Instagram stories are an odd thing, at least mine are. I post almost random images of things in my life, not thinking they add up to anything. But if you are living through a dramatic period of time like the first year of the pandemic, and if you collect those images together, as I did here in “Covid: Year 1”, they take on a narrative that was not there when you snapped them and saved them.
The narrative began even before the pandemic was declared. I have photos of me going to Chinatown and eating in many places, because word had gone out that a new illness had broken out in Wuhan, China and people were avoiding that part of the city because people were afraid of coming across someone who had it and then get sick. I was down there to do a small part in keeping some of those places in business by eating as much as I could. (Brave, I know 😊.)
Soon, general precautions started. Hand sanitizer was everywhere, like this one at my work:
Then the pandemic was officially declared in March 2020 and things started to break down. I have photos of the grocery stores being cleared out of flour and potatoes. Toilet paper was scarce. People were queueing up to get into grocers and the liquor store, which both had limited occupancy. Plastic barriers went up, and everything else was shutdown: work, restaurants, stores, gyms. It was a time of lockdown.
To occupy ourselves, we adopted hobbies. People made bread. I drew and made zines. I even wrote some half decent poems. I continued to blog, and traffic shot up.
We worked at home. Every damn day. Our hair grew long. We finally got masks to go shop for food.
We ordered take out. Lots and lots of take out. Restaurants pivoted to this to stay alive. Some, like my favorite restaurant Brothers, didn’t make it. Many did, due to hard work and help from the government. We drank pet nat and cremant to celebrate.
In summer we finally ate outside, albeit like this:
Eventually we got to eat indoors for a bit in the fall. Otherwise, if we wanted to celebrate birthdays or Easter, we did it with people in our circle. Collecting with others outside our circle was frowned upon.
We purged our homes to make space. I had a garage sale, and was surprised by the people who showed up and bought things. We were awkwardly happy to see each other, and dealt with money for the first time in ages.
We made the best of it. We watched the blossoms in High Park in Toronto via a TV channel. We watched our talented friends put on shows on Instagram and Youtube and Twitch. We walked on streets closed off to traffic. We banged pots and pans for health care workers. We did not go to the movies, even though the movies tried to open in the summer of that first year.
We downloaded apps to keep track of COVID and to know what to do. We downloaded apps to finally travel in the fall. We wore our masks everywhere. We wore sweat pants almost as much, if not more.
We dealt with bad people. The anti-maskers. The anti-science people. We celebrated when Trump lost.
If we were parents, we tried our best to help our kids. We took them out on Hallowe’en and let them get treats delivered by chutes. We made them get up for virtual classes via Zoom and other technologies. We ordered them Christmas presents online because the stores remained closed in many places like Toronto.
Most of all, we awaited the coming of vaccines and yearned for a normal time. For many, it was the worst of times, losing their livelihoods and their loved ones. Getting ill. For some, it could also be the best of times, as it often was with me.
It was quite the year. Historic. Memorable.
P.S. I wrote at the beginning of 2021 the following post: On recording (why you should think about it differently, why you should resolve to do it), and closed by saying:
Your life has value and meaning. Recordings help show that. So get making them.
I hope you do that, in some form or another. Even if it is a collection of stories on Instagram. It all counts, just as you do.