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Sometimes when my mind wanders, I try to think of which age would be the worst to have lived through this past year.

My first thought is 6, because you’re supposed to learn how to read in first grade. Then I think of 17, because the last year of high school is usually pretty awesome. Then there’s 21, when the world has just opened up to you. I also think of moms in their 30s who have been in the house with young kids, trying to work while monitoring remote school. And of course, anyone over, say, 70, because of the health risks and social isolation.

We all now have one whole year that was wiped out of our life story. No, that’s not right, this year will be the part of the story where we say, “Oh, when I was ‘x’ years old – that was Covid.” And people will groan and shake their heads in a very understanding way. They’ll know that was the year when everything changed and became nothing. But we fought and persevered until life became something again. But that was a whole year later.

I’m calling April 2020 – April 2021 the lost year. We’ve all lost so much this year, and some lost much more than others. I think when you experience as much devastating change as we have, the only thing left to do is examine what remains, what’s still here that matters.

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the person I’ve been with every day – Joe. (If you follow my Instagram stories, he is aka “office maintenance guy.”) Before the pandemic, Joe traveled for business a lot, and he has since the early years of our marriage. Many times, a friend would invite one of us to do something solo on the weekend, and we always turned them down. We’d have to remind them that Joe and I hadn’t seen each other in several days. Weekends were when we got to be together for 2 whole days.

We thought 2 days straight was a big deal. Then came 2020.

There were so many days during lockdown when it occurred to me that when I was 19 and Joe was 17 and we were dating, this would have been our dream: to be together every day. We never could have imagined these circumstances, but the thought of us in a pretty nice house all day, every day, well, that was the dream. It gave me some comfort to remind myself of this, because the time together really was as wonderful as I had imagined it would be.

I guess everything that remains that still matters has to do with relationships.

At SJ Magazine, relationships kept us going. At the start of lockdown last year, we were struck with the worry of what would happen to our business (like so, so many other South Jersey companies). There were times when, if I really thought about it, I’d get this pit in the bottom of my stomach. For 20 years, we had worked so very hard to lift up South Jersey – especially the women who live here – and now we had no idea what our future looked like. Or if we even had a future.

So we emailed and called advertisers, knowing they were feeling the same way about their business. All but 2 said they were still with us, even some whose businesses were shut down. The other 2 said they just needed some time, which we understood completely.

One night at dinner, I was telling Joe and the girls how blown away I was at this response. And how grateful I was. Marirose, who graduated college in quarantine, talked about a marketing class she had where they learned about the importance of customer relationships – they take time to develop, but they are vital to your success. “You’ve been building relationships for a long time,” she said. “You’re seeing the result of that.”

I’m also seeing that what is left when the lost year is over will be what is most important. And that will be the people who stood with us day after day to get us through the year. There are just so many. They’re what I found in the year we lost.

April 2021
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