I am a constant worrier and an anxious over-thinker. My mind has always raced at 100 miles a minute, so a lot of the anxiety I’ve felt in 2020 isn’t actually all that new to me. But the things that I worry about now? Most of them are completely new. I never used to worry about whether my masks were washed or whether they would slip under my nose when I was talking or whether I would accidentally touch my face in public. I never used to worry about the distance between me and the strangers I passed on the sidewalk, or that if I got too close to them, we could make each other really, really sick.
I never thought I would miss being worried that the entire line in a crowded coffee shop just heard me mess up my order, but I do. I really miss worrying about the little things. I miss being worried that I was going to miss my bus. I miss worrying about whether people were overhearing the personal, deeply embarrassing stories I was telling my friends at brunch. I miss the days when my biggest heartbreaks were as small as unrequited love.
I miss lazily browsing through the grocery store and lingering in the chocolate section because there are really just so many options. I miss passing other shoppers without holding my breath. I miss the awkward smiles you would give each other when you both tried to pass each other on the same side of the aisle. I miss passive connection with strangers.
I miss potential – the idea that going out to a bar one night could introduce you to your soulmate. I miss going to a coffee shop and wondering if the person who lit your whole world up three years ago might be sitting there, listening to the songs you both used to love. I miss my old routines and the potential for spontaneity that they held. I miss wondering what magic might happen during the most mundane moments of the day.
I miss dressing up. I miss the feeling of relief at the end of the night when I took off my fancy heels that I couldn’t really walk in. I miss washing the dirt off of my feet on the nights when those heels just had to come off early. I miss those late-night, semi-philosophical conversations where the real thing we were trying to discover was that we weren’t alone in feeling alone.
I miss the big things, too. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss being able to be excited for the holidays, fully and completely, because that meant I got to see the people I care about again. I miss worrying about traffic and travel times instead of whether visiting my loved ones could make any of us sick.
I miss volunteering. I miss feeling like I had the potential to make some small impact on peoples’ lives; I miss feeling their mood shift right in front of my eyes after a good conversation. I miss seeing people face to face instead of through a screen. I miss feeling like I had some control to balance out a tiny bit of the negativity in the world by creating my own positivity.
As hard as it’s been to miss all of these things, missing them has also made me grateful – so many of the things that I miss now are things that I took for granted because I assumed they would always be there. So many things that I miss now are things that some people already missed out on every day, due to their own health limitations or financial strain or a whole host of other reasons that I truthfully never had to consider before.
And so, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to still make connections, even if they feel different through a screen. The technology that allows my favorite musicians to play music in front of their phone and make it feel like they’re right here in my bedroom with me. I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to write to you and to sometimes hear back. I’m grateful for the ways that technology has allowed us to maintain a bit of our humanity — I’m grateful for enduring connection even when we’re physically separated.
I’m grateful for the lessons that 2020 has taught me, even if I can’t yet be grateful for the way that they were taught. I’m grateful that I still have the chance to experience things that light me up, even if it’s not in the way that I’m used to. I’m grateful for the knowledge that everything is temporary, that people are working so hard to make sure that we are able to go out and be worried about all the tiny, silly things again one day. I’m grateful for the lessons that this year has taught me so that I never take those tiny, silly things for granted again.