I Don’t Think I’ve Fully Processed The Pandemic

How Two Recent Events Made Me Realize I Still Need To Integrate What I’ve Learned From The Last Three Years

Bryce Post
14 min readNov 20, 2023

I’ve been meaning to share these thoughts for a while, but due to the subject matter I’ve been putting it off.

Look, I get it. Everyone’s told me the pandemic is over. In the state where I currently reside, the governor declared the pandemic over about a month and a half after it started. I think that’s what happened. It’s all a bit of a blur.

But the thing is, I can’t really understand how the pandemic can be over even if the health emergency has been rescinded. I empathize with everyone who wants to move on and forget that the whole thing happened, like it was just a bad dream and a funny story we can laugh about with friends a decade from now. Unfortunately, I don’t think trauma and self-reflection work that way. Honestly, I probably would have gone along with the idea that the pandemic was over, but two events from earlier in the year made me realize this was not true by any means.

You Can’t Just Move on From Trauma

The first event is actually a combination of two different occurrences, both tangentially involving stand-up comedians Lewis Black and Jim Gaffigan. I greatly appreciated the comedy specials both released this year due to the fact that they spent some time talking about the pandemic.

In Lewis Black’s recent (and free) stand-up special on YouTube, there are several parts where he talks about the pandemic despite, by most accounts, saying it’s over. I can’t remember if it was in the special or during an interview he gave about the special, but he mentioned talking about the pandemic because

“We continue to act as if the pandemic occurred, and we’re not gonna deal with that. ‘Now it’s gone. Don’t worry about it. Didn’t create any problems whatsoever. Nothing. We have a leadership that acts as if that pandemic did nothing to their mental health. That’s bullshit.”

Those words had a profound impact on me. His comments made me realize how little of the pandemic I’ve likely processed, largely because my line of work is classified as providing “essential services.” This may not feel like much, or in certain circles, it might even sound like an advantage, because, at the time, it meant I could carry on with my day as usual. Granted, a large part of my day consisted of attempting to pretend that cleaning every desk and seat in the office once someone stood up was just part of the routine. But, a year and a half into the pandemic, my company decided all of its workers would now work from home exclusively through remote work. Today, they tout this as part of their attempts to appear progressive (I’ve discussed this topic exhaustively in a previous post, in case anyone is interested).

Then there was the comedy special “Dark Pale” by Jim Gaffigan that’s now available on Amazon. In the opening part of his special, Gaffigan remarked about the unusual mental normalizing nearly all of us went through for two years, observing the “death lottery” grow daily. In part of his bit, Gaffigan employs a level of nonchalant brutality to illustrate this sense of normalcy and capture the thoughts that many presently hold regarding the pandemic, saying

“What a weird couple years we’ve had, my god! Lockdowns, mandates, variants; but it feels like we’ve finally gotten to the point where we don’t care. Remember when we used to care? I mean, obviously, we care. But we used to be concerned.”

I know other comedians spoke about the pandemic, even while it was going on, some trying socially distanced shows and specials. But since I can’ be everywhere at once, hearing these two comedians in particular at this time some 3 years after the pandemic started, their words just struck a certain chord within the instrument that is my spirit.

Their observations and jokes revealed a certain callousness that exists within the constraints of a capitalistic system that places a great deal of emphasis on profitability and production. I rarely had the freedom to stay at home because I was viewed as an essential worker. Not that I speak for the other people who were deemed essential workers, but I do believe there is something to be said about the collective trauma we all went through. The fact that essential workers had no choice but to continue about their lives as if virtually nothing was amiss while simultaneously worrying about whether we might bring home a disease that could kill (or possibly disable) a loved one feels on brand for capitalism, but it illustrates how little workers were shown any type of care during this unprecedented time. What was particularly upsetting was seeing videos of assholes complaining about interacting with workers wearing masks and/or complaining about the fact that many places implemented a supposedly ‘Satanic ritual’ by having people stand six feet apart or whatever the hell they rambled on about, with many of the overworked essential personnel having to just sit there and take it even though they were just trying to survive another day in the plague world trying to feed their families. Like, that’s a lot of pressure for someone to handle, yet it felt like most everyone just expected essential workers to keep their chins up and carry on.

Even now, I’m loath to even bring up the pandemic in regular conversation with most people because I know nobody wants to talk about it. Granted, it’s not like I’m just calling up friends or bumping into strangers and being like, “How do you think this mass casualty event over two years is going to reshape how we live?” However, many friends still seem to feel a bit squirmy when I bring up the pandemic in conversation because I have memories associated with it. Some roll their eyes, while others say something like, “Well, that was then; let’s just focus on now,” or something similar. That’s all well and good, but to a certain extent, I wonder if we’ll ever discuss these topics as candidly as certain comedians do.

I feel like I can’t be the only one still recovering from the turmoil of those two years. That was a strain for so many people, bringing up divisions within family and friends in addition to the usual everyday stress amongst people who, like myself, are one medical emergency away from bankruptcy while also living paycheck to paycheck.

In some ways, it’s amazing to me how many insist all of us need to move on with our lives and just get back to work. By no means am I suggesting we all take a year off to process our feelings and trauma. It would be nice, but I’m also being realistic. But there has to be some way of finding a middle ground between “who cares, just keep working” and “everything’s shut down until we can figure our shit out.” This callous way in which the capitalist system insists “Everything is fine. What pandemic?” is not really a way to inspire or instill a sense of empathy. But then I have to remember that this current iteration of capitalism doesn’t run on empathy, so, oh well I guess.

I Have More Growing to Do Than I Think.

Another event that highlighted this awareness was the conversation that my ex and I shared over the summer. During this conversation, we both talked about how it felt like we were just now emerging through the pandemic fog. She went on to ask me, at one point, if I was content with my life as it was. I realized as I struggled to respond to her question that I had, in comparison to my pre-pandemic routines and practices, appeared to have somewhat regressed. Allow me to explain.

You see, she and I had moved into a new apartment prior to the pandemic. For the first time, the two of us were sharing a home with the intention of evolving together as a couple. Additionally, we both obtained new office jobs — something we hadn’t done in quite some time as a consequence of our formerly nomadic, bohemian lifestyles. #bohoyolo

We both had to get used to the new routines of living together, tending to our relationship, and paying ludicrous bills while juggling our leisure time as well as maintaining proper care of an apartment. This shift in lifestyle pushed us to adapt. We understood that this was an experiment of sorts for us both, one that would challenge our resilience, patience, and maybe even sanity. As we worked in our new paradigm, there were times when I felt tense and frustrated, but it also felt like I was uncovering certain blockages I had assumed to be buried. Thankfully, we had two years to adjust to these new patterns, mostly moving through without incident. But that didn’t stop certain beliefs and thoughts from creeping in — thoughts that I previously held about working for the man on the grid in the 925 matrix.

For the first time in years, I found myself understandably nervous about having a job and paying bills, which was the primary trigger of my stress and anxiety. I remembered that much of this was the same dumb stuff I worried about when I worked in advertising back in 2012, I was concerned that one botched step might cause my entire life to come crashing down. I was concerned that, in order to avoid being like my parents, who occasionally had financial difficulties, I needed to be strict and disciplined with my money. However, the now-ex-goddess proved to be an encouraging reminder to me that money was merely flow and that our views on it were changing. We were both learning how to effectively make better use of our sudden influx of flow. What was also a tremendous help was our good fortune to be living in an apartment with a landlord who didn’t care whether we made 3–4 times the rent.

In part, thanks to our landlord’s generosity, we were able to set little monetary goals for ourselves. We only made big purchases when necessary. We endeavored to do our best to purchase decent-quality food. We even managed to navigate through some frustrating student loans.

But then, the pandemic arrived.

So much of that time feels like a blur. In addition to my normal routine of going to work and paying bills, we were also forced to cram extra details into our brains regarding how to protect ourselves and our loved ones while also assessing what was true information versus what our misinformed parents (and a few friends) might be parroting back from some random person on YouTube (or Fox News). Last I checked, between the time we moved to Texas in 2018 and the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, nobody in my family or hers suddenly acquired a doctorate in medicine, immunology or immunobiology.

The two of us had to take all kinds of precautions because I was responsible for the majority of the household income. If I’d come down with COVID, that more than likely would have been game over for us due to the fact that it would have meant 1–2 weeks without rent. Then, depending on the severity of COVID, I could have potentially been looking at insane hospital bills. Unfortunately, like most Americans, I too am one medical emergency away from bankruptcy.

It wasn’t until this year’s conversation with the ex that I understood how much progress I’d made with myself with respect to not being so tense about living together, paying soul sucking bills while trying to balance free time while also taking care of our condo as I worked for the man on the grid in the 925 matrix. But I was also disheartened to acknowledge that much of that progress was lost because the pandemic compelled most of us (the responsible ones) to essentially batten down the hatches and cling to everything you love for dear fucking life.

Oh, and it was an election year too (at least in 2020). That seems like too much bullshit for anyone to deal with.

It’s also a lot of trauma. I even had to deal with a few people who had transitioned from friends on Facebook I’d met a handful of times to total pieces of shit trolls. Maybe the pandemic just exposed hidden rifts between myself and some friends that were already there; I don’t know. But it was wild and upsetting to hear some family and friends with whom I was close spout nonsensical conspiracy theories.

As I already mentioned, we reside in Texas, a state that, in the face of a string of tragic mass shootings, decided it would be a better idea to essentially allow anyone to buy a gun without requiring a permit (in addition to questioning the legitimacy of Biden’s presidential victory). Texas was a genuine hotspot for COVID cases at various points over the course of the pandemic, thanks in part to the governor’s contradictory messaging. During those two years, Texas had some of the highest “death lottery” numbers in the country, indicating that the virus was propagating everywhere (especially after the governor opened Texas 100%). If you recall, I still had to work in an office until the middle of 2021. I still had to work in an office, which greatly increased my chances of getting COVID in the first place.

There was just so much to fucking deal with in those two years. I think one of the only reasons I didn’t go completely insane and fall down any psychotic rabbit holes was thanks to my ex, who was able to put things into perspective during particularly stressful circumstances, reminding me to focus on the present moment and what was in my control. Also, my on-and-off supply of cannabis probably didn’t hurt either.

However, when I compare where I am today in my life to where I was before the pandemic hit, I recognize that I have regressed. I’ve grown considerably more concerned about how much money goes into and then leaves my bank account. I’ve likewise become more meticulous in my routines for certain things, such as what day and time I go grocery shopping, shower, or order food. Some days I devote three hours of incessant, spiraling thoughts to analyzing whether it’s worth it to order takeout instead of preparing dinner. By that time, I’m exhausted and just eat a small cup of cereal. Thanks to inflation, grocery shopping has become a complex math puzzle, with the equation being me investing four-ish days towards putting together a suitable cost-effective list! I’m also much more conscious of my body’s reactions to almost everything now, to the point that I occasionally get lost in labyrinthine thought spirals, unsure whether or not the ache in my chest is from working out or a lung cancer-stroke-heart attack trifecta.

My point is, for those two years, it didn’t feel like there was much time for growth and reflection, at least for myself. I’m happy some folks found time for that. But, because I was considered an essential worker, I was not afforded much time for introspection compared to others. Granted, maybe there was more time than I thought, and I just didn’t take those opportunities. Maybe this was all a big cosmic test, and I failed with flying colors. I don’t think that’s true, but I acknowledge it is a possibility. I just don’t know when I would have found the time between my work, my health, my exhaustion, and my desire to still write some poetry and other stories.

Some might point to the poetry and stories I wrote in that period as a time of reflection and processing. Perhaps it was. But when you write, especially poetry, at least for me, one is practically in a trance, trying to elongate and regurgitate a certain moment or feeling that struck a profound chord within the heartstrings and head drums. Then, once it’s over, there’s a more detached and calculated approach that needs to happen because of editing. Needless to say, I don’t know how much I’m actually processing when I’m writing poetry or otherwise. What’s more disconcerting is that I’m fairly certain the pandemic killed part of my inner child, or at least the part that tried to love everyone despite their flaws. This, in and of itself, is a major event that I haven’t had much time to process at all. This is the most self-reflection I’ve done in quite some time.

I suppose part of this disappointment stems from a certain amount of confidence lost, not just in humanity but also in myself.

It felt like both my ex and I were only beginning to get comfortable with this whole #adulting thing after the years we spent wanderlusting in the states and around the world. With respect to myself, I was moving through a re-emergence of thoughts and emotions surrounding what it meant to live comfortably in the so-called ‘adult world’ instead of being overly concerned about flow.

As it pertains to humanity, I think part of me was hoping that because this was a genuine global disaster, everyone would rally together in solidarity at the start of the pandemic. It was exhausting to witness a vocal, terrified minority of the world’s population utterly disregarding what was happening, calling it lies (despite the fact that some were in the hospital), choosing to isolate themselves from their loved ones, and, most importantly, choosing to endanger the lives of their friends, family, and neighbors. That was the most fucked up part.

I’m quite sure we didn’t cover the Spanish Flu in depth within my high school AP US History class, aside from a possible fleeting comment. Perhaps there was more info and I wasn’t paying attention, though I doubt it. I truly enjoyed studying history and retained plenty of what I learned in that class. Needless to say, I don’t recall hearing anything about anti-maskers or Spanish flu skepticism at the time. But, courtesy of the internet (and the reality that we are destined to repeat history if we do not learn from it), I now know that comparable challenges existed during the Spanish Flu. It would have been nice to know about that info beforehand, as maybe it would have helped me mentally prepare instead of having a certain amount of blind faith regarding humanity’s splintered response to a global crisis. I know dumb people gonna dumb, but it’s just disconcerting when dumbs that are dumbing also put the lives of others at greater risk, especially the elderly, children and those who are immunocompromised.

So now I’m here. The pandemic is allegedly over. My romantic relationship with the goddess is too. I’m not sure where to go from here. In many respects, this feels like one of those hurricanes that swept through and completely ravaged a town, but this is all in my head (and heart). However, the sheer amount of devastation and debris spread throughout makes this storm feel peculiar. I suppose it’s because this was a nearly five-year project/experiment, one of the longest I’ve ever undertaken.

I know I’ll get through this. I’ve weathered storms like this before. It will take time to sort through the wreckage of my mind and build up a stronger infrastructure. I just hope that I find time to fully integrate what I’ve learned despite the increasing stress of living in the so-called “adult world.”



Bryce Post

is a writer that always seems to be working on at least five different projects while attempting to share musings and revelations on a regular-ish basis.