structure, dance did, too. I transitioned from the small square in my basement back to the place that had always been my escape from reality. And soon, dance became one of the very few consistent things in my life in a time where everything was changing by the minute.
I pulled myself back to shore and discovered a stronger love for dance. Stronger than anything before. All I wanted to do was dance. I wasn’t working towards much, because everything was canceled, but cancelations didn’t mean I couldn’t train five times a week. And for the first time in nine years, I danced just for the sake of the fact I loved it. Not because I wanted to recall or move up a level. My purpose was found, and that purpose was to dance.
IV. Surviving the hurricane.
As one year of lockdown approaches, I can’t help but feel hopeful for the future as vaccines roll out and numbers slowly decline. Hopeful for no more broken promises, no more cancelations, hopeful for my life back. The question is, will my wish for normalcy come true? I don’t know. But I can only hope.
The pandemic took a lot from me. Things that I’ll never get back. It almost took my love for dance. Key word: almost.
And while I resent whatever force that created this virus with every fiber of my being, in hindsight, COVID-19 was simultaneously the worst and the best thing that could have happened to me.
The worst is the obvious. But why the best?
For once in my life, I could find myself. I could find what makes me happy and cut out the things that don’t. I found comfort in different kinds of music. I got to spend time with my dog, which I rarely got to do in pre-COVID times.
And when I think back to that MBTI change, I find it somewhat fitting. In a year where everything changed, so did I. Perhaps embracing the natural introvert within me, that I’ve always suppressed to be the life of the party, was the best thing I’ve ever done.
In a weird twisted way, COVID-19 allowed a period of self growth, where I elevated myself to a place where I was truly me. The beauty that lies within growing pains and finding your place in this hectic, ever changing world we live in was something I discovered in a time where my world was flipped upside down.
And as life gradually returns to the way it was before, I feel more ready than ever to make up for lost time, only as someone who is no longer insecure, no longer feels the need to be someone she’s not, someone who has come to love herself for who she is, not for who she wants to be.
I approach this one year mark of lockdown as someone who has found her place, who cannot wait to turn the tassel on her cap, compete at her first Nationals, start the next chapter of her life at college, who cannot wait to become the best pediatric nurse practitioner the world has ever seen. Someone who simply eagerly awaits to show the world what she’s made of.
COVID-19 was the worst hurricane I’ve ever experienced, and it was nothing like Sandy. Instead of washing away the nature around me (and taking my electricity for nearly two weeks), COVID-19 took away memories I’ll never have. But in the process, it washed away the devil that lived on my shoulder who held me back from being me.