It has been a real doozy of a year, hasn’t it? I’m exhausted, drained, and emotionally spent. Most days are a spin-the-wheel guessing game of: Is it PMS, exhaustion, the lack of human interaction with anyone other than my immediate family for 382 days (but who’s counting?), my all-carb diet, or a bad mood? Who knows.
Let me start by saying that I generally think people are pretty awesome. Sure, there are a few exceptions out there, but I have always believed that most people are mostly good most of the time. I still believe that.
But damn. The past year has really tested that for me.
In fact, some days I felt like I kinda hated everyone.
Scrolling through social media for a couple minutes, reading news headlines, even a conversation with a good friend can make me want to scream days. I’ve felt like I was angry at everyone – even people I respect and genuinely like. There’s been no rhyme or reason either. Seeing photos of people frolicking unmasked with groups of friends can make me rage. Posts about the dangers of in-person school will make me want to weep (my kids have been back in school since January).
What the hell was going on? When had I become such a hater? I don’t want to be a hater. I genuinely like people, dammit.
Here’s the thing. People can be amazing and inspiring and wonderful. People can also be selfish and ignorant and kinda hateful. And this past year people sure have shown their true colors. And it ain’t all sparkly rainbows, that’s for sure.
Folks I’d thought were nice people turn out to be closet racists. Friends I had thought were smart and open-minded are actually anti-science conspiracy theorists who think they know more than the most highly-trained and educated doctors and scientists in the world just because they don’t want to wear a mask.
In times of crisis, people tend to show who they really are. And it hasn’t been pretty. In fact, it’s been downright traumatic. Friendships have shifted or fallen away. I’ve lost respect for lots of people. I’ve lost faith in humanity.
All that we’re-in-this-togetherness from the early pandemic days vanished into the ether pretty damn quickly. For the past year, the collective mantra seems to be every person for themselves. It’s been a year filled with shouting and blaming and a shit ton of confusion and second-guessing. Just about every decision, even the most basic ones like whether to go to the grocery store or send kids to school, have been morally and ethically fraught. To some people it’s “wrong” or dangerous to go to the grocery store; to others, it’s wrong to be so careful that you’re impacting your family’s emotional and mental wellbeing. If I let my kids play with their friends outdoors and socially distanced, but won’t let them go into a friend’s house even with a mask, does that mean I’m too paranoid? Or that am I being too risky? If I get a vaccine when I technically qualify, even if I don’t think I need it yet, does that mean I’m doing the “right” thing by getting vaccinated as soon as possible, or the “wrong” thing because I don’t actually need it before others?
The second-guessing and judgment has been never-ending and it’s come from all sides – including myself. And let me tell you that kind of moral, ethical, emotional whiplash is exhausting. It will fuck with your head.
I’ll be honest, I have never felt as lonely as I did in the past year. And it hasn’t just been because I couldn’t physically be around people outside of my immediate family. It’s because I’ve felt like there was no one (other than my husband, thank god) who understands what I’m feeling. I think a lot of us have felt this way.
Regardless of how you’ve navigated pandemic life, it has felt impossible to find someone who’s truly on the same page as you. (And no, I’m not talking about anti-maskers. That is something else entirely.) But even among those of us who have been taking the virus seriously and are still taking precautions, we’ve all had a different threshold. Some of us were okay with the risks of in-person school, but wear a mask all the time, even outdoors. Others are okay with indoor family gatherings, with hugs for friends and relatives, but aren’t comfortable going to the grocery store (even with a mask). Some folks isolated strictly, while others took cross-country road trips.
Navigating all these nuances has been emotionally and physically exhausting, to say the least. Honestly, sometimes I seriously wanted to just pack up, go off-grid, and live in the wild with a pack of dogs. Yeah. It’s been that serious.
But I don’t want to fall back on the “people suck” knee-jerk reaction. I don’t want to become so jagged and disenchanted with humanity that I forget that humanity is actually quite… enchanting. Flawed and imperfect, yes. But also pretty amazing.
I don’t want to be a “hater.” I don’t want to lose sight of all the really good things people do. And I don’t really hate everyone; I just hate what the past year has been like.
Fortunately, I have found a few things make me feel a bit less stabby. For one, I try to remind myself that we’re all under intolerably stressful conditions and none of us are at our best right now. We’re all on edge, and we need as much grace as possible. Binging trash TV also helps. (Current guilty pleasure: “White Collar”) And turns out, all those tried-and-true stress-relievers like meditation and exercise and fresh air help too (who knew?). Oh, and getting vaccinated hasn’t hurt either. (Halle-freaking-lujah!)
Bottom line: this year has been filled with impossible circumstances. There were no good options, only less terrible ones. And that will mess you up, that’s for sure. So if you find yourself feeling ragey and alone because everyone sucks, you aren’t alone. These feelings will pass… I think…I hope. And if they don’t? Well, you just might find me living off-grid in a cabin in the woods with a pack of dogs.