This weekend, I was supposed to get married. I don’t know which is the harder pill to swallow: the fact that I called off my wedding long before COVID-19 became our reality, or the notion that if I hadn’t, I would have been thrown headfirst into the logistical and emotional nightmare of postponing a wedding to an unknown date in the future. Either way, it seems, 2020 wasn’t destined to be my year. While 2018 was without a doubt the best year of my life, I think 2019 was probably the worst. As my relationship lost its way, I was absolutely, cripplingly devastated when I came to the realization that it was most likely not going to work out in the long run. It still hurts to think of the person I was a year ago, shopping for a white dress, planning a future move back to Minnesota, and tasting dozens of tacos to find exactly the right menu for my Cinco de Mayo-themed wedding.
Looking back at it now, it feels like I turned 30 and suddenly my life was swapped for some twisted funhouse version of the one I had been living. That’s not exactly what happened, though–I think it rarely ever is. It was a case of slowly over time, and then all at once. The fact that it happened to coincide with my entré into a new decade of my life was just a coincidence. Or was it? Maybe now, at 30, I know myself better than I ever have. Maybe it took turning 30 to finally act on what I’d feared all along. Maybe 30 was the year I decided “I’m choosing me,” and finally refocused my attention on the most important partner in life I will ever have: myself.
Part of me feels like it’s harder to start over this time because I’m no longer in my twenties. When I was 21 and getting over a breakup, I was angry. When things got hard I said “fuck it,” and started dating someone else a few months later. As time went on I realized that I still loved him, but life swept me up and off to L.A., where it was easier to leave the past behind. I threw myself into the job I had moved across the country for, started making friends and exploring my new city, and eventually I began to forget.
When I was 25 and had my heart completely stomped on, I was momentarily crushed, but felt like my old self again surprisingly fast. I let myself cry for a few weeks, then went on a shopping spree, dyed my hair "rose gold", traded in my group of friends for another, and found a new crush. Just three months later, I was starting to fall in love again. I didn’t—not that time—but never doubted for even a second that I could, and would, be okay again. Thinking about my future now, fresh into a new decade, out of an engagement, and now smack in the middle of a harrowing pandemic, I wish I still had the certainty that came so easily before.
I think the hardest part of my situation right now is thinking, fearing: What happens if I get COVID-19? I have no family in L.A., and would never want to knowingly expose my friends to the invisible enemy we’ve already spent months fighting. I imagine sitting alone in my quiet apartment, unable to breathe, unsure of how exactly to take care of myself or quell the constant panic that things could suddenly take a turn for the worse. But even here, a silver lining. The family I built still remains, changed, but its spirit is still intact. If I got sick, he would take care of me, and I for him.
Weeks ago, I sat next to him as he struggled to prick his finger for an at-home antibody test for COVID-19, blindly assuring him it wouldn’t hurt as much as he thought it would. With three single-use pricks spent and still not enough blood to complete the test, we devised a plan to crack one of the devices open to access the thin needle inside and stab him again until the blood at last reached the 2ml mark. We looked at each other then, a silent knowing passing between us without having to say the words. "I’m here for you," it said, "It’s going to be okay."
Does the love we have for those that become our family ever truly leave us? Perhaps it fades, leaving only a trace of what once was, but still it’s there. I can feel it somewhere inside me, like I can still feel the faraway pain of other failed relationships that have long since faded into memory. It gets heavier over time, perhaps; harder to bear the weight of so much heartbreak. Maybe it’s actually no harder to start over this time, now that I’ve reached a new decade of my life and the world has changed around me–it’s only the weight I’m now carrying that feels so much heavier.
Given our unusual new reality, attempting to get back on my feet has felt nearly impossible. I should be out distracting myself with friends, cocktails, kickball league, and traveling, not sitting inside my apartment alone with my thoughts. From ages 16 to 28, I’ve always moved to a new city, made new friends, or changed my hair to aid in moving on from the hardest heartbreaks, but this time is different. I’m still messing with my hair (trying to regrow it after alarming amounts started falling out from stress, to be precise), but I have no real desire to drastically change my appearance this time. I absolutely love my friends, and I love my job, which will keep me here in L.A. for a while. The world outside is completely different now than it has ever been before, which leaves me feeling like I’m trying to paint myself a bright new future in the dark.
It’s been almost five months since a moving truck showed up to take my things away. I don’t feel “normal” yet, and a small, scared part of me thinks I never will. The eternal optimist in me says that I’m still figuring out what “normal” or “okay” even means now, and these things take time, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. On my worst days, I FaceTime with our dog, Alexa. She hasn’t been with me since the start of quarantine, and the loneliness I feel is multiplied. I smile as I watch her jump for treats or get her belly rubbed, wishing she understood it was me inside the plastic talking box. On the occasions I do get to see her, it feels like part of me is whole again. She cries for me when I come to the door, and howls like she thought I might never come back for her.
Nothing about this year so far has been easy, but I’m hanging in there. Life is really hard right now, for everyone. I know that it’s okay to feel the way I do, and I don’t have to have it all figured out yet. We’re all just doing the best we can, and right now, my best is good enough.