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"Living through a pandemic has taught us that there is so much we took for granted"—Our editor-in-chief reflects on the past year

Everyone has that one expression other people use that just plucks their last nerve. For me, it's "I have good news and bad news."

Why is this cliché my verbal nails-on-a-chalkboard? Because whatever you are about to share is about to change my world—and I'll be the one to decide if that's a good or bad thing, thank you very much.

But that concept was suspended when COVID-19 came around. Because for the better part of a year, all the news has been one thing: bad. And not subjectively bad—heartbreakingly, gut-wrenchingly, unequivocally bad. 

As I am writing this, our country has crossed a milestone that was unthinkable to me a year ago: 500,000 Americans dead. Grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, coaches, moms, dads and, yes, even teens. Businesses shuttered, livelihoods lost and life events forever missed (you just don't get proms and graduations back)—but it's sheer human suffering that hurts the most. 

At this point, there isn't a single person in this country who hasn't been affected by COVID in some way. Make no mistake, this is a tragedy we will be reckoning with for decades to come—if not longer.

All that said, this week I have watched COVID tallies in my town plummet. Vaccine numbers rise. And lots of talk about re-openings, (safe) gatherings and (cautious, careful) planning. We are a long, long way from "back to normal," (that means masks and hand sanitizer are here to stay, friends) but there is, dare I say it, hope. 

And we all have things we are hoping for. Hugging our grandparents without fear. Hosting a sleepover safely. Heck, smiling at a stranger (just, um, keep it outside and from six feet away).

There is a brighter future in front of us but, tbh, no one really knows what it will look like. Will we all swap our stay-at-home sweats for couldn't-be-cuter skirts? (We have some very good options on page 14.) Will we fill movie theaters, buy tickets for concerts and ride in packed elevators without breaking into a light sweat? (I'm going with: no, outdoor shows only and I'll take the stairs, thanks.) In short, will we just reset right back to where we were?

The good and bad news is: I doubt it.

In a very short time from now, we'll all have to make decisions about how we want to live in The After Times. While some anxieties are easy to understand ("I think I forgot my locker combo"), others might take us by surprise (we might not have missed our super packed schedules as much as we thought we did). Like astronauts returning from space, re-entry to normal life is going to take some serious adjustments. 

Now is a time to be extra gentle with yourself. Take things day by day, adding activities or pressing pause as you need to. Listen to what your heart and gut are telling you in the moment. There is no "right" way to do the rest of 2021.

But what you can know for sure is that you've lived through a crisis the scope of which humanity has never experienced. Even world wars only involved certain countries, not the entire planet. 

Living through a pandemic for the past year has taught us that there is much we took for granted—and much we thought was important which...wasn't. But most of all, it taught us that we are much more resilient than we ever dreamed we could be. Life changed, we confronted the challenge and made it to the other side. 

And that is good news indeed.

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our April/May 2021 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.

by Karen Bokram | 3/19/2021