• Céline Peterson

One Year Later

One year later. As I write this, I find myself sitting in the exact same spot that I was last year on this day, staring out the open window with the cold breeze coming through. The difference? Last year, it was silent outside. This year? I can hear the hustle and bustle of life outside these walls. The cases are astronomical, but there is a desperation to return to normal life, regardless of the cost for others. Instead of showing appreciation for our health care workers from our balconies by cheering, clapping, and banging pots and pans, we’re all but spitting in their face because we’re “over it.”

Lives lost – millions of them. 2.6 million and counting. Let that sink in for a moment.

Close to 3 million people, from across the world, of all ages, have died in the hospital, at home, alone, unnecessarily. But we are still having conversations (more accurately, fights) about wearing a mask and now, receiving a vaccine that will allow us to return to normalcy – whatever that looks like – without risking the lives of people around us. But that is too much to ask?

I work in an industry that was one of the first to shut and is certain to be one of the last to fully reopen. We’ve lost countless venues around the world and imagining the number of people who have been jobless for a year, struggling to get by, makes me nauseous. One year later and I can say with complete honesty that I have no idea what this industry will look like when we’re back.

When I am part of conversations where there are complaints about masks, refusal to vaccinate, and laughter in the face of stay-at-home orders, my blood pressure hits a boiling point. The lack of respect, courtesy, basic human decency, and quite frankly, dignity and sensibility, is mind boggling to me. Among the countless reasons why these conversations make me sick is the simple fact that your refusal to even attempt to be a part of the solution, means that people I care about and work with, are going to continue to struggle to put food on their tables and pay their rent, because there is no work in sight.

One year later and we have definitely seen the true colours of those around us. For some, nothing has changed. For others, everything. Between the pandemic, election, protests and insurrection, showed us that everything has changed. Beliefs that were always there, have come to the surface and to some, have made all the difference in the world. Relationships have ended, family members have either been exiled or exiled themselves, and some of us have been forced to come to terms with where the line is for what we can accept and tolerate in our lives, and what is just too much.

I can say with confidence that one year later, I have grown exponentially in ways I didn’t expect. I have shared stories and experiences with those close to me that I never thought I’d share. I have grown closer to friends that I’d lost touch with, and those that I didn’t think I could get closer to. I learned that my voice is powerful and important, as is yours, and that standing up for what I believe in is necessary. I have learned that my struggles are valid, and my anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned what it means to respect human life, respect someone’s boundaries and space, respect time, and respect myself. One year later, I am a stronger woman than I was a year ago, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

I’ve spoken on more than one occasion about the necessity of only doing what we’re capable of during this and the importance of putting ourselves first. Don’t feel like answering the phone? Don’t do it. Didn’t return that text? That’s okay. Missed a commitment? Apologize and acknowledge it and then move on. We get to not be okay. We get to admit struggle. We get to communicate our challenges. Remain upfront and honest about what you’re experiencing, and anyone who doesn’t show you compassion, understanding and respect, is not worth your time. Personally or professionally. Be confident in who you are and remember that all anyone can expect from you is your best. As long as you are giving all you have to give, if a mistake is made or a ball is dropped, I can at least promise that I will meet you with understanding and compassion. Because I need understanding and compassion given right back to me.

One year later, and I can’t wait to see and hug my loved ones. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to be an in-person audience member again. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to travel and continue seeing the parts of the world that have been on my list for years. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to lose the anxiety and worry that comes with being around people – especially those more vulnerable than I – whom I love and don’t want to fall ill. But there is no telling when that particular fear will dissipate, with or without a vaccine, so I will wait and do my best to be patient.

There will be more loss. There will be more heartbreak. There will be more conflict. There will be more stress. But there will also be growth. One year later I can see human growth and I can see the slightest glimpse of light at the very end of the tunnel. It’s there and I’m holding onto it. One year later, I’m cautious, yet hopeful. One year later I’m grateful for my circle that has surrounded me this past twelve months and always. One year later I am hoping we have all learned something and will stand up for what we believe to be right and will never be afraid of the consequences that may come with speaking out against injustice. One year later, I expect more of myself than I did last year.

One year from now, I don’t know where we’ll be, but we’ll be stronger.

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