On the night of my youngest’s sixth birthday, when the house was quiet and everyone else was asleep, I wrote in my journal, “I will never put you to bed as a five-year-old again.” That was months ago now, but I am still thinking about it. It is in many ways—most ways—a small change, and yet it is one that nevertheless feels profound in its irrevocability. Change is, of course, inevitable, and though in this case I feel the loss of a part of my daughter’s childhood that will never and could never return, I’m fortunate that in return I get the opportunity to know her as a six-year-old.
Though, of course, not every change comes with an opportunity to offset the loss, at least not in a way that provides any comfort. I’m increasingly aware of my good fortune in that, still, no one I know personally has died of the virus. But as I write this, 276,000 Americans have died and more than 2000 are dying each day, a number that is only going to continue to accelerate as we see the effects of Thanksgiving get-togethers, and then Christmas. It seems inevitable that at some point I will lose someone to the virus, it seems just a matter of time. One in 1200 Americans have already died from it, and I have surely known more than 1200 people in my life—I have more than 500 “friends” on Facebook alone, many of whom have, themselves, lost family or friends.
I don’t know what will come. I don’t know what tomorrow will look like. It seems like most people I know want simply for things to get back to “normal,” and, to be sure, there are things I miss that I look forward to doing again some day: visiting family, spending time with friends, eating in restaurants, browsing in bookstores (or even just taking my time strolling through Hmart). But so much of “normal” didn’t work for so many people, whether you were queer or a person of color or a woman or an immigrant or even just working a shitty job. Our leaders failed us, and we failed each other, so often and so profoundly, it’s hard to understand wanting to go back to the way things were.
Of course, I say that, but is it so hard to understand? After all, there’s a part of me, too, that wants to be comforted. All it requires is to look away from that which is discomforting, and that’s such an easy thing to do. And I do, all the time. We do.
But next year isn’t going to look like last year, or like 2016, or 2008, or 1996, or 1960. Those we’ve lost are not coming back. I’m never going to put my daughter to bed as a five-year-old again. Things change, and all we can do is choose how we respond to those changes, choose what kind of people we want to be in a world that so often refuses to give us good choices. I’m doing my best. I’m sure you are, too.