Two of my three roommates decided to head back to their parents’ homes when they caught a whiff of the world coming to a halt back in early March.
That left just me and my arch-nemesis (roommate No. 3) in a four-bedroom home in the San Fernando Valley. I love supporting and uplifting other women, but my patience was really put to the test with this one. She ate all of my fancy vanilla almond butter without asking. And let’s just say that not everyone believes in the “all exes are off-limits” rules.
Eventually, she left too. And then I got calls from roommates Nos. 1 and 2 just days after the pandemic shutdown began and days before the lease was up: “We don’t want to renew.”
That was not my finest hour. I was devastated. The house was still filled with all of our furniture, clothes, food, everything. I was stuck clearing it all out if I wanted to get back our deposit. And I still had to find a place to live.
I hung up and screamed, because I was clearly capable of handling this situation like an adult.
I ended up moving all of my stuff (and some of my roommates’) to my boyfriend’s parents’ guesthouse. They are lifesavers, and I’m grateful to them. But at the time, I felt embarrassed, ashamed and honestly high maintenance. Not too long before all hell broke lose with COVID-19, I had broken up with my boyfriend because love terrified me and it freaked me out that everything was going so well. Luckily, he didn’t let me go that easily. Even though we’d moved past it, I felt like some kind of heartbreaking villain in his family‘s eyes.
And so I was the girl who broke their son’s heart just to get back together with him a few weeks later and then — conveniently! — needed help moving and a place to live and somewhere to store all my belongings. A kinda big ask.
It wasn’t until later, though, that I realized the shutdown forced me to see my life for what it really is. To take a step back and appreciate just how fortunate I really am.
Before the world closed down like a Blockbuster, I had so many questions I couldn’t find answers to.
Was I really allowed to be this in love? And this fulfilled? I thought you had to have your heart broken and run over by a semi truck, like, 80 million times to deserve that.
Like everyone else in L.A., I’m an actress and writer. Creating is my passion, what I’d love to spend all my waking hours on. But my “survival job” was nannying. I thought it was just a life lesson. Like, “You have to work a hundred jobs that force you into existential crisis mode before you can earn the job of your dreams.” I was also juggling full-time online college.
It took crying in bed for several days to realize what I was dealing with. I was feeling it all: the pandemic, outrage over racial injustice, exhaustion, the world just generally feeling finito. My thoughts darkened. I became super hard on myself and felt guilty about my excess Oreo consumption and lack of willingness to do anything but weep.
Also, what if my boyfriend was, like, “This chick has got to go”? I feared I’d have no choice but to go live under the 101.
There are most definitely worse things in the world than being unsure and scared. Those feelings are temporary. Sometimes it just takes looking at the bigger picture to see that. I needed to validate my feelings at the time and address them. That’s why therapy has been life-changing. I realized I could use it when I started meditating and noticed that my thoughts autopiloted to the negative: restriction, self-criticism, the works. I was caught up in this go, go, go rushing mentality. It made me less appreciative of the present moment.
My character arc began when I chose to see beauty in the chaos of 2020. I started appreciating the way my boyfriend wakes me up every day with a smile and improvises raps about breakfast foods. It didn’t cure me right then and there, but after about 100 mornings of his smile and cheesy rhymes, I feel pretty close to saved.
Back in the real world, the old world, I’d rush out for work by 7 a.m. most mornings. Now I get to bask in all the love I feel. There’s no rushing, just appreciating.
I’ve started prioritizing my sanity, my happiness and my health, realizing life is truly fragile and worth being happy in. I’m learning to actually relax instead of obsessing about the million things on my to-do list
Something powerful I’ve learned is you can be present while also planning for and being eager for the future; it’s a balance.
I’ve stopped starting sentences with “I wish” and realized that I just can. I’ve been carving out more time in my days to do things I really enjoy, like opening more doors of opportunity for myself in the world of creating.
I’ve tried just about every non-dairy flavor Ben & Jerry’s has to offer. I’ve rewatched all of the Harry Potter movies and finally brushed the dust off my ukulele. I’m nannying less and focusing more on my writing and acting. I’ve nourished my relationships with family and friends. I’ve never been more in love.
I’ve also never been more in love with myself.
This isn’t a productivity contest. I did all of the above in sweats and a mustard-stained T-shirt. Some days are harder than others, but just making one day really count can turn a lot around if you let it.
This time is the silver lining.
The author is on Twitter @jessiicase.
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