UNITED STATES—It is very hard to believe that it has been over a year since the coronavirus pandemic reshaped this country as we know it. March 2020 was fine up until around the third week of the month and then panic, then fear and absolute chaos was unleashed. I remember moving around on crutches as I had just broken my leg, and I had a few errands to run and it was like a ghost town at a local mall. I mean it was a ghost town America.

Soon after, restrictions were put in place. Restaurants were closed and ONLY open for takeout, retailers closed, businesses closed, mask wearing was mandated, social distancing became a term we would never forget, coughing or sneezing was a sign of worry and people started to die and in massive numbers. The biggest blow the pandemic presented was isolation and when I say isolation I meant isolation.

People were locked (well not actually), but sheltered in their homes for weeks. You didn’t venture out unless you absolutely had to and making matters worse, there weren’t really many places you could venture out to because everything was closed except grocery stores. I remember venturing to a retailer in an attempt to purchase food and just aghast at how empty the shelves were. There was a scarcity on food, paper towel, toilet paper, cleaning supplies; I had never seen anything like it.

You want to purchase toilet paper, cleaning wipes, sanitizer or paper towel it was impossible to find. It was IMPOSSIBLE to find America. People were in panic mode so when you found it you stocked up on it. I did the same thing when I came across Clorox wipes. Hell, no one had any idea how long the pandemic would last and the impact the pandemic would have on this country. One thing was certain, the mask wearing was very uncomfortable, but it has become a thing of the future in my opinion. Hell, I think I will wear the mask at least for another year, just because I don’t know what is going to transpire.

People are getting vaccinated, but I have always had a concern with a vaccination for something that was unknown, being developed so quickly and not enough information being put out there about possible ramifications of getting the vaccine rather its Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson. Some are being pushed as more effective than others, but time will tell and here’s hoping everything remains well.

With that said, the isolation of being locked in our homes and apartments for weeks on end led to so many people being forced to communicate by phone and through zoom calls. Yes, zoom became a thing of the future that no one every expected. Hell, I never expected to turn on the local news and witness people broadcast from their homes. I didn’t think it could be done, but guess what, it has worked and it might become the thing of the future for news because I’m certain it is saving plenty of news stations a ton of money in overhead cost people.

The movie theater, I have not visited in more than a year, I don’t know what it’s like to be in a dark room watching a movie. I don’t even remember all the movies that were to be released in theaters in 2020, that have now been pushed to 2021, 2022 or beyond. Streaming was the new craze as all we could do was sit at home and watch TV or movies as we hoped for some return to normalcy.

Dining out was over people, we were forced to cook at home more than ever before, but at the same time the quarantine 15 became a real thing as so many of us gained extra weight being confined to the home and not actively exercising because gyms were closed and we were skeptical to venture outdoors. I will be honest the treat to be able to get takeout was a welcome change because I know I got so tired of cooking. However, the pandemic forced so many restaurants out of business. Yes, many companies went under, are gone and are not coming back; the restaurant industry was impacted the worst in my opinion. I have not seen so many favorites of mines disappear. In addition, the same happened to many retailers that were here one second and gone the next. The pandemic was like an asteroid struck this country and the aftermath was unrelenting.

Kids, I have never seen children be in school one day, but then be out for an entire year or most of the year. Virtual learning became a new fad, while I have done online classes; virtual is a bit different now than what it was when I was in school, particularly in college. Kids’ brains are fried and they need that social interaction especially the young ones as it helps build their social skills America.

Children were deprived of that, high schoolers did not get to experience all the greatness of prom, graduation and senior year. Incoming freshmen in college were deprived of that experience of their first year as what we deem independent adults. Hell, some kids were moved from one grade to the next because what were the school districts expected to do in the middle of a pandemic America?

The year 2020 will be remembered for years to come and I honestly cannot wait to see what things will be like 5 years from now. Yes, 2021 is seeing some change, but we’re not back to normal and anyone thinking we will ever be back to normal should think again. Nothing will ever be the same. I know so many people, family and friends who contracted COVID-19 and did not survive. Some didn’t understand the plight of the coronavirus because they didn’t contract it or didn’t sit and watch someone they love falter day-by-day as a result of the virus. Not being able to visit someone who was deathly ill and them not being in the presence of family in the worst time of ever: clinging to life is unfathomable. Hospitals were packed beyond capacity, nurses, doctors and first-care workers worked relentless shifts trying to save lives and be motivators to those who were clinging to life.

I’m an essential worker, so during this pandemic I had to work every single day potentially exposing myself to people with COVID who were ignorant to not wearing a mask, refusing to wear a mask or just not adhering to the fact that we are in a pandemic was frustrated to say the least. If the pandemic has taught me anything it is two things: 1) Life is precious and 2) family is everything.

Appreciate what you have and tell the people most important in your life how much they matter NOW and not later, you never know when the person who you take for granted is no longer in your orbit.