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What I Wish I’d Done Differently During the Pandemic

I had high hopes for what I'd accomplish this last year at home. But, I realized, we all deserve some grace. It has been one hell of a year.

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Today marks my family’s one-year anniversary with the pandemic, and I’m in search of my pandemic do-over. On March 12, 2021, we went on our personal lock-down, particularly when we heard (unfounded) rumors that bridges and tunnels were going to be shut down in Manhattan. Visions of a dystopia crowded our minds and we went into near panic mode. A dear friend of mine – KeeperOfTheFruitLoops (who’s much funnier than I am) — said a year ago “This is my first pandemic. I don’t know how to do this! I’m just learning!”

Well, been there done that.

I readily acknowledge that I’m coming from a point of privilege in that I had the ability to home school my kids and not fear that we would go hungry or homeless. That is a tremendous luxury in a time and place where most people are suffering. We have had our share of stresses — around show business (which has utterly evaporated); my mid-life crisis (wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life, but finding a new path and loving it) and my small fashion start-up (it’s growing…but just).

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I have certainly been grateful to have less FOMO for the past year – salivating over the lives of the fabulous who vacationed more than I and ate out more than I and seemed to figure out how to have way more fun than I did in my quotidian life.

But, at the same time, in pandemic life, there’s plenty of FOMO in the social media world where everyone else actually seemed to do quarantine better.

Yeah, I’ve watched a ton of TV and cooked about 1,000 meals. To my utter shock, the NYTimes cooking section is starting to look repetitive to me.

But I feel plenty reasons to beat myself up (unnecessarily).

To be clear, weathering the pandemic with a roof over our heads and not getting sick are all reason enough to celebrate and declare that my cup of gratitude over-floweth.

While my gratitude surely outweighs my bitterness, let me complain a little bit about the ways I could’ve done the pandemic better.

I Wish I’d Fixed My Closets

We don’t have a lot of closet space in our house. But what little we do have is not at all well utilized. Instead, they’re dumping grounds in which I hope the door will close every time I, well, try to close it. I wish Marie Kondo had taken over my life and I’d dumped everything in the house that doesn’t spark joy.

Instead, there are piles of crap everywhere that are just waiting to be organized and an entire bookshelf of neglected picture books (since the kids have frankly grown out of them.)  I used to say I just needed one extra weekend to get some of those things in order. A year of aimless weekends later, it looks like it wasn’t just one weekend I needed to get that closet organized.

I Wish I’d Followed Through on My Cultural Education

I wish I’d spent ten minutes a day on Duolingo or Babbel and become at least proficient in Mandarin or Greek. I wish I’d gone to the effort of investing in MasterClass and learned about acting from Natalie Portman and baking from Dominique Ansel. Instead? I binged Netflix and HBO. I didn’t even watch movies. That would take too long. Instead of watching a mere two hours of a story that could inspire and change my life, I spent upwards of 75 hours watching protracted stories of murderers, spies, and British royalty (though have yet to watch Bridgerton.) Has my mind expanded? Don’t think so.

I Wish I Did More Reading

I wasted weeks and weeks trying to read Jane Austen’s Emma. I loathed every single word, my mind wandered within three sentences, and I couldn’t stand that every chapter seemed focused on whether or not the neighbor would get over their cold or be able to attend the party on Saturday night. Ironically, perhaps I should’ve been more understanding of colds that kill people while reading during a pandemic. But slogging through Emma was a chore and a waste. I thought I needed to prove my intelligence by sticking with it. Instead, I proved my judgment to just move the F on. Life’s too short. I eventually moved on from Emma and picked up Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens. Couldn’t put that one down.

But, still, I should’ve read so many more books during the pandemic. As it turns out, I read about four. And I love reading. My pandemic do-over requires much more stimulating books.

I Wish I Took More Care of My To-Do List

We have a small chalk paint wall in our house. Since the kids don’t pay it a second of attention, I use it as a to-do list. You know – so I can see the stuff I’m neglecting staring down at me in pink chalk 365 days a year, reminding me of how unproductive I am on the rare occasion I stop to look up at it. A full year ago I wrote down “voice-overs and podcast”. For years I’ve wanted to start a podcast in which I complain about my kids. Further, as an actor, I figured I might as well get into the voice-over game. Ironically, I’ve done the hard part, setting up a teeny tiny recording studio and stapling some rugs into the inside of a wardrobe for perfect acoustics. But have I climbed into that wardrobe to record a single word? Oh, wait, I’m distracted. Squirrel! I did, however, write a web series. That was fun.

So, yes, I have many things I wish I’d accomplished during this past year.

But…it’s been a year. We all deserve grace. And, I’ve realized, there’s no reason to beat myself up about any of this. Perhaps airing the dirty laundry here will absolve me of my low-lying guilt. But probably not.

If nothing else, pandemic times have truly exposed our priorities and abilities and curiosities. We’ve all been through tremendous stress. I went from sudden home school teacher and entrepreneur to part-time political strategist also home schooling and trying to keep his small business alive. I love my job, but every day is a struggle to get as much done as possible.

Now that we’re all working from home and there’s little separation between work and home, we are working insanely hard and spinning wheels, often unnecessarily. We all deserve a break.

Though I’m complaining, here, I am giving myself grace. We should all give ourselves a pass. To survive this year is all that matters. It’s not about comparing ourselves to those who thrived and found their greater selves.

So, don’t worry about your closet, don’t bother with those books that wither your soul, don’t fret that your best diaper bag for dads or whatever it is. Hug your kids and your partner and focus on enjoying what really matters.

Find your own bliss in all this madness. I’ll be over here planning my pandemic do-over.

 

Gavin Lodge is a father, writer, actor,  entrepreneurblogger, and adventurer.