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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Let’s Do The Time Warp

The other evening the four of us were at the dinner table and it was Lunar New Year and we got to discussing Asia, and then specifically, China, and Jackson said to Drew, “You and Mom went to China once, right?” And Drew said, “Yeah…” and then took a second to calculate how long ago our trip had been and then at the same time, and in the same tone of disbelief, he and I both said, “Fourteen years ago, oh my god!” How did fourteen years just fly by, and is anyone else experiencing a similar sensation remembering or thinking about things from your past and realizing just how long ago those things happened? I know this is just a part of getting older – my grandmother, who lived to 89, used to always say that the older you get the faster the years go by – but I also think that the pandemic is playing a trick on our minds and our perception of time. For example…

IT’S BEEN TWO YEARS.

You guys, it’s been two years since the first reported cases in the US. We’re one month shy of the two-year anniversary of the WHO declaring a pandemic, of our schools closing, of sourdough’s brief moment in the sun. And there is so much to say about what the past two years have been like and what changes are here to stay and what kind of long-term impact all of this will have on us as individuals and as a society, but what I haven’t seen discussed as much is: HOW THE FUCK HAS IT BEEN TWO YEARS?! I’m sorry, please forgive the language, but seriously, what the fuck.

Anyone else feeling like they’re in some weird time warp? Like, if you have kids and you think about how they were maybe 4 and 8 when this shit began and now they’re 6 and 10 and they LOOK really different and they act really different, but somehow it just doesn’t compute how they’ve really grown two years already. How has it been two years? Especially if you have kids who’ve had a growth spurt or started puberty during this period, it’s like, how is this happening? And I don’t mean that in the way a mother would say that in normal times, but seriously, like: how is nature just continuing on, how are we all continuing to age, when life has been so seriously disrupted for two years?

If you don’t have kids, maybe you experience this when you see your aging parents after many months apart, or when you see your reflection on the endless Zoom meetings you’re forced to sit in on, or in the mirror at the salon, which maybe you’ve visited only strategically since this all began. You see your reflection and you look different. And it’s not even just that you look older; you look different, changed. The light in your eyes is different. Is it just me?

It’s so hard to have clear perspective about something when you’re in the thick of it. I think it’s why advice columns and advice forums are so popular. People want to hear – they need to hear – perspectives on their situation from people who aren’t in it, who can give them the clarity they lack from inside the fog. Two years is a long time to be inside a fog with no one outside of it shining a light towards a pathway out.

We’re going to move out of the fog though. There will be a time when this particular period of our collective experience will be history. Maybe we’ll be at a dinner table with old friends—or with our grown kids who’ve come to visit for a long weekend. We’ll say, “Can you believe that was 20 years ago?” And we’ll all agree it doesn’t feel like it could possibly be 20 years already. Some of us will still find masks in the pockets of old winter coats when we’re cleaning out the closet. It won’t feel like it could possibly be 20 years, but there it is: our reflection in the mirror, our friends’ faces, our kids all grown up with babies of their own, confirming the passage of time.

And to each other we will confirm it all really happened, too. And if we’re lucky, really lucky, we’ll hold fog lights to our past and see with clarity what we couldn’t before. We’ll make sense of what we couldn’t before.

27 comments… add one
  • Miel February 3, 2022, 1:12 pm

    The two year mark is also on my mind…

    Before moving to my current city in 2018, I lived in a fun college town for two years. In those two years, I went on walks all around the city, went out for Trivia nights with friends every week, explored so many different restaurants, had drinks by the lake, and went so many times to the Farmer’s market, the Botanical Gardens, the Symphony… We were there for the annual big Halloween bash, the Women’s walk, the March for Science…

    All of that in two years!

    In comparison, when thinking about the last two years, it feels like a big pile of nothingness. We technically got married (never ended up having a celebration), we bought a house (that’s mostly been a lot of stress), I got my green card (lots of money, stress and paperwork), and we keep telling ourselves “we’ve done a lot in the last two years!”

    But it feels like nothing. Restaurants = take out from Chipotle now, not discovering a new awesome foodie place that opened up. Going out = taking a walk. Having drinks = buying a bottle of wine at the grocery store. Doing something fun = baking. Or taking a walk in a nicer spot than usual.

    My husband and I had always said “we want a few years to ourselves to travel and have fun before having kids.” And that’s it, those are the years when we were planning to travel. I wanted so badly to go back to Europe. He wanted us to do a big cruise in the Caribbeans. The furthest we’ve been in the last two years is a road trip to Niagara Falls.

    It feels like time is just slipping by.

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    • Kate February 3, 2022, 1:30 pm

      Are you two at high risk, or often around family members who are? Everyone’s comfort level is different, but two young people in good health who are fully vaxxed, I think should be able to operate at a little higher level of risk than what you’re describing. Most people I know are doing plane travel and eating in restaurants. My husband is going on a work trip to Europe next month. Just curious…

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      • Miel February 3, 2022, 4:02 pm

        We just don’t want to get it.

        I know that being triple vaxxed and young and healthy, risks are low, but we just don’t like those risks. Everyone I know who’s had it are like “it wasn’t that bad, I was only coughing, feverish and bedridden for a couple of days” and that sounds like the sickest I’ve ever been in my life! Or the “well, I admit I had brain fog and felt very tired for a month…” and I don’t want to have brain fog for a month! I’m a scientist, my brain power is my most valuable asset!

        And I know that other people have different levels of comfort around risk. But I live in an area where a majority of people aren’t vaccinated, and they aren’t wearing masks either, restaurants are basically the #1 most risky place to get covid, and my boss went through a nightmare trying to fly back from Europe last week and it took him 50 hours because flights were getting cancelled one after the next.

        And I’m so tired of it all. Some days I just want to say “screw it” and go eat at a damn buffet. But then, how would I enjoy the buffet when I’m still uncomfortable when the cashier at the grocery isn’t wearing a mask? Why do I think trading a buffet for a respiratory infection is a deal worth making?

        Sorry, I’m just tired… Our whole family is just telling us we should let it go and just accept we’re going to get it. These are the same people that were so worried when I was getting sinus infections as a kid, and it just feels like the world has turned upside down.

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      • Dear Wendy February 3, 2022, 6:19 pm

        The normalizing of getting covid has been something. 10-30% of those who’ve had covid report lingering symptoms several months later. 1.6 million ppl have dropped out of the work force bc long covid symptoms prevent them from holding down jobs. We don’t know yet how well the vaccine protects against long covid, even for mild or asymptomatic cases. Everyone has to weigh risks against benefits but I don’t think it’s irrational to avoid indoor restaurants during surges in cases like we’ve been in for six weeks in th US.

        I hope you’re able to get back to things you love soon. It’s hard to sacrifice so much for so long.

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      • Kate February 3, 2022, 5:02 pm

        Yeah, I don’t want to get it either. I guess I just want to do things more than I don’t want to have a “mild” case of Covid… though of course you never know what might happen. I wouldn’t want to give up the experiences I had at your age 🙁

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  • Copa February 3, 2022, 1:46 pm

    Before moving to Chicago, the longest I’d lived anywhere for multiple consecutive years was the not quite four I spent in my college town. I’ve been here for over seven years now and always marvel at how long it’s been and how I finally feel a bit rooted. I’ll be hitting the five-year mark with my employer next month. (Five whole years without ever seriously considering jumping ship!? My 20-something self cannot imagine.) It’ll be four years with the boyfriend in June and a few months after that, two of living together. I can relate to how odd it feels to be coming upon the two-year mark of unprecedented times, but know that even without COVID, I’d still be mentally in, like, 2016 and in awe of where time has gone.

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    • ktfran February 3, 2022, 2:00 pm

      Omg. 4 years w/ the bf?? It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but this pandemic is totally messing with my sense of time.

      I’m really sad that some of my friends babies are turning two in the next few months and I’ve never met them.

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      • Copa February 3, 2022, 2:24 pm

        I had a similar reaction when you mentioned the year you got engaged in the dating thread recently!

        It really doesn’t feel like 3.5 years with the boyfriend, though. Somewhere around the holidays, we were like wait, HOW many Christmases together now? Four!?

        One of my friends who is still single says I give more compassionate dating advice that our other married or coupled up friends. I think it’s in part because it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that I was single and dating (and sometimes on the receiving end of weird selfies from dates hahaha)… I remember those highs, lows, frustrations, and obnoxious unhelpful advice quite well!

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    • hfantods February 3, 2022, 8:23 pm

      It’s kind of incredible that you’ve been with your bf more during a pandemic than not. I mean I know couples who have only been in a relationship together during the pandemic!

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      • Copa February 4, 2022, 11:02 am

        Yep. Honestly it’s pretty weird that we’ve spent almost all day every day together for the past nearly two years. Although toward the beginning, when I still had my own place, I’d go home maybe once/week to check on things and give us a little space. Glad we still like each other, though – ha!

        Sometimes I kinda wish I’d just moved into his old place so we could be saving more money. A huge part of the reason I was resisting was because my commute would’ve doubled from there. We made the best decision for us with what we knew at the time, but we picked a commuter-friendly location for me and I have yet to commute to the office even once. This place is more modern, sunny, has private outdoor space, and is larger, though, so we have the space to do our own things when we want, so I tell myself it’s all for the best anyway.

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  • anonymousse February 3, 2022, 2:06 pm

    I have been playing a lot of time warp recently. It’s my moving season. 13 years ago in February, I moved with my ex boyfriend to Bend, OR from my hometown in VT and we bought a house. We broke up later and I met my husband as a friend. He moved to Seattle, but I really couldn’t stop thinking about him. So on a whim and a prayer, before we were serious, against anyone with any sense’s advice, about exactly a year ago today, I got a job and moved to Seattle in the hopes of seriously dating him and it worked out. I told him my plan, babies, a house, marriage, a dog, etc. All the things have happened (minus the dog- but I have a lead!) and we’ve moved to Salt Lake City, UT, then up to Park City, back to WA, then finally all the way to where we are now, in the burbs west of Philly, fours years ago today. All that, plus two babies, me giving up my career completely, tragically losing my BIL, the never ending pandemic, me finally confronting my traumatic childhood, my health issues last year (probably not unrelated to the former,) my son’s surgery, I want to slow down even more than I have.

    I am still calling the pandemic a “year” with my close friends because I just need to pretend sometimes that it hasn’t been that long. I feel so bad for all of the kids. I apologized to mine the other night for promising that things would be different after they got the vaccine and how sorry I am that it hasn’t changed things for them really at all that.

    I do want to say, I’ve been in therapy for a solid year(my longest streak ever) with a great therapist and I’ve never felt better. Therapy is great if you find a good fit. And yes, I know it’s a privilege, one I haven’t had most of my life and I am incredibly grateful that I can see one now.

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    • anonymousse February 3, 2022, 2:07 pm

      OMG not a year ago today, nine years ago!

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      • Fyodor February 7, 2022, 8:13 am

        The thing with your husband is basically the plot of Felicity (which is 20 years old)

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      • anonymousse February 7, 2022, 9:24 am

        I have never heard that before but I’m going to check it out! Thanks Fyodor.

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  • ktfran February 3, 2022, 2:16 pm

    I no longer have any sense of time. I’m hoping to get it back soon, and I’m hoping to get it back in this way:

    I turned 40 right before the pandemic truly began. We heard about Covid while in Kenya. Flying back to the states on Super Bowl Sunday, people were already starting to wear masks in the airports. This really marks the beginning of the end for me.

    The husband turns 40 in June. We just put a hold on his 40th trip for early July, the Galapagos! I’m hoping around this time, things will start to look more normal even though I don’t think they’ll ever truly be normal. But I’m hoping by then, the toddlers will be able to get vaccinated.

    So for my sense of time, it would help me if the pandemic was marked as the time between these two major trips. The “before” and the “after”, if you will.

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  • ron February 3, 2022, 2:18 pm

    Covid cases dropping very rapidly here, down 75% from recent peak. My wife has many risk factors, so we are still very isolated. I do the outside errands, like shopping, and always mask. Both fully vaccinated and boosted, but world seems more than a tad scary yet. But then, we are both early 70s. Would love to be able to travel again and go to events locally. Hopefully, soon. 2021 was a really crap year. We used to audit college courses and enjoyed being around and interacting with the students, but that no longer works for us or the college. Covid seems like an eternity on one hand and on the other, we wonder where the past two years went. Winter is the roughest time. We’ve been together 49 years, but sometimes it feels like we just began dating a year ago.

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  • LisforLeslie February 3, 2022, 3:24 pm

    Glad to know I’m not the only one. I was recalling a specific event and I realized it was like 15 years ago. I’m astounded how time flies by. I read somewhere that when you’re young, time goes by so slowly, mostly because you have a smaller frame of reference, fewer months, fewer years under your belt. As you age, time seems to fly by more quickly because you have the collected experience of all your years. The important and memorable things stack up on top of one another and then you realize that something that felt like yesterday actually happened 10 years ago.

    I’ve no doubt that being busy contributes. But I like to think of my memories as a big room of file cabinets. Sometimes it’s hard to pull that memory out – like who sang that song in that movie with that guy. And sometimes it’s really easy. It’s just that as you get older you have more and more file cabinets and they seem to fill up faster and faster.

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  • MaterialsGirl February 3, 2022, 3:44 pm

    I cannot believe how time is flying and.. jumping! I was just looking at my son and realized he is almost the same age as my daughter was when this sh*tstorm started. It’s incredible. It means I don’t have that much longer to have the big baby snuggles. 🙁
    Things are slowly slowly slowly starting to open. We may have our first parents only trip in 2.5 years coming up in March.
    Ron, your statement on the covid years being the longest and also a blur is accurate. What has filled these 730 days? A lot of rinse and repeat.

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  • Ange February 3, 2022, 6:03 pm

    I know it’s been just over 2 years since I’ve seen my mum. Her partner is incredibly high risk and I’m high risk but more than anything the state borders were shut between us for most of that time. I didn’t mind as their state got through most of the pandemic relatively unscathed which I felt was a huge bonus considering how long it took to get vaccines.

    Now we live in the same state and they had plans to come down at the end of the month and I now have to work interstate that weekend, which means I won’t have them here for a couple of weeks at least afterwards as covid is really heavy where I’m heading. It feels like it’s never going to bloody happen at this rate 😭

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    • LisforLeslie February 4, 2022, 8:55 am

      I haven’t seen my sister, nephew or BIL in two years. I miss them, but I really don’t want to travel unless necessary. My nephew did get vaccinated at the end of last year. Eventually they’ll get their butts to Florida and I’ll hug them a lot.

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  • allathian February 4, 2022, 3:27 am

    This is a weird time, for sure. Feels a bit like Groundhog Day sometimes, with one dreary day following another.

    That said, I’ve been very, very lucky, because only one of my friends has had Covid so far, a breakthrough Omicron case. She’d already booked her booster shot when she got diagnosed. She was able to isolate at home and nobody else in her family got sick (husband and two teenagers). She got sick just before Christmas, but fortunately recovered quickly.

    I’m privileged, though, and I know that we’ve got off easy. We have a 5-bedroom, 1,700 sq ft house that makes it possible for my husband and me to work on separate floors. We’re also fortunate in that our jobs can be done fully remotely. Our son did well in remote school, although he’s been back to in-person school since May 2020 (only middle and high schools, vocational schools and colleges/universities have been remote for longer, he’s starting middle school in the fall and I hope he can do that in person). Thanks to Covid hygiene standards, he’s had less days off sick from school than in any previous years, they’re masked indoors, wash their hands often, and use a lot of sanitizer. I certainly hope that the sanitizer and hand washing will remain, even when they can stop wearing masks.

    I’m middle-aged, and very much a homebody. During the worst of the pandemic I missed seeing my friends, and my high-risk family members, but now that we’re all vaxxed and boostered, and our son’s had his two shots, we’ve been visiting each other indoors, and we’re back to enjoying family meals together. We all live in the same city, so seeing my parents or in-laws doesn’t mean we’d have to travel. I’m also pretty introverted, so even in non-pandemic times, I get most of the social interaction I really need from my family. I’m in a great relationship, the situation can’t be compared to people who’re single, let alone in abusive or merely unhappy relationships.

    We’ve had a lot of omicron cases recently, but the numbers are improving to the point that they’re going to lift all restrictions in mid-February. It’s going to feel weird, for sure, and who knows how long it’ll last this time…

    I realize I’m in a very privileged position, and it’s been humbling to say the least. My heart goes out to all of you who have to deal with the public at work, or who are forced by circumstances to take more risks than you’d really be willing to take if you had any real choice.

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  • bondgirl February 4, 2022, 11:34 am

    Some of my youngest relatives are now the same age I was when they were born (teens/college kids). It’s mind boggling to fathom!

    In this covid wasteland, it still feels strange that we’re about to hit 2 straight years of WFH status. Talk about returning to the office has gotten more serious this week (omicron cases have plummeted), but those in charge of the policies have insisted on NO lessons learned and want to completely revert back to 2019…despite everyone going above and beyond to demonstrate we’ve all earned the privilege to WFH more than once every other week.

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  • Rangerchic February 4, 2022, 1:57 pm

    We moved from Arkansas to Colorado – it’ll be 7 years ago in June! When we first moved here my husband worked 6 days a week so we didn’t do a lot of exploring outside the city. We did pick a few weekends here and there to go exploring. Then, when he was finally starting to get more weekends off COVID hit. So, still have yet to explore as much of the state as we would like. In all that time our oldest child moved to CO and is now married. Our youngest is graduating nursing school in May.

    We are trying to figure out our next life phase. We’ve thought about buying or renovating a B&B and running that for a few years. We’ve also talked about moving back to AR (this is low on the list), moving to another state for fun, or staying put or moving within CO. The pandemic put thoughts of running a B&B on hold too – I just don’t know how that looks now.

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  • misspiggy February 6, 2022, 8:10 am

    Seeing these reflections from a perspective of decades of chronic illness makes me glad that more people get how it feels to have your health and survival at risk for a long period. But then I get a big attack of self pity, because I’ll never get back to normal. It’s frustratingly strange how the mind puts one in a continual state of fear and hope, much like living through this pandemic, but without any potential cutoff point.

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    • Dear Wendy February 6, 2022, 9:21 am

      I’m sorry. I have auto-immune issues that aren’t super serious but are chronic and I worry about them becoming worse and my susceptibility to additional auto-immune issues that would/could be more serious than what I have now. And my husband also has auto-immune issues, one of which he takes immune-suppressing medication for, which then puts him at higher risk for covid complications. All of this has greatly impacted our response to covid and the precautions we take to avoid further threats to our (and our kids’) longterm health.

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  • b406 February 8, 2022, 10:46 am

    I’ve somehow avoided COVID and as time drags on, it gets almost surreal. Out of 20 employees at my job, only 3 of us haven’t caught it. My daughter is high risk, so I am glad and take a lot of precautions.

    I am not sure if it will ever be fully normal. Right before COVID hit, my daughter’s school had to shut down for a week because so many children and staff were out with the flu. Even with those preventative measures, people still do not take them.

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