This past Friday, Kat Dickson from the Toronto Bloggers Collective issued a challenge to our near-600 members to pick a draft from our blogs and turn it into a full-fledged blog post by the end of the weekend. And me, I had 181 because I start so many ideas that I don’t always have the time, energy or innovation to see them through. Every post needs a featured image. They need search engine optimisation. I need to run text analyses to make sure they’re impactful and make sure the photos won’t make my site load too slowly… there’s a reason why my hobby grew into something more of a second job. It’s because every time I want to create something, I want to do the most fantastic job of it that I can—anything less is unacceptable.
But these last six months have got me thinking. While I wasn’t always ready to share because my creative process takes a lot of time, it had me look deep inside and start understanding what I wanted to do with everything I’d built so far and what I wanted from all the time that’s yet ahead.
This is how six months in a global pandemic’s changed me, and I hope it’s for the better.
Let’s take it back to a week before Toronto had its first case…
Shortly before this whole pandemic started and COVID-19 wasn’t yet a thing, I’d just come home from Dad 2.0. While I wasn’t entirely sure of where my path would take me next, I was happy to make some new friends and reconnect with some old ones, because after a while this becomes less about learning the tricks of the trade and more about finding the thing that makes you tick. It’s like parenting—we all start with a very similar rulebook, but as those babies grow and become little people of their own, other people’s advice and experience don’t measure up like they used to, and you eventually need to stand on your own to figure things out.
So I might’ve started the pandemic a little aimless, not knowing what I wanted to make of 2020, I wouldn’t stay that way for long as the world would challenge me to declare what I stood for because it didn’t leave room to stand to the side or be polite anymore.
I didn’t expect being Black during a pandemic to be so hard….
Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman
The Invisible Man and Hercules don’t scare me
The FBI, Anti-American Committee, J. Edgar Hoover, President Nixon
President Johnson, Martha Mitchell
And her husband or her man or her woman
Ethel Kennedy, all the Kennedys
Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Rockefeller
None of these people scare me
What scares me is that one day my son will ask me
What did you do, Daddy, when the shit was goin’ down
— Richard Pryor, May 30, 1971
May 25th changed a lot for me, with George Floyd’s murder suddenly making the world a lot more openly hostile toward Black people. In a time where we were all supposed to stand together against a virus that was threatening our existence, our lives still didn’t seem to matter. It’s nothing that was news to us—we’d dealt with racism, microaggressions and keeping an eye over our shoulders for centuries now, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The time that told us even during a possible extinction-level event, people would still go out of their way to impose their will on us and treat us as less than human.
And for the first time in a long time, I got fired up. I didn’t care that it wasn’t Black History Month or how it might look for the image I’d curated over all these years—something told me that if I didn’t speak up now, I might never do it, and it all came pouring out, years of stuff I’d kept to myself because it was what I knew to do.
And in what was maybe the first time ever, I didn’t see myself as a blogger who was good at what he did and wrote stories that resonated with my community—I was sharing my truth for a change; all the things I’d pushed down over the years in the name of a peaceful existence. It taught me that writing about the places I go and the stuff I eat is fun, but there’s something so much more visceral inside that’s just waiting to make itself known.
So… I write. I write and write some more. These last six months have rarely seen me without a pen in my hand, always looking for the words that bring life to all the thoughts going through my head. And it’s been working. It’s been letting me get a lot off of my chest, with the hope that something comes from it all.
“What did you do, Daddy, when the shit was going down?”
Many say they won’t remember what they got up to during the pandemic—that it was all a blur and that they’re just glad to be on the other side. But I’m likely to remember in pretty stark detail all the work I got up to as a creator while trying to hold it down as a husband, a father, and keep my sanity amidst it all. It hasn’t been easy, and there’ve been plenty of times where I wanted nothing more than a shred of my pre-COVID life to help me get through it all. But just like life before kids fade away into history the longer you’re a parent, I’ve started adjusting to this uncertain world no matter however it looks.
It’s been a long six months, and it could be a long six months more. But COVID-19 shouldn’t stop you from living, even if you need to do it a little differently.
Be well out there, everyone, and take this moment to understand the things about yourself you’d never stopped to think about before. We won’t be in a pandemic forever, and our busy lives will come creeping back to distract us from the things that matter.
But will we be more self-aware and ready for whatever comes ahead, or slip back into that routine, not learning from everything this pandemic could teach us if we took a moment to listen?
That’s entirely up to us.
Until the next, I remain,