A Year In: Same River, Different Boats

They want me to write you, reader, about how this year has been. And how much I’ve learned.

When this pandemic is *finally* over, you will be outside in concerts in fresh air. You will be laughing at BBQs and walking freely through the supermarkets. You will take your sweetheart out for a nice steak dinner and Scallops Oscar, and then promenade to your local movie theater, eat and laugh or eat and cry, or eat and be scared, or eat and make out, or whatever people do at movie theaters. And I, most likely, will not.

I will not, because going to the movie theater was difficult before the pandemic, and it will be difficult still after. And I won’t eat that Scalloped Oscar and Steak because the meds I take sometimes make me choke on my food, or at least they used to, and I have fear of choking because of it and, to top it off, I am allergic to scallops.

I won’t go to a movie theater, because of my trauma. The last time I went to a movie theater, a day drinker next to me asked me if I wanted to step outside. It was not a fun time. I get anxious at movies, and then you will say, maybe with a tinge of impatience, Ok, fine then, let’s just go to the local watering hole. And I will, begrudgingly, and I will sit there, and you will get smashed, and I will not. And I will be uncomfortable around other people drinking at the bar, making jokes, hailing insults and all that other stuff that people joke about at bars. I will be uncomfortable.

And I will drink next to you, and you and a handful of people who used to hate me in high school can talk about the good ole days. In turn, I will want to leave the bar, shake off the movie, throw on my headphones, leave the crowds where I found them, call a lifeline, take my meds and nurse this ever-growing chip on my shoulder.

Dramatic, yes. True, mostly. Almost all of it. But one thing that is also true is that I have learned that that is what my brain does. Years and years of trauma, bullying and embarrassment, feeling less than, has programmed me to feel like this.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t fight it every single day — that I haven’t fought it every single day since the pandemic started over a year ago. I do. I lean in.

I lean in to my writing, I lean into my music, I lean into working with my Foundation and Oddball Magazine and my podcast the Oddball Show. I lean in to my books of poetry and my half-assed guitar playing. I lean in to my work and grind at my job. I lean in to my challenges. I don’t like going to the movies (a well-established fact already), but I lean in. I go. I challenge myself. I write articles like this, that I have no idea who is going to read, or judge me, or whatever. I lean in.

I take a chance. I live and I lean in. I write a lot. I got through it. Didn’t know how I would, but I got through it. We’ve all gotten through it — as different as our ‘its’ may be — we all gotten through.

And I joke right? But what we are going through, this pandemic, is indeed a trauma that we all are facing together. Like my friend Sarah said, we are not all in the same boat, but we are all in boats, and we are paddling against uncertainty. We’ve been paddling against uncertainty for so long My trauma is not the same as yours, and yours is not the same as mine. But we can all say that we are doing this one, this pandemic, together.

Yes, I might still be sheltered in place after this is over, but I have learned to lean in and persevere. I throw on a motivational video, listen to music, relax, meditate on the keys and constantly grind. That is how I deal with what I am dealing with. I create. I lean in, I don’t give up. I gave up before, and that is what has caused some of my biggest regret. But life is not about regretting everything, but getting stuff done. Making things happen. Moving forward.

Be. Do. Move. Be.

1 out of 4 of you might agree with what I am saying, and the other 3 of you should. Because this pandemic has brought us all face-to-face with something this generation has never seen before. It is scary. It is a movie theater. It is a bar with bullies. It is a movie theater bar with bullies. It is fighting you, and taunting you. This pandemic is trying us all. It is mean. And it does not discriminate. We need to do this together.

Reader, hold on, and lean in. Let’s do this together. I will. I will, as painful as it is. I will. I will read in public in front of crowds of people. I will joke, and laugh and it’s all good. All of a sudden, I will be frozen in anxiety. And you will see me, and you will be with your 2.5 children, and laughing at dinner, maybe. But at the same time, maybe not.

Maybe, because I don’t know what you have been through. But we can both stop and say, That was weird right? And you might say, Never thought I would have to wear a mask to get my morning coffee. And I might say, How are you? How is your family, did everyone get through? And we can talk about our loved ones who made it, beat it, and also those who sadly didn’t make it through. We can be in community together — our shared trauma a collective thread tying us together. Two boats fighting the current.

This is a hard thing we are dealing with. And we have to have compassion for each and every one of us. My experience might be silly to you, me as a voice hearer, thought broadcaster, empath, guy who can’t go to a movie, freak on the train, loser at the bar, maybe. But hey, that’s OK. I get it. You were a dick before this pandemic, and you will be afterwards. And that is OK, too. Cause that is you. And I am me. And I get through it. I lean in.

And then there are the other people who are like me. And to you I say, Hold on. We can do this. We might have been (likely were) traumatized before this pandemic. Raise your hand if you have been bullied. Raise your hand if you struck out. Raise your hand if you have been embarrassed. How many of you were given nicknames you didn’t want? Raise your hand if you have had trauma. Now raise your hand if you are going through the COVID-19 pandemic. Hmm, that’s a lot of you. Wait, that’s all of you. So, as an advocate before this, and someone who is currently going through this with you, know that we are in this together. Regardless of what the doctor checks off on our charts.

Let’s put our pasts behind us. I will. I will try to. I will lean in. We can come out of this year (plus) just like we were, or we can get better. We can lean in. It’s your choice (and mine).

And when this whole thing is over, save me a seat at the bar, save me a seat at the movie theater, those tickets for that concert you have been dying to see? Count me in. It will hurt like hell, I might want to rip my hair out, or want to stay home, shelter in place, but I’ve done that before. I might have to do it again.

But you know what, I will go. I will lean in and continue on. If we’re learned anything this year, we’ve learned that. And you will go too, in another boat, your boat, weathered by the same storm.


Jason Wright is the editor and founder of Oddball Magazine. His column appears weekly. His third book, Train of Thought 2: Almost Home is available now.