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One Year Later: What My Quarantine Priority Should Have Been

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It’s been a weird year, to say that least. A lot of things have changed, stayed the same and I have a lot of feelings about it.

Stressed: All I know is that when the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, I was stressed. A year later, I’m still stressed. Stressed for basically the same reason.

Confused: we are one year into this global pandemic and still have folks who are refusing to wear masks.

Frustrated: See above. I’ve lost track of the number of lockdowns we’ve gone through and yet, I know people are still going out. Travelling. Seeing friends. Why can’t you just stay home?

I know a lot of this is about perspective and I know that I’ve been extremely lucky and privileged to be able to work from home and stay inside. I’ve had access to my therapist and I have friends who are understanding and rule abiding. Looking back at the last year, there are lots of things that I’ve learned.

One year ago, I was unemployed. The world had come to a halt and unemployment rates had skyrocketed. I was laid off one week before the world shut down and all of a sudden, I didn’t have any income. I was living alone. I had constant anxiety because every time I tried to buy food, all the grocery store shelves were emptied as people hoarded toilet paper, pasta and essentials, leaving none for others. I understand that it is a reaction to fear and uncertainty, but I think It’s selfish nonetheless.

One year later, I’m back living with my parents. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a wonderful new job that lets me work from home full time. I’ve learned to trust myself and the process– putting in the effort, trying my best and trusting that things will work out in the end.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. My biggest thing I’ve learned from the last year is this: you don’t need to glow up.

Last March, I had nothing but time on my hands. I spent a lot of time online, watching YouTube and TikTok videos, consuming what I now realize is toxic content. There was this collective mentality that more or less stated “You have no excuse to not look ‘better’ after quarantine because we have nothing but time to change ourselves.”

I fell into that trap. I worked out two hours a day in my tiny shoebox of an apartment (thanks Toronto real estate). I obsessed over “clean eating.” As a person with a history of eating disorders and who currently battles disordered eating, this was definitely not healthy. I added a 10-step skincare routine to my mornings and evenings. I was obsessively taking online courses on any and every topic with hopes of proving that I didn’t “waste” this year. There was this silent expectation that loomed over me, an invisible threat, that if I didn’t come out of this pandemic thinner, smarter and equipped with new skill sets, I was a failure. This was meant to be a time to gain perspective and out-perform the competition, right?


The only thing you have to do during a pandemic is survive. Yes, that means staying at home and doing your part. It means trying to take care of yourself and trying to eat well and exercise to try and establish “a new normal.” But that’s all it means. 

There is no score-keeping– you don’t have to be able to do more push ups or speak a new language or learn how to knit. You have no obligation to lose weight, learn new recipes, or make crafts. You don’t have to read any more books than you’d like or binge watch series you don’t enjoy. The only thing you have to do is stay inside, abide by the rules, and take the pandemic seriously. Everything else is up for debate. You want to eat ice cream for breakfast? Maybe not every day, but sure why not. You realize you actually hate baking even though everyone loves to make bread? Store-bought bread is also delicious. It took me months to realize I actually hate doing HIIT because it makes me want to throw up and it made the thought of exercise trigger panic attacks in me. It took me months to finally stop.

All of this is to say that I’ve learned one thing– I’ve learned to stop living by the expectations of others.


Lead Image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: March 9, 2021
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