LeNora Faye, 38, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Hindsight is 2021. Can you say “20/20 vision” with a straight face after the year that was? OK, I’m done. Goodnight, everybody!

March 2020, I sat on the couch, eyes glued to my television. My fellow Canadians were watching the same thing, counting the minutes with bated breath. A wood podium with a carved maple leaf stood at the bottom of the six steps leading to Rideau Cottage’s entrance, home of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. The microphone silent as the T.V camera zoomed in on the black front door. Thirty minutes passed. Our fearless leader was late. I scanned Twitter for any signs of life. Under the live stream of the press conference, someone wrote, “Can someone go up and ring the doorbell?”

I watched the news three times a day while my city remained under a local state of emergency. Already in a state of flux, I took some comfort in knowing the world froze in uncertainty. I had been waffling between getting a temp job and focusing on building a lifestyle brand. When my city went into lockdown with rent and utility bills deferrable for three months, I took that as a sign. I stopped sending out resumes to jobs that I knew I didn’t want.

That first month of lockdown, I wore a wig to the grocery store. It helped ease the tension and anxiety I felt while searching for toilet paper. Masks weren’t mandatory, yet, but security was spraying everyone down with sanitizer. Shelves were bare. Gas prices were so low that I wanted to drive across Canada so that I could fill up at 58 cents a litre. I took solace in knowing I now had the perfect excuse to say “no” to anything that took my focus from my creative endeavours. “Sorry, you know, C*vid.”

So there I was, happily blogging and podcasting away in my self-isolated bubble of home. And then, along came Black Lives Matter protests. I’ll admit, I’ve felt removed from the Black American experience. I’m a Biracial Black Canadian who grew up in White communities. I know very little about Black culture in Canada. My Black family barely acknowledges their heritage. So, when my brother and his two kids, who are White-passing,  attended BLM rallies in their small town on the Canadian Prairies, I knew I could no longer plead ignorance.

Addressing my insecurities about being half Black was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve had to do. Talking with other Black people about issues I felt inadequate to address, UN-FREAKIN-COMFORTABLE! But, I did it. And still do it. My White family had a lot of questions. I even had discussions about skin colour with my nephews. Talking about White privilege as someone who benefits from it, while still being oppressed by it in ways I didn’t even know about, is confusing. When I figure it out, I’ll tell you.

So that was my June 2020.

I spent the summer months travelling between my home and the lake cabin that I use. I self-isolated by a lake in the mountains. I played with the baby chipmunks, stepped on some baby mice by accident, and took photos of the deer who dined in the yard. The highways were quiet all summer as the borders were closed to tourists. I’ve never enjoyed road trips more.

By September, masks were mandatory. So, I bought four rhinestone-encrusted ones with filters. These days, going to the grocery store takes me twice as long because E.V.E.R.Y.B.O.D.Y wants to know where I get my masks. Even the men comment. Pharmacists in the back cubicles stand up and yell out to ask me about my masks. It’s so funny. I also blind people under the fluorescent lights. The funniest encounter happened while on a road trip. I was at the checkout when the cashier started to panic. Both store managers appeared at the till.  The cashier thought she was in trouble until the managers, in unison, asked me where I got my mask. The poor girl was so relieved I thought she was going to faint. She told me how worried she was. The power of bling, I tell you!

By October, I was back at home, and things were grim in my city. Numbers were going up, and our Canadian healthcare system was struggling. Being childfree, I didn’t have to deal with the many concerns others had, like childcare, school, bored kids, etc. My creativity was trucking along nicely, and I invested my travel money in new electronics to help me. I also went to IKEA to buy a bookshelf and walked out with two nightstands, a new coffee table, a kitchen prep table, a frame for the guest bed, and an alarm clock. Oh, and the bookshelf.

After I set everything up, I had an epiphany. I am so happy that this pandemic hit when I’m not sharing a house with anyone. I have all the personal space I need and time to explore the depth of my imagination.

With home gatherings once again banned, I made my house as cozy as I could. If I couldn’t do a winter escape, I’d get the accoutrements to create a paradise at home: luxury candles, some fluffy throw blankets, extra pillows, another oversized ottoman to curl up on. Heck, even a Disney Plus subscription so I can do The Simpsons marathons. My house became a fancy hotel suite I don’t have to check out of. Minus housekeeping service.

2020 was not as weird as 2009 was for me, but it came pretty close. I learned to empathize with people who have anxiety. A lot of feelings I didn’t know I had came to the surface to be purged. Half-empty journals got filled. I was writing on random bits of scrap paper at one point. Talk about emotional baggage removal. For that, I’m thankful. But did I need a global pandemic to gain clarity for my life? Next time, note to self, ask for a sign that involves a 2-week vacation to Palm Springs!

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