A Year Apart


A Year Apart


Hannah P.


1/29/20 and 1/29/21


On January 29, 2020 I opened a new word doc and began writing. Two months later, in March, I began to self-isolate and to journal extensively about my experience. On January 29, 2021 I looked back at the first entry I'd written and marveled at how much things had changed. In this intervening year I've written 46,000 words, specifically chronicling life under COVID and the ensuing violence and political strife that tore through the nation.


COVID-19 (Disease)


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Sometimes I feel like I need to explain things to future generations, or more probably, future me, who’s looking back with the benefit of hindsight and wondering “why were/weren’t you freaking out about that at the time?” Or maybe just for my own historical perspective, remembering the details I’ve forgotten years down the road.

Right now, everyone’s talking about the Wuhan coronavirus. There’s your typical responses: ohmygosh we’re all going to die; wow, you stupid Americans, stop freaking out about something that’s barely touched your shores (thanks, Canada); and the more conservative category that I currently fall into, which is more concerned for the people in China who are at the epicenter of the outbreak, but not dumb enough to think that it couldn’t ever get here.

Eventually, we’re due for another pandemic like the 1918 flu. Just from a statistical perspective. Some Harvard epidemiologist is saying that this could well be even worse, but then lots of other people are saying it can be controlled. It’s easy to roll your eyes at people who are overreacting, but then if we end up losing this microbiological Russian roulette, we’ll be incredulous at the people who were underreacting. That’s one of my fears about history, I think. What if I’m wrong, and in the future, I think, “How could I not have seen what was going on?”

Probably I need to stop caring about that, though, and just take reasonable precautions while not putting all my energy into worrying. So, no hugging people who just came back from China, and remember that there are asymptomatic carriers as well, so drink my orange juice and no kissing strangers.

1/29/21- Quarantine Day 226
Well. It’s been a year since I opened a new Google doc and wrote about the Wuhan virus. I remember mostly doing it as a sort of absolution- I had the feeling that looking back, we were either going to feel silly for overreacting or foolish for underreacting, and that I needed to set the record straight on where I stood in advance. I couldn’t ever have predicted we’d be where we are a year later, however. That would have seemed apocalyptic.

It’s fascinating to read back through and see not only how quickly things changed, but they way in which they evolved. For example, I used to write the covid stats at the beginning of each entry. After we hit one million cases that seemed kind of pointless. And then there’s the simple fact that I labeled each post “Quarantine Day __.” A quarantine usually implies a shorter-term seclusion with an end date in sight. That word has probably changed meaning in the last year, since so many of us have used it to mean time spent generally avoiding others, not specifically time keeping ourselves in isolation while we wait to see if we’re positive. So after today, I think I’m going to drop the word and just label each entry with the day. This is just how daily life is, now, I’ve been at it too long for it to feel unusual.

I don’t want to even speculate on how much longer pandemic restrictions will last or when it will be that I start going out again. Who knows. Safe predictions to make: I will continue to read a lot of books. People will continue to feel superior to each other based on their political beliefs. It will snow. I will still have Lyme Disease. Mom and I will have a little garden. Josh and I will build things. God will be good.

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Personal narratives



Hannah P., “A Year Apart,” Isolating Together : Portland Public Library, accessed July 1, 2022, https://portlandlibrary.omeka.net/items/show/91.