Metro Weekly

A Year of COVID: Our readers weigh in about life during a pandemic

A year ago, COVID-19 shut down the United States. How has the past year changed our lives?

Illustration by Scott G. Brooks

We all know the story of how we got to this point. We know the story of the prior administration, through misinformation and mishandling, quite possibly making a situation much worse than it ever had to be. We also know the story of science making extraordinary strides, developing not one, but a multitude of vaccines in record time, to help return normalcy to a world that had been fully upended by one of the most deadly, devastating pandemics in human history.

We have grieved the loss of our friends and family. We have watched businesses evaporate right before our eyes and our favorite restaurants and nightspots shutter forever. We have watched others pivot and adapt, surviving — if not thriving — until full success can once again be achieved.

We have lived for a year now within self-contained, shrunken spheres of isolation. We have turned to technology to pass the time until things begin to return to normal, whatever normal may end up looking like. We have Zoomed to excess. We have spent countless hours immersed in streaming services, awash in nostalgic content from the past, as well as programming reshaped to fit the parameters of a socially distanced, quarantined existence. We have rediscovered our primal connection with food — cooking, baking, concocting.

We have socially distanced. We have avoided hugs. We have donned masks. We have reached out to support. We have withdrawn into ourselves.

We have survived a year of the coronavirus pandemic. And even with a hopeful end on the horizon, we know that it will be another year, perhaps two, before life is back to normal as we remember it. Will we stop taking our daily lives for granted in the way we did before March 2020 shuttered the planet? When we reflect on the massive amount of lives lost to COVID — over half a million in America alone — how can we not have empathy, compassion, and a newfound sense of appreciation for all of our fellow human beings? How can we not be forever changed by this year of forced solace and reflection?

What transpires in the year ahead, as we are vaccinated and attain “herd immunity,” will be what ultimately defines us as a species. There are so many selfish among us, but we believe that they are outmatched by the selfless. And it is selflessness that will prevail as society enters a new chapter, one scorched by trauma imposed upon us by an unseen, microscopic assailant.

In this special Metro Weekly Forum, we turned to our readers to find out what this past year has been like for them, and how it has impacted them on a personal level. As usual, they replied with intelligence, insight, thoughtfulness, and a full understanding of what we’ve lost, and what’s at stake for the future. We know that you’ll find something of their experiences in your own.

We may have been isolated for much of this past year, but as you’ll see, we were never alone.

What has the past year been like for you?

David Amoroso, 57, Gay, Va.: Very hectic. Given the nature of the pandemic and all of the political issues, I buried myself in my artwork. Focusing on my art and encouraging others kept me in a positive mindset.

John Aravosis, 57, Gay, D.C.: Odd. I’ve always been somewhat of a homebody, and I worked at home even before COVID, so you’d think the last year wouldn’t have been that big a change for me — and in some ways it hasn’t been. But I suspect, for me, that means the impact was more subtle, but still very real. I still worried like everybody else about getting sick. And there are only so many different paths you can take to walk your dog, when that’s the only thing that gets you out of the house, other than groceries.

Christopher Banks, 53, Gay, D.C.: I feel like I’m wound way up, much more so than normal. I feel like my reactions tend to be disproportionate to the actual experience. I’m reacting often as if I’m under some kind of threat or attack. I find myself repeating in my head, “OMG…I can’t take one more thing. Not ONE MORE THING.”

Brandon Bayton, 45, Gay, D.C.: Although the past year has been isolating, it hasn’t been a bad year. Luckily, I did not lose anyone close to me due to COVID-19, and for that I’m very thankful. Over the past year, after taking a deep reflective look at my life, I’ve been able to completely re-tune for the better. The pandemic forced me to stop the daily grind and search my heart for my true passions. This has led to some phenomenal positive transformations and achievements that are really paying off on many levels.

Robert Beam, 65, Gay, N.C.: It’s been very trying and devastating. I am an artist and all of the art venues I participate in were canceled due to the virus. Therefore, my financial situation was turned upside down, and I had to adjust to what savings I had to survive off of. My social life and family life was nonexistent. I was not able to see or visit anyone in fear of catching the virus. I became a hermit.

Regie Cabico, 50, Gay, D.C.: A year ago, I thought I’d be evicted. As a performing artist and arts educator, I am grateful to the State Arts Agencies and nonprofits and school teachers who believed in my work. I was at the mercy of those who believe I have something to offer and who could find the time and the budget to hire me. I also turned 50 last May and I emailed 50 people and told them to send me an internal wish of good health and happiness. I wrote a poem and told folks, do not feel like you need to reply but I hope we will reunite. And let’s talk about the racism and assault within the arts communities that have outraged local and national queer and BIPOC folks. The dismantling of white supremacy and the take down of the last presidential administration with the assault on the Capitol is still reeling with me.

Matthew Caws, 53, Ally, U.K.: The past year has been a very strange mix of worry and happiness. Worry for everyone’s health, worry about the future, but happiness at home. I’ve been a touring musician for decades and having an enforced break, with no guilt, because it wasn’t my doing, has been something I’ve wanted for a long time, but have never had the reasonable grounds to claim. My wife and I have a toddler, and to be totally present for a whole year of his life like this is something I will always be grateful for.

Maybe it goes without saying that I had an enormous amount of anxiety in the months leading up to the election. It defined the last year as much as the pandemic did. The pre- and post- difference is very noticeable.

Curt “C.J.” Chavez, 44, Gay, N.M.: New Mexico had one of the longest, most strict lockdowns in the country. I run a fitness company, and our studios were shuttered and my company’s life was on its deathbed. Because of the pure dedication of my team, we were able to convert our delivery virtually. The transition was scary but today I look back — exhilarating. Last year was one of the scariest rides I’ve ever been on, but one that living through it — rewarding! I also met a man of my dreams and for the first time in my life I gave a promise ring.

Charlotte Clymer, 34, Lesbian, D.C.: I feel blessed in many ways, particularly in my health, but it’s been lonely. A full year has gone by without seeing dear friends in person. There’s a way that affects all of us that’s hard to capture, but deep down, we can feel it. I am luckier than most and mindful of that, but I miss my loved ones.

Emil de Cou, 63, Gay, Calif.: This past year has been for all of us one unlike any I can think of. The last concert I conducted in Washington, D.C. was on January 11, 2020 with Diana Ross and the National Symphony Orchestra. It was the most beautiful week I think I have ever experienced in D.C. — working with someone I’ve loved since childhood, and going on a long bike ride with my husband in 72-degree weather! After that, I went back to Seattle for a performance of Prokofiev’s Cinderella at the opera house. And then, FULL STOP. Lively San Francisco was a ghost town. It brought back terrible memories of the Castro in the mid ’80s when Leif and I moved to the city.

Throughout the AIDS crisis, wars, and natural disasters, music has always played an important role in lifting the spirits of our fellow citizens and giving comfort to friends and loved ones. This is the first time in recent history where music has been silent and that, for me and so many performers, is the most difficult part of this time we find ourselves in.

Ray Daniels, 53, Gay, N.Y.: The past year has been the best of times and the worst of times. I learned to live a much simpler life and to just be, rather than always be on the go. I learned to appreciate friendships and relationships in a new way. I was able to reconnect with folks I’d been too busy to catch up with and I was able to leave a job that I did not love for something I was more passionate about.

Alphonso David, 51, Gay, N.Y.: It has been an incredibly challenging year. Like millions of people in this nation and around the world, I have lost loved ones and other loved ones have fallen ill. It has been a year that tested my resilience and resolve. But it has also inspired me with how we have shown up for one another — and with all that we have been able to accomplish together.

At the Human Rights Campaign, COVID-19 forced us to drastically alter the way we do our work. But learning from the experiences of our elders, and drawing on our shared strength, we came together as an organization and as a movement to help each other weather the storm. We provided new resources, we created spaces to gather virtually, and we shone a bright light on COVID-19’s devastating impact, particularly on Black, Brown, and trans communities.

Despite all of the challenges, we were able to achieve landmark victories for equality from the United States Supreme Court to the ballot box. And in the face of a global pandemic, attacks on our democracy and a long-overdue reckoning with racial injustice, we redoubled our commitment to advancing justice and equity and to transforming our systems so that they truly serve all of us.

As we look to what comes next, we cannot forget those we have lost, or the lessons of the past year. We carry them with us as we work to build a nation that is more just, more compassionate, and more equal.

Terry Dicey, 68, Ally, Fla.: Very difficult. As a graphic artist for the music/entertainment industry, my work has disappeared.

Eric E., 51, Gay, Md.: Sheltered, quiet, lonely.

Ben Finzel, 53, Gay, Va.: Up and down. Work has been great, thank goodness, but the stress of the pandemics — not just COVID-19, but structural racism and an uneven economy — has been hard. Seeing and feeling the change from just the first few weeks of the Biden-Harris Administration is validation that it wasn’t just me: having that other man as President during the worst American crisis of the past 100 years made it all that much more awful. I’m so relieved to have federal leadership again.

Russwin Francisco, 54, Gay, D.C.: This is the year of change. Every aspect of my life, health, work, relationships and preoccupations shifted in significant ways. At [Bite the Fruit], we added curbside pickup to our services. I learned to lean on my staff more, trusting and empowering them. I had to let go of my need to control everything.

My relationship with my mom, whom I saw every week pre-pandemic, was affected the most. We used to make meals together and linger for a few hours after dessert just talking. I miss our hugs and long face-to-face interactions.

James Gaghan, 35, Ally, N.C.: Stressful, because my passion of bringing and producing live comedy has been paused for a year. Hopeful, because it has not only allowed me to focus on myself, but also see so many amazing people push for positive change.

Jean-Michel Giraud, 60, Gay, Va.: I think I have a heightened perception of what is going on out there. More time alone has brought more self-reflecting but also a sense of comfort in the new routine, even as I miss people and a lot of what I was doing. There’s nothing you can do against something like this — you have to adapt. Professionally, it has been a year of seeing how resilient Friendship Place could be. Seeing how we could adapt and meet the demand. The staff have done great work. They’ve shown so much courage. It’s been inspiring to see how well we could manage in the pandemic. And I’m deeply thankful for all the support we’ve received from community members.

Nicholas Griffith, 57, Gay, Md.: Extremely isolating. As a single gay man of a particular age, I don’t think I have ever felt this isolated in my life. It has been very hard.

Garry Gsquare, 69, Gay, S.C.: A little lonely, many more solo activities and dinners. No going to movies or the theater since they closed. Eating in a restaurant has almost been nonexistent unless an outdoor setting was available.

Eric Halley, 47, Gay, D.C.: Frankly, not as bad as for some others. Having lived with HIV for 27 years from the age of 20, you learn coping skills, you learn to survive. Keeping calm and focusing on perspective has helped to channel my energies and frustration into productive activities. With the new gift of time, I focused on self improvement. The world is going to structurally change after this epidemic, so best to plan for it.

Since the gyms were closed, I taught myself to do handstands, started doing 100 push-ups a day, and other exercises from wellness apps. I began my journey to learn French, and brushed up on my geometry and calculus. I am not a baker, but I baked bread and cakes. I started to drink more water and eat better to plan for, as Dolly Parton said, “when life is good again.”

Dan Heimbach, 56, Gay, Md.: The past year has been tough. I lost my favorite bar. I miss going out. I’m hopeful that things are going to get better.

David Hollingsworth, 35, Gay, N.C.: Stressful, boring, mundane — you know, all the fun stuff.

Terry Irons, 60, Lesbian, Md.: It’s the longest I have been home in the last 25 years. I am used to being on the road at least 90 percent of the time. We lost several friends in the last year to COVID. We lost my wife’s mother and godmother and my nephew. So it’s definitely been a year of reflection.

Erik Forrest Jackson, 53, Gay, N.Y.: I’m a writer who works from home, so there were times when I could almost fool myself into feeling like nothing had changed. But early in the lockdown, as New York was being hit really hard, the all-too-frequent ambulance sirens would burst my bubble. Life became a weird cycle of cynical doomsday jokes to keep the emotion at bay, then waves of overwhelming anxiety where I could keep nothing at bay.

I’ve definitely been living on a higher emotional frequency this last year, tears lurking just beneath the surface. Nothing feels simple anymore, and maybe that will be one of the positive outcomes of this devastating time: I feel much more present, embracing all that the moment offers.

David Johns, 38, Same Gender Loving, D.C.: I am thankful to have survived the last year — the year since the novel coronavirus changed everything we know and may have taken for granted. I am thankful to my ancestors and those who continue to conspire for my success for enabling me to survive but to also thrive. That so many members of my family and our community have experienced so much trauma and tragedy-often without the ability to grieve in ways that have historically provided comfort. My hope is that we commit to employing new solutions to seemingly intractable problems such that all members of our community and country can get free.

Colleen Kennedy, 42, Ally, D.C.: I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I am still employed, I can work from home, and while several immediate family members contracted COVID, they have all recovered or are recovering. But I was plagued by insomnia for months, became an anxious mess, and have been very unproductive and lonely.

John Klenert, 70, Gay, D.C.: I think the easiest word to use would be “challenging.” When the pandemic began last March, like so many others, I did not believe it would take this long to get where we are today. When the previous President started talking about fake cures, bleach treatments, blaming Chinese Asians, I was frankly shocked at his stupidity and lack of basic science.

Denny Lyon, 76, Gay, Md.: It’s been very closed off and quiet. I have missed family gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries, and even our honeymoon. My job was terminated.

Kevin J. Maurice, 58, Gay, Ore.: Thankfully I have a boyfriend of now 2-plus years, and an almost two-year-old labrador pup to get through this pandemic with. The boyfriend works as the front desk receptionist of a walk-in clinic, so he got his vaccination in early January. Me? Still waiting. I, for one, still will not go into a movie theater or restaurant even after vaccinations.

Daniel McGibney, 48, Gay, Va.: Lonely, frustrating, challenging, heartbreaking, depressing.

Adam O., 35, Gay, Md.: Absolutely stressful to say the least. It’s been scary to deal with an invisible threat that can get you from anywhere.

Nick P., 63, Gay, D.C.: Really pretty lonely. Watched way too much Netflix.

Brett Parson, 53, Gay, D.C.: I retired from my job of 27 years right before the pandemic and was out of the country for four months from February to June of 2020. When I returned, everything was locked-down and upside down. While I’m fortunate that my immediate family has been healthy physically and financially, watching people about whom I care struggle has been difficult.

Rayceen Pendarvis, AARP-eligible Community Elder, Gender-Blender, LGBTQ, D.C.: It has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve cried, I’ve felt lost, and I’ve also felt grateful to be alive. Having family, friends, and my colleagues at Team Rayceen Productions has brought me comfort, and creating online content for the Team Rayceen YouTube channel has given me a sense of purpose!

Matthew Randall, 60, Gay, Va.: I read all of the books in my “guilt pile,” binged a ton of shows, viewed all my DVDs before donating them, and even completed a jigsaw puzzle. I spent far too much time on screens during the pandemic — I’ve never been a big television or movie watcher, and now I’m all caught up, thanks. I organized every closet, drawer, and room in the house, including the attic.

When Dominion Stage went dark, like other performing arts organizations, I suddenly had weekday evenings and weekends free that used to be filled with rehearsals, performances, meetings, and activities. I used the time to tackle long-neglected projects, like working with an Arlington County student to create a completely new website, including an archives section featuring programs going back to 1949, that I digitally scanned during the lockdown. Financially, emotionally, and physically, I was one of the fortunate ones. I feel as though I thrived.

Danica Roem, 36, Transgender, Va.: The past year has seen an unprecedented amount of constituent service requests from the people of Haymarket, Gainesville, Manassas Park and my lifelong home of Manassas. My constituents have needed help with everything from accessing unemployment claims and DMV services to enrolling in Medicaid and finding free food for their families when they were at their most desperate.

Meanwhile, my office also received an unprecedented number of constituent emails calling for action on criminal justice and policing reforms. I’m proud to say I voted for every reform that came to the floor of the House of Delegates and was signed into law, including a ban on no-knock warrants and chokeholds, which directly led to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. I marched with my constituents calling for racial justice in Gainesville and Haymarket and then led fundraising efforts that netted more than $70,000 to help rebuild a historic Black church in Gainesville called Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church that was charred in 2012 during an arson fire and left unusable.

Finally, amidst the strife of racism and a pandemic, one of my out student constituents from Manassas Park High School sent me an email last summer asking me to introduce a bill to ban the LGBTQ+ panic defense in Virginia. Not only did I take him up on it but Matthew Shepard’s mother Judy testified for it in committee on both the House and Senate side, and it ended up passing the General Assembly.

I’m proud that we turned the request of a student into action and delivered on behalf of LGBTQ Virginians everywhere so our out teenagers today in 2021 don’t have to live with the same fear I did as a 14-year-old closeted high school freshman in October 1998 when Matthew Shepard was murdered. It’s far past time we told LGBTQ Virginians that we will welcome, celebrate, respec, and protect them here because of who they are, not despite it, and seek justice for victims and survivors of bigoted violence instead of of blaming them for being hurt or killed.

Bobby Russo, 31, Gay, Wash.: The past year has been one of constant uncertainty. Anxiety about contracting the virus, concern for at risk family members, and the constant specter of financial ruin have all been consistent forces in my life. All of this, paired with the grief of witnessing the death toll climb to unimaginable heights has felt, at times, unbearable.

It has not all been awful though. I’ve had to reinforce coping mechanisms that have always been difficult for me to manage the stress and I’ve discovered a mental fortitude that I did not know I had. As life returns to whatever semblance of normal the vaccine is able to create, I hope I can hang on to the tools I’ve had to create to live in the COVID hellscape.

Mark Schulte, 56, Bisexual, N.Y.: In a word, HELL! My life has been totally upended and I’m angry and resentful about it.

Ryan Spahn, 40, Gay, N.Y.: I was talking with a friend recently and I said to her that this past year feels like what I imagine being in a cult must feel like: you’re trapped, you’re without your family, you’re living a very specialized experience, you see a select group of people, you’re deeply restricted, you stay in the same place, you’re scared all the time, you have no free will, it’s not like any other year you’ve ever known, you want out.

Penny Sterling, 61, Transgender, N.Y.: Frustrating and destabilizing in many ways, but also financially stabilizing in a pretty horrible way. I haven’t had a full-time job since 2017, when my job was eliminated 18 months after I transitioned. I’ve been making ends meet with a combination of emptying out my savings, part-time retail work, freelance sports TV work, and performing. The pandemic eliminated the last two, and I got furloughed from the retail job, but the weekly COVID relief payments I was getting through unemployment was stable, regular money, which helped both financially and emotionally.

I have a friend who has a small studio and some cameras so I’ve been able to record a couple of things for “virtual” shows, and I’ve also done a couple through Zoom, but I really miss being in front of an audience. And I’ve gone back to work in a much-reduced capacity, which in many ways is fine with me, because my job is in a neighboring “blue collar” community — which is a nicer way than saying it’s filled with Trumpist assholes who are both transphobic and who think COVID is either overblown or a complete hoax. So when I work, I’m constantly having people pull down their masks to misgender me. Not fun.

Hancie Stokes, 25, Queer, D.C.: I experienced panic and anxiety attacks pretty regularly at the beginning of the pandemic. A few friends of mine passed away from non-COVID-related things and it just broke me. I was so focused on friends and family staying safe and healthy in relation to the virus, but I wasn’t prepared to lose people in other ways. I’ve always been a crier, but I think I’ve cried more this year than any before, either from sadness, anxiety, or just sheer boredom.

Dana V., 61, Ally, Pa.: Never would I have guessed we would be in a pandemic. I had retired and was working part time at a crafts store. The first day we were open for business on May 15, I panicked and quit. After that I went into hibernation. That led to depression. I’m still not completely past it.

Pixie Windsor, 61, Bisexual, D.C.: Stressful, lots of reworking and reconfiguring! Lots of work and yet, so much to be grateful for! I haven’t worked this many hours in years.

Bob Witeck, 69, Gay, Va.: This year has been a roller coaster of emotions and discovery and, at times, some sleeplessness. When lock down began a year ago, I often tried to start each day with a long walk to stay healthy, clear the air, enjoy the outdoors and discover great walks and paths around D.C. and Arlington. Sometimes those were magical and just what the doctor ordered.

Since I’ve kept in good health, it has been somewhat rewarding personally but equally painful seeing and witnessing suffering, illness, loss of livelihoods and income for others. I know my circumstances are so different, so privileged from others’ experiences. During the early weeks of the pandemic, my older sister, living in South Carolina, passed away from cancer — and I felt it essential to travel there for a couple days before her death to spend some quality time with her and her family. The risks were uncertain and unknowable, but the need outweighed them all.

Douglas Yeuell, 60, Gay, Va.: It has been confusing and complicated as we all figure out how to be in a world changed. What’s up, what’s down, what will be? Who knows? One develops a sense of melancholy.

Merle Yost, 62, Gay, Calif.: It has been both the longest and shortest year of my life. It has been living groundhog day over and over, making it hard to know what day it is. The COVID world has forced me to totally revamp my business and it has changed it forever. This may be the most consequential year of my life.

What activities or habits have you changed during the pandemic?

John Aravosis: I stopped visiting my 91-year-old mother, which hurt. One of the joys of working for myself has been the ability to visit mom for a month here or there, and help her out while I work long-distance. Christmas of 2019 was the last time I saw her. Fortunately, I got the J&J vaccine a week ago, so I’ll be seeing mom for Easter!

Christopher Banks: I’m the production manager for a theater. My life is all about making things in a room with a bunch of other people. It’s my solace, the place where I feel vital, and that’s gone. It’s like a ghost town in the Old West.

Gordon Binder, 72, Gay, D.C.: No museum visits. Wearing masks almost all the time outside of home. As an artist, I used to sketch a lot of cute guys at JR.’s and Number 9, but that’s gone by the wayside as I haven’t been to the bars since last March. What’s more, masks obscure faces!

Matthew Caws: Being a man of a certain age, I’m very conscious of the fact feeling good isn’t free like it used to be, it takes work now. All this time at home has given me the chance to come to terms with my health. I’m determined to keep this still relatively “springy” feeling going as long as I can, so I’ve made all the changes I can. I stopped eating meat, cut way down on drinking, started doing a (sometimes very) little yoga or going for a (sometimes very) short run every night before bed. Even the smallest bit has made a difference. I’ve also taken up a regular meditation practice. These are things I’ve always done sporadically, but now they’re daily commitments.

Curt “C.J.” Chavez: Eating out has been the biggest change. Everything is closed, so we became really good in the kitchen.

The one activity I miss most is going to the movies. I’ve been just fine with Netflix and Chill, though!

Charlotte Clymer: I’ve been way more productive, but this isn’t the kind of productivity I enjoy.

Emil de Cou: Not being able to perform or even hear live music has been the first change. I travel a great deal for work and being in home lockdown has certainly changed my perspective on what is most important. Time with my husband Leif, who is also a conductor, was always difficult to manage with his orchestra being in Connecticut and me working in D.C. and Seattle. We have enjoyed being gentlemen gardeners and even co-parented a pair of mourning dove chicks. Leif placed a wooden wine box above our dining room door and in a day we had two parents take up residence with us.

Ray Daniels: I have cooked much more than ever before, mostly out of necessity. I stopped going to the gym, so the combination has proven devastating for my waist. I started reading again as a form of entertainment and I have watched more television than ever before in my life.

Terry Dicey: I rarely leave the house. Many Floridians don’t take COVID seriously.

Andy Doyle, 49, Gay, Calif.: I stepped up hiking, which has been my saving grace. And I recently bought a surfboard. Next up: a wetsuit and lessons.

Robert Foster, 53, Gay, U.K.: Clearly the lockdowns — we’ve had three — have impacted on our social mobility, but they have also served to refocus priorities. Sadly, little overseas travel, which has been annoying, as has been the inability to congregate with friends and family. It’s also impacted on the tactility of friendships, leaving many people nervous about how to greet and engage with others. It has, however, encouraged us to explore more of our local resources and to spend more time using facilities at home that we would merely have taken for granted before. Hell, we even emptied the garage after five years!

Russwin Francisco: I have learned to hang out with myself. I have been writing more, allowing myself introspection and reflection. I’ve also substituted a few cocktails with herbal tea. I’m learning to listen to myself and self care. My husband is naturally more introverted. Where I am overwhelmed with isolation, he savors his time alone. I am learning to temper my fetish for meaningful conversation, which I craved all the time. I used to keep the TV on, not to watch, but to keep the silence from being too loud. Now the silence doesn’t bother me as much.

Nicholas Griffith: I have become a much better cook. Now that we are coming out of this horrible pandemic all I can think about is how to drop the extra weight.

Eric Halley: Routine has a way of bringing order to a world that appears chaotic. Each morning: up early, make bed, make coffee, brush teeth, start remote work day. Also: Less booze, more water, better eating habits, less processed foods, less shaving, more beard.

David Johns: At least three things have changed for me during the pandemic. First, I have a pandemic puppy — Baldwin, named in honor of my favorite author and historian James “Uncle Jimmy” Baldwin. My Baldwin is curious, compassionate, and great for reminding me to take breaks, to laugh, and to seek joy.

Second, I am more committed to my physical health and well-being. I try to start most days with meditation and working out and find that when I am able to prioritize this time for myself, I am happier and more productive.

Third, I am more selfish with how I guard my time. Death can be a great instructor, and the pandemic has helped me to appreciate that death is promised. As such, I have become more guarded about how I spend my time, which includes spending time with friends (in my quarantine bubble, in ways that are as safe as possible) and how I prioritize my time professionally.

Colleen Kennedy: No more happy hours, live theatre, or concerts. But working at home has allowed for long morning yoga sessions and taking a walk or riding a stationary bike on lunch break. I’ve learned to read Tarot cards, mastered making the perfect bowl of popcorn, and finished knitting my first (lopsided) scarf.

Jonathan Knox, 53, Gay, Md.: I definitely communicate with friends and loved ones a lot more. I’ve stopped texting and started calling on the phone. I need to hear people’s voices since I was unable to physically see them.

Daniel McGibney: I hardly step outside the house, more to protect others than myself. I’ve also been way more interactive online, participating in more live interactive streaming with friends and people I don’t know but with similar interests.

Adam O.: I’ve cut out going to ice hockey games or stepping out to go to a happy hour. Now it’s just have tea and read Agatha Christie on the couch.

Rayceen Pendarvis: I now avoid large crowds, and don’t hug people when I see them, which is very difficult for me, because I love people. But I can still blow kisses from a safe distance.

Matthew Randall: I had my bike overhauled and ride it now. I adopted a rescue dog, who’s been a constant and delightful companion. With so much free time, I allowed myself to lean into OCD tendencies and just organize and clean All The Things without worrying that I’m postponing something more important. I love afternoon naps now.

Bobby Russo: COVID has shrunk my world incredibly. While I’ve worked through most of the pandemic, I haven’t done much else. Go to work, come home, eat, sleep, wake up, go to work, come home rinse and repeat. I’ve always been a homebody, I enjoy it, but having the choice taken from me has made my small apartment feel like a prison cell.

Mark Schulte: EVERYTHING! My life came to a screeching halt forcing me to create new habits, all of which I HATE!

Ryan Spahn: I have been involved in a movie club with two other couples. We have been meeting on Zoom since April. We hang out for a while before the movie starts, eating and gabbing, and then we simultaneously press play. We mute our computers, so we still see each other, and we text as the movie plays. So far, we have watched a total of 49 films, the first being Invisible Man and the latest being 9 to 5.

Penny Sterling: I stopped riding my bike. I stopped going to coffeeshops and writing. I stopped going to concerts. I stopped giving performances in person. Everything I do now, I do from the exact same place in my house. I write here, I read here, I watch movies here, I record my podcast here, I perform here. My world is the right-hand side of a brown leather recliner couch in my living room. I’m wearing a groove from my bedroom to this spot in my house.

Hancie Stokes: I used to go out to eat all the time and have not dined out at a restaurant once during the pandemic. I still order food from my favorite local spots, but only do carry out. I honestly don’t know how I could enjoy a meal or a drink out knowing how deadly the virus has been.

Lizz Winstead, 59, Ally, N.Y.: The most bonkers thing I did? I wrote a comedy special and performed it on the shore of a lake with an audience in Kayaks. Being someone who has made a career examining society, then using humor to break it all down, I could not let 2020 go by undocumented, so I created my own venue in a COVID-friendly outdoor space so I could perform.

Merle Yost: I eat better, I walk every day, I slowed down in many important ways. I am more focused on what is to come and curious about how this shared trauma is going to change civilization. Time to grief the past, and see what is coming.

How has your dating life/relationship fared during the pandemic?

David Amoroso: Nonexistent.

John Aravosis: Nonexistent!

Christopher Banks: Fortunately, I have been happily married for many years. Without Hakim, I don’t know what I’d do with myself. He’s the one who keeps me from spinning out of control. Him and my dog, Langston, and my cat, Hughes, are the entirety of a world that has shrunk down to the walls of our apartment.

Brandon Bayton: I’ve had no dating life. Since I’m immunocompromised because of my kidney transplant, I’ve been in a very guarded state of continuing quarantine. The way I see it, I have to not only protect my health, but also honor the life of the individual responsible for giving me a new life.

Regie Cabico: Dating really sucked until I actually met someone in November on the apps. We have still been dating and I am truly shocked at how it’s been going. I would normally freak out and ghost a guy, but I think the loneliness of not having someone to binge watch Bridgerton with forced me into humility.

Charlotte Clymer: I can only speak for myself, but dating has looked impossible during COVID. I’m so happy for others who have made it work, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk for me. I would rather be on a date and fully enjoy it instead of dealing with the anxiety of whether I’m putting this person or others in danger.

Ray Daniels: I was supposed to be married last year, but we are still on track for the rescheduled date this year. Oddly enough, we had fewer disagreements quarantined together than we did when we were both working outside of the home.

Robert Foster: Remarkably well. Two married people getting to know one another all over again in an intense, and largely enjoyable fashion. Learning to rediscover what we liked about each other — and not just about our respective places in our social/employment groupings. Identifying and discussing issues that we had skirted over or ignored over the years. Sadly, rediscovering bad habits, too — eating too much, staying in bed too long, watching endless boxed sets. Getting bone idle with no galvanising influences to challenge that behavior.

Russwin Francisco: My husband and I have grown closer. We’ve always talked before, but our conversations now have a heightened quality to them. We tend to drop right into the heart of what’s going on.

Nicholas Griffith: Dating life? What the hell is that? I occasionally have sex. This is out of necessity.

Eric Halley: Nonexistent. I already survived the gay holocaust. I’m certainly not letting a novel coronavirus take me out.

Terry Irons: Because my wife SONiA and I travel all the time, we are used to being in close quarters in hotel rooms while on tour, so truly being at home we have more space than usual. If anything it has made us very grateful that we are so comfortable with each other and enjoying being together. After almost 24 years I feel blessed that my wife truly is my best friend.

David Johns: What dating life? My relationship with myself is happy and healthy. Me, myself, and I are thriving. Cue Beyonce.

John Klenert: It is totally non-existent. Although I do have more rain checks than Noah had animals on his Ark!

Johnny Shea, 52, Gay, N.J.: I’m in an open, very loving marriage. The pandemic has stopped our playing around. We are still madly in love, together, and now, monogamous.

Smiffy, 50, Gay, D.C.: Single as a Pringle.

Penny Sterling: Dating is hard when you’re young and cisgender. Imagine the degree of difficulty when you’re old and transgender. And that’s in normal times. I’ve had exactly one date, which occurred during the late summer lull. Then things got bad again, and even though we said we’d catch each other later, time during a pandemic is a weird thing. Suddenly it’s been a third of a year and now it’s just weird.

Hancie Stokes: One positive of the pandemic has been strengthening my relationship with my partner. She and I celebrated our three-year anniversary just weeks into the pandemic. We moved into a bigger apartment, started cooking and baking more, found ways to keep ourselves busy and honestly, it’s been incredible. I think the pandemic has been a real test for a lot of relationships and I feel confident that if we could get through this time together, our relationship is only better for it.

Lizz Winstead: I am unclear what this dating life is that you speak of.

Merle Yost: It was hard enough to date before the pandemic and now it is impossible. While hookups are possible, I didn’t do them before and I won’t do them after. Having been out and lived through the entire AID’s crisis, there are definitely some similar overtones, except this is the whole world and not just select communities.

Zar, 35, LGBTQ, Md.: It has been basically the same as the previous two years — a lot of nothing.

What do you miss most about pre-pandemic life?

Robert Beam: EVERYTHING!

Charlotte Clymer: I miss spending time with close friends on the weekend. I miss happy hours. I miss going to A League of Her Own and drinking with queer women. I miss giving talks in person. I miss touching door handles and stair banisters without fear.

Emil de Cou: I miss music, audiences, the many wonderful musicians that I am fortunate to work with. While I always felt like I could use a break from conducting twenty-five Nutcracker performances each November and December, I really miss seeing the thousands of little kids coming to hear an orchestra for the first time and their look of amazement peering into the orchestra pit at intermission.

Ray Daniels: I miss live concerts and live theater. I miss that anticipation just before the curtain opens and I miss the roar of applause at the end. Livestreams are cute, but they can never replace the real thing.

Andy Doyle, 49, Gay, Calif.: I will never again take for granted a simple night out.

Russwin Francisco: I miss going out. My favorite weekend activity was to visit a new restaurant or catch a new show. People watching is not the same on TikTok.

Adam Garnek, 44, Gay, N.C.: The thing I miss most pre-pandemic is FREEDOM! I miss social gatherings and being able to see live shows in the theater and on the drag stage! Who couldn’t go for that? Miss my fabulous entertainers. I feel they were hurt the most in loss of income. Let’s get back to the stage!

Jean-Michel Giraud: I miss all the cultural activities around D.C. We’re so fortunate to have all that during normal times.

Erik Forrest Jackson: I’m primarily a playwright and musical book writer. I take so much inspiration from New York’s stages, so being cut off from live performances has been brutal. I have the privilege of being a Tony voter, so every season I see all the shows that open on Broadway. (Yes, I still regularly pinch myself that this is my life.) To have that creative faucet just turned off has left me bereft at times.

Colleen Kennedy: There are so many things about D.C. that I miss — the theatres, the museums, crowded happy hours — but more than anything, I’d love to be sitting in a cafe or at a bar with a book, reading and enjoying my drink, killing time before meeting a dear friend.

Jonathan Knox: I miss going out and dancing until the sun comes up!

Rachel L., Old Soul, Pansexual/Omnisexual, N.J.: Concerts, crowd events, the aura of platonic and simply close strangers. The small un-thought of bits of human touch, where a brush of fingers or tap of arms did not instill a need to wonder of germs or safety.

Kevin J. Maurice: Going to the fun, old time, funky movie theaters Portland, Oregon, has. Breakfast out. Brew festivals! Bluegrass Festivals!

James Morris, 77, Gay, Md.: Social interactions. And haircuts.

Danica Roem: I miss live music the most, by far. There is surviving and staying alive, and then there is living. For me, I feel the most alive when I’m either in the front row singing along to my favorite heavy metal bands or on stage rocking out and putting on a show for everyone there to have a blast. I had attended five concerts in December of 2019 and one live stand-up comedy show in D.C. in January 2020. And then it was gone.

Jose Romero, 42, Gay, D.C.: Walking outside without a mask.

Bobby Russo: Honestly, I miss casual human contact. I have always been described as a “hugger” and a “tactile” person. I miss hugging friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I miss family coming to visit. I miss being out with my husband, meeting an attractive stranger and inviting them to come home with us. I miss the expectation of touch.

Johnny Shea: Meeting up with friends, going to bars, attending concerts, and having multiple sex partners.

Ryan Spahn: I think once we are back in the groove of life, whatever that looks like, I will be better suited to answer this because right now I miss every single thing.

Penny Sterling: Blowjobs. Oh my god did I actually write that? Lemme try again: I was physically abused as a child and so I’m hyper-vigilant. Through decades of distance and therapy I’d been able to ratchet that down, but now I’m constantly aware of how close or distant people are from me, and how they’re wearing or not wearing a mask. I miss moving easily in public. I miss seeing faces. I miss wearing lipstick. I miss blowjobs.

James Tola, 57, Gay, Ga.: Sitting across the table from dear friends indoors without a mask. Playing with and having the grandchildren over to the house. Not being angry at those who flout the pandemic by not wearing masks.

Bob Witeck: My greatest and lifelong need is to travel. Last year, we had long planned trips to Buenos Aires and to Scotland — though both were scratched when circumstances demanded it. I remember one weekend, we took a brief drive to Great Falls Park. It seemed exotic and wondrous since it was off the beaten path.

Zar: Honestly, I don’t miss much. I don’t like the fear of catching a disease, but I am alright with not having to be around people. I haven’t had to be in the presence of individuals who I disdain. I haven’t had a single physical confrontation for a year. I haven’t had to interact with police officers or security guards. I haven’t gotten any traffic citations or speeding tickets. I haven’t been asked for identification. I haven’t had to use a public restroom. I haven’t been subjected to bad breath or B.O. I haven’t been sick with anything. Pre-pandemic life was overrated. I hope not shaking hands and wearing face masks stays the new normal.

Have you received the COVID-19 vaccine? If not, are you planning to?

John Aravosis: Yes, I got lucky enough to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine via the D.C. website right before they changed it in early March. I don’t think I realized how much not having the vaccine was worrying me, until I got the vaccine, and felt a sudden surprising relief.

Christopher Banks: I had an opportunity to jump the line, but after some soul searching, I decided to wait my turn. I’m hoping some time in the next month.

Regie Cabico: I am waiting for shot two. When I got shot one, I nearly cried.

Emil de Cou: Yes, I have. Fortunately in Washington State it is much more available than in California, which has four times the population. Even if I had to drive an hour north of Seattle and then deal with a broken Zipcar in a freezing grocery store parking lot for three hours. I found that being stranded in the dark 62 miles from home was a great distraction from the incredible pain left after the shot.

Derrick “Strawberry” Cox, 31, Gay, D.C.: I haven’t received the vaccine yet because honestly I don’t trust it because of previous diseases that don’t have a cure. But I do plan on getting it, if only to release myself from anxiety and fear of moving forward with my life.

Alphonso David: I have not received the vaccine yet, but I plan to when I become eligible. In a research brief released last week by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, we found that some members of our community were hesitant to take the vaccine, particularly LGBTQ Black people and bi+ women. These hesitancies are no doubt fueled by past and present challenges when it comes to accessing and receiving care. As we acknowledge these challenges and work to address them, we are guided by one principle — making sure that no one in our communities is being left behind.

That is why the Human Rights Campaign Foundation launched a public education campaign — “For Ourselves, For Each Other: Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic” — which aims to communicate the facts and latest information about the vaccines, as well as address community concerns. The vaccine is the best way we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. And the more people that take the vaccine, the closer we get to being able to safely return to work, to school and to gathering in-person.

Terry Dicey: Yes, both doses. But I still have to be careful because of the extreme noncompliance of so many in Florida.

Ben Finzel: I haven’t received it, but I will get it as soon as I’m able. I can’t wait. I’m so thankful to the scientists and researchers who made it possible in such a short period of time. It’s a wonderful thing and I hope everyone will get it.

Joseph Izzo: Received both Moderna doses at Whitman-Walker Health Center on February 10 and again on March 10. It was a great experience except for the day after, which was pretty miserable.

David Johns: I have not. We shall see.

Denny Lyon: Yes. Both Moderna shots.

Adam O.: Unfortunately, not yet. I will get it as soon as I am eligible, as I’m the only non-vaccinated person at home. I work in a shop that was deemed essential during lockdown and still encounter a lot of people on a daily basis. I am very miffed that that’s considered low on the totem pole.

Rayceen Pendarvis: I was initially hesitant, especially as a person of color, because of the history of how Black Americans have been treated. I then thought about the resilient spirits of my ancestors. I considered that I’ve survived riots, economic strife, discrimination, and the AIDS crisis unscathed. COVID-19 is not going to be what takes me out! I plan to take it, but the registration process should be easier and the vaccine should be available to everyone who wants it.

Matthew Randall: Not yet, waiting my turn. I have little patience for anti-vaccine arguments.

Danica Roem: I’m at the bottom of the 1b priority list, so I have not yet received my vaccine but I very much plan to do so. I will record it on video to encourage my constituents, LGBTQ people, and my fellow metalheads to get vaccinated when it’s available for them.

Mark Schulte: Absolutely NOT! There’s no way I will participate in this government garbage.

Johnny Shea: I’m not an anti-vaxxer, and in the past, I got flu shots every year with no hesitation. But with the COVID-19 vaccine, I feel it has been approved too quickly without enough testing. That said, I’m going to wait until more information and much more results are known.

Penny Sterling: Back in late October I signed up for a trial COVID-19 vaccine because I had no confidence that the vaccine rollout was going to happen. I barely had confidence that we were gonna get Trump out of the White House. So I may or may not have gotten a vaccine, which may or may not be effective. On the other hand, I did get some money, so I got that going for me.

Chip W., 58, Gay, D.C.: Yes! I believe it is irresponsible of people not to get the vaccine. I see it almost as a civic duty.

Sterling Washington, 47, Gay, D.C.: Yes, I received the COVID-19 vaccine last August and September as a volunteer in the Moderna Phase 3 trial. The recent study unblinding in January confirmed what I assumed based on my side effects — that I received the real vaccine.

My participation in the trial stemmed from a strong desire to ensure the vaccine worked for everyone. Knowing the legacy of medical malpractice against African Americans, I understood the challenges associated with getting Black volunteers. As the child of a scientist who worked at NIH and having read about safeguards for vaccine participants years ago, I was confident that the trial would be safe and reached out about volunteering last summer. I even convinced a couple of friends to volunteer as well.

Lizz Winstead: Sign me da fuq up!

Merle Yost: I have had both shots and I am very grateful.

Zar: Nope, and no time soon. While I’m less skeptical and hesitant about it now than I was initially, I don’t think I will get it before early 2022. (But everyone who wants it should get it.)

How has the pandemic changed you as a person?

David Amoroso: I thought that we had advanced more as a civilization. It has forced me to realize that people prefer politics over common sense. It seems like people either stepped up or stooped lower. There were definitely plenty of signs before March 2020, but I think I was a little more hopeful about human beings.

John Aravosis: It’s definitely made me more anxious. Though I did learn to make a mean sourdough, so there’s that!

Christopher Banks: I don’t think it has changed me qualitatively at all. Living in fight or flight mode for a year now, however, that surely has changed me in ways that I can’t see from the inside. It’s as if someone has plugged an amp into my anxiety and turned it ALL THE WAY UP. In a lot of ways, it’s like AIDS was back in the day, but without the stigma. The fear of it is similar, though. The difference here is the 24 hour news cycle on top of everything else keeps you in that place of heightened stress with no real relief. Outside has felt like a nebulous but deadly serious threat for so long, I don’t know how I’ll ever feel comfortable again.

Robert Beam: It made me see the stupidity and selfishness in others who refused to follow the recommendation of doctors and medical scientists to help prevent the spread of this virus.

Matthew Caws: I think I’m a little calmer. I’m definitely healthier. I haven’t gotten quite as much work done as I wish I had, but I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too much. I’ve been getting on a roll these last few weeks, better late than later. My mother has an expression: “Some people learn to swim in winter and ski in summer.” I needed time off to get better at just being. And now I’m ready to do something with that.

Charlotte Clymer: I took for granted being around other flesh-and-blood human beings. I can’t see myself taking that for granted after this.

Emil de Cou: I would like to think that I have become a bit more compassionate, patient, and more appreciative of what really matters. Slowing down is something I think most Americans can benefit from. That and more Diana Ross concerts.

Ray Daniels: The pandemic has made me more appreciative of people. I would like to think it has made me more patient, but that remains to be seen.

Alphonso David: I think of the words of James Baldwin: “The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.” The truth of these words has been driven home for me over the past year — both in their urgency, and also in their reminder that the present moment is all we have.

We cannot take anything for granted, and we cannot wait on change: on LGBTQ equality, on racial justice, on transforming our systems so that they truly serve all of us. And we cannot waste a moment to bring about the change our communities need — including passing the Equality Act and securing life-saving protections for our communities. The time is always now.

Andy Doyle: We are all works in progress, but I believe I am increasingly more patient and empathetic.

Ben Finzel: I hope it’s made me even more appreciative of all of the ways so many people contribute to our lives and make them better — from artists and singers and actors and theater people to playwrights and authors and medical professionals and service workers and people who deliver the mail and packages and scientists and researchers and elected officials and public sector workers. Everyone. And it’s made me even more focused on equality and intersectionality. We are all in this together and we’d better all start acting like it.

Robert Foster: Don’t know yet. It will be interesting to see if the effects of this benign incarceration have any enduring effects on us. Are we but coiled springs waiting for the freedom to fall back into our long-established habits, or will we continue in our new, more considered existence? I suspect that will depend as much on our friends, employers, and colleagues as it will on ourselves, but it’s certainly something to look forward to.

James Gaghan: I used to hate making phone calls. Now I crave it. The year has shown me to not take for granted the little things or the people who matter to you. They might not be there tomorrow.

Jean-Michel Giraud: It has made me more introspective. Resilient, too, maybe. It certainly has made me realize even more that political priorities can work against the public good. Throughout 2020, the messaging was so warped. It’s really sad that we lost so many people when a lot of deaths could have been avoided with an honest stand on the pandemic and proper planning early on. I hope we learn from that as a country.

Garry Gsquare: My brain occasionally feels like mush. I check my iPhone daily to remind myself what day it is.

Eric Halley: I feel like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde in a sense that we did it! We got rid of Cheeto and the end of the pandemic is in sight! From a social aspect, I am wary of people now. Wearing masks and protecting others was essentially a social signal. Seeing people disregard that simple act has changed how I view people and shown how selfish people can be. I understand that every person has their journey and people process things differently, but that really has changed my outlook on society.

Erik Forrest Jackson: I finally understand what it means to carpe the f’ing diem.

David Johns: I am always growing and evolving as a person. It’s a part of my nature as a Pisces and an educator. My hope is the pandemic is helping me to become more clear, consistent, and compassionate in my roles as an advocate and educator.

Colleen Kennedy: Maybe I’ve gone a bit feral.

Ed Koch, 57, Gay, Va.: I certainly have come to value and appreciate those things that have been missing this past year and the significance they play in my life. While not really surprised, I am disappointed in the response of my fellow citizens and the general lack of empathy that has been displayed the past year. Between politicizing masks, distancing, vaccines, and increased aggression towards others, along with the other political and social divisions in our nation, we have shown our true colors. On the other hand, we have seen tremendous outpouring from many people of love, appreciation, and support to our first responders, medical personnel, front line workers, and teachers for the extra effort and sacrifice each of them have made and continue to make.

Robbie KS, 37, Gay, Canada: I’m going to be more comfortable saying no when asks are made of my time that don’t bring me joy. I’m going to spend more time connecting and building relationships with people who lift me up. I’m going to love more freely. I joke that I spent several years prior to the pandemic avoiding people due to depression, and just as it hit I was coming out of a dark introverted period, but now I’m ready to paaaaaarty.

Kevin J. Maurice: Even more introverted, grumpy and curmudgeonly.

Daniel McGibney: It gave me even more awareness about the importance of mental health, and that our country has a serious problem with the lack of empathy.

James Morris: I take my temperature every day, at least once.

Nick P.: I’m more alone than I ever thought. Eating dinner in front of the TV every night.

Danica Roem: I got kitties! So that made me happier. On July 3, I adopted two six-week old kittens from the same litter — a calico named Melinda and her brother Bella Sera, a polydactyl tuxedo. (He has thumbs! Hemingway cats are the coolest!) They both turn one on May 21.

Jose Romero: It made me realize how privileged I am to have family that will quarantine with you and support you and to have a job that will continue to support you. I saw a lot of the community really struggle, and you try to help the best you can, but it can be disheartening when the systems in place to help people aren’t working.

Bobby Russo: As I have gotten older, I’ve become incapable of spontaneity, and now that it is no longer an option, I realize that it’s something I need in my life. Looking forward to a post-COVID reality. I want more excitement out of life and I plan to go find some.

Johnny Shea: Not much, other than walk on the other side of the street when strangers are walking towards me.

Penny Sterling: I’m fatter and softer than I was a year ago. Which is why I’m heading for the gym as soon as I hit send on this.

Hancie Stokes: I’m much more cautious now than I was before. I’ve become much more safety-minded and aware of the people and things around me, constantly checking how close a stranger is on the street. It’s also made me more appreciative. I find myself telling the people I care about how much they mean to me.

James Tola: I am acutely aware that we are not islands unto ourselves and that the decisions of others affect us all, like a pebble being tossed into a pond. Like it or not, we are each other’s keeper and I am challenged to empathize with those who choose their own comfort over the safety of others. As the old saying goes, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Dana V.: I’m more fearful.

Chip W.: I’ve seen how selfish so many people are when it comes to public health. It saddens me, but it also makes me appreciate the selfless actions of others that much more. I am more aware of my mortality and have lost friends and family who I’ve been unable to appropriately mourn. But every day I embrace the sunshine and the joy of living.

Lizz Winstead: I am more aware that life can change in an instant. I will no longer waste time with people who will not hear the truth and instead will spend extra time with people who ask for help, and seek out those who may not know how to ask for it.

Bob Witeck: Time will tell. I hope it’s changed most of us to not take our human ties, friendships and romances ever for granted. In some ways, the clock and calendar seemed frozen in time. While a slower pace can be very therapeutic, it also denies us the freedom we crave to do so much, to spend time together and to enjoy more of the world.

Douglas Yeuell: It has aged me. I turned 60 in September 2020 — no way to party but lots of time to contemplate age — Sigh! I have changed. But in the end I remain happy and healthy — I do feel blessed — and for that I am grateful.

Merle Yost: Fortunately, I enjoy my own company, but truly, I am over it. I think it has increased my desire to find another relationship after having been single for a long time.

Zar: Before the pandemic, I was a cynic, a pessimist, and a curmudgeon. I am now all those things more than I’ve ever been. I had no idea that I could be less impressed with people than I already was. People truly are idiots! Staying home and washing hands and wearing a mask is too much to ask? I don’t think the human race is going to survive the next pandemic. And I’m fine with that. Shrug.

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For the latest guidance on COVID-19 and more information on vaccine rollouts in your area, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

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