On March 13 2020, an eerie silence crept its way through our ReStores. There were few customers that day, and those who came stood far away, avoiding eye contact, as if that was how this new mysterious disease spread. And maybe it did? I told my coworker Jerome, “The world is ending!” and he just laughed. I left work early to go to the grocery store, unaware that the next time I’d set foot in that office would be mid-summer.
At the grocery store, I found aisle after aisle empty. Masks were rare, but I felt all-to-aware of each cough around me. Only two nights before I was gathered at a bar with friends celebrating the release of our indie press’s first anthology, and now here I was, unable to find toilet paper and bread.
I raised my phone and snapped a picture, feeling the weight of living through history.
I’ve journaled for most of my life, but the styles changed as I did.
As a pre-teen, I dutifully filled up my black journal with vague details of middle school, fearful the journal would end up in the wrong hands and therefore divulging absolutely nothing of substance. No kidding, from 2005-2008, I have hundreds of entries that read like this: “Today I went to school. I got some homework, bleh. No fun. I’m looking forward to the weekend. Well, off to bed! Goodnight journal!”
In high school, I pivoted and began to fill journals with what made me me. In those years, that meant pages and pages of song lyrics, book quotes, and musings copied from popular tumblr posts. Similar to my middle school journal, my high school journals scratched the surface of my true thoughts and feelings, but at least they now work as a great time capsule.
In college, much like my fiction-writing self, my journal-writing self took a hiatus. It wasn’t until 2016, five months after graduation, when I decided to start sending journals back and forth with my two friends. The perfect solution to long-distance friendship.
This simple decision, started as a way for us to connect to one another, opened up a whole new world of journaling. For the first time, I was journaling for an audience. I was processing my thoughts, but allowing my two friends to process along with me. Vulnerability was encouraged, because it connected us. I read their entries and didn’t feel so alone. I hoped they would think the same about mine.
Navigating your 20s is hard, and these journals captured it all: landing first jobs, quitting first jobs, romantic relationships, creating art, hating our art, moving apartments, moving abroad, making friends in adulthood, going to grad school, getting engaged, getting married… And now: a pandemic.
When our two weeks of social distancing started, I turned to my journals. I had a lot to process.
The crazy thing is this pandemic lasted far longer than any of us imagined. It came in waves, starting from the “We’re all in this together!” hurrah that first two weeks, to quickly spiraling to fighting and fighting and more fighting.
I journaled about the “Open by Easter!” absolute madness. I journaled about the mask mandate protests. I journaled about the killing of George Floyd, about the way Black Lives Matter took over COVID headlines, and the sorrow I felt knowing it would be temporary. I doodled flowers all over that journal entry, coloring them in with colored pencils, my way of trying to find peace.
Then came the election. Then came vaccines.
The return to normal. The return of COVID with new variants.
Sometimes I wonder how I would’ve gotten through the pandemic if I did not have these journals. If I kept to my middle school journaling style: “Woke up and had to stay inside again today. Bleh! This pandemic sucks. Oh well, off to bed! Bye journal!”
Journaling helped me process all the emotions I felt. And believe me, there were a LOT. It also helped me lean on my friends, who dutifully read my journal entries and sent back their own anxiety-ridden ones. They were many states away, but they never felt far.
And now, here I am, on March 13, 2022. Two years.
How have you grown? How have we grown?
4 thoughts on “Journaling My Way Through a Pandemic”
Please take me to Japan with you.
Lovely. My journalling method has evolved throughout the years too. I find myself wanting to rapid log events a la bullet journal on some days, and going super longform on others. But I’m glad to have kept up this practice for years now, and it’s great to look back and see how far I’ve come. Anyway, thanks for this post!
Thanks so much for reading & commenting, Stuart! I’m glad you’ve found a journaling method that works for you. I like switching up my style — I definitely have noticed recently I’ve been really into making lists in my entries! Often they’re of little things I’m grateful for. So I’m not always as doom & gloom as this entry makes me seem, ha!