I am not at all the same person I was a year ago. My world was changed by a traumatic injury just weeks before the pandemic took hold of our lives, and turned our little snow globes upside down.

I'm not one who collects a lot of close friends - I'm guarded and prefer to keep that number small to limit those who know my deepest thoughts, fears, joys, pain. In the last year, political trash has shown me true colors of people, some of which have a hateful streak laid bare for the world to see. Ive lost friends as a result, as I can't abide hate. As I worked through my personal trauma, I had someone who ghosted me and never offered an explanation, yet we move in similar circles so we continue to cross paths regularly. Someone who i was a very close friend I confided in withdrew, and when questioned, claimed I ignored her when her life was difficult - I had no idea because she had shut the world out.

So no, I am not the same person I was, and I'm still processing what that means looking ahead. I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I'll find my way.

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Ever since I turned 18, (I’m 25 now) and long before that probably, I’ve been looking for my next escape, my next trip, runaway, adventure— whatever we want to call it.

After I got out of university— I was never i one place for long. I traveled, I worked all over the world in various jobs, I made incredible memories and I also got hurt in every way imaginable — but I kept running because that’s what I knew how to do.

I sometimes traveled with my twin sister, and in summer of 2019 we took our last overseas trip. We both had a sinking, definitive feeling that it was the last time we would go to europe. I remember writing in my journal “I have to go before the borders close”— before the world showed any indication of trouble.

A part of me now thinks we felt it coming, we’ve always had feelings before things happen but for the longest time, we didn’t trust our intuitions.

I’ll never really know though.

Then, March 2020.

The world shut down the week of our birthday, it’s silly, but if we’re talking about things we lost, I feel like we lost our birthday. A lot of people forgot and we didn’t feel like celebrating.

My older parents went from living lives in the community to being scared of this new invisible monster. My sister and I moved back home to take care of them, and honestly each other— and the first few months were hard.

I could spend pages talking about the bad things, but today— I really want to talk about the good.

My family is closer than we’ve ever been. My sister and I are best friends now, and we go to each other for everything. We’ve all learned a level of patience I’ve never seen before.

Having spent a year inside my head, I’ve been able to process trauma that happened pre-pandemic that I honestly never thought I would be able to move on from.

I work in theatre, and that’s still gone, but while it has been gone I’ve had to turn elsewhere to make a living.

It’s challenged me and frustrated me but I’m making it work. Humans have an incredible way of overcoming just about anything, and I see all of my friends fighting tooth and nail to keep creating, keep going.

I wrote two books last year, I’ve gotten to a point where I believe my writing may actually support me— I’ve gotten to a point where I believe I actually deserve it, which turned out to be the hardest part.

I’ve spent every day with my family, like we’re living in some Jane Austen novel, and I’ve learned that happiness isn’t found in running away.

Don’t get me wrong, as soon as this is all over, I’m flying across the world, but it won’t be running away anymore— it will be running towards.

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I had been in Germany a full one week of my year long contract as an Au pair when everything completely shutdown. Suddenly the new normal I was trying desperately to acclimate to was snatched away. It put new stresses on relationships that had barely even begun. So many wonderful, beautiful things were canceled - Oktoberfest, Carnival, the Christmas markets. And oddly enough, I felt a strange sort of detachment from what was happening back home in the US. But I found that tether again in the righteous anger of the Black Lives Matter movement. Moved by anger and frustration of my own, I took part in my very first protest.

Now that I’m back home and have time to reflect, I realize that, even though I thought of myself as compassionate, I’ve gained a heightened sense of empathy for others. I genuinely care about keeping others safe and healthy, and treated with dignity and respect. And I don’t see that as such a bad thing at all.

Tyler, I’ve loved your poetry for years, and this community you’ve gathered has been so uplifting during this time of uncertainty and frustration. Thank you for having the courage to bring us all together and give us this space to share, create, and heal.

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Just under a year ago, I was racing around a retail store, racing to work, racing to serve the needs of wealthy investors who had bought vacation condos to rent out, helping them decorate and plan the interiors, racing up and down 3 floors of an old store with a nasty boss who judged everything I did. I was literally racing to make a buck, and I had been making more than I ever had. But every day was a war, it was a war to keep my head together, to keep my temper and my mouth shut, to keep going up those stairs and to just keep going.

COVID hit and I was immediately laid off indefinitely. I haven't worked since. I am now grounded, steady and I've become someone who is not willing to degrade myself, keep silent when I'm wronged or insulted. I'm also stronger as I've gone through all the same stages I think everyone has, including anxiety, panic, depression and worry. And I've come out of it OK. I've also finally met someone I think I could spend my life with, although it's a fresh new relationship. There is hope, light and happiness dawning.

I know tragedy, and this virus has touched us all in some way. But there is also this bright day. Easter or Ostara (in my faith) is the perfect reminder of fresh new beginnings.

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