In December of 2019, my partner Cessely and I got married in North Carolina’s woods in the presence of about 50 of our closest friends. We have loved ones in India and Korea, and our goal was to travel eventually to both of these places, to celebrate with our friends and family there, who could not be with us in North Carolina in the winter of 2019. As we were tying the knots, we had no clue that a crisis was shaping up in another part of the world, which would turn the world upside down in the infamous year now known as 2020, and toss our plans to the water.
By March 2020, COVID-19 arrived in the US and started paralyzing public life. As the stay-at-home orders were handed out, we started adapting to new social and professional standards. I was trying to finish my PhD, find a job in an uncertain job market while merely trying to exist as a brown immigrant in you-know-who’s America. Let’s say it did not feel like a honeymoon period. However, Cessely, my wife, was supportive at her best, and slowly things also started working out at my end. I eventually completed my PhD virtually, found an internship that led to a full-time job, and moved a short distance to another city in North Carolina.
As the pandemic clearly established that it was there to stay for a while, we switched to working remotely. This led to an interestng moment because we were not just two spouses cohabitating in the same space, but we were also two professionals doing remote work in the same living area. While this situation called for setting some boundaries, it also led to some loving opportunities. My wife worked a room away from me, which always allowed me to steal a quick cuddle and hug between all the client calls. We were also sharing more meals than ever, and I started enjoying the opportunity to fix us a quick lunch in the middle of the workday and share!
While we were thankful to have all the time with each other and keep us company, we started missing out on the social gatherings, which were harder to organize now more safely. This helped us learn and get adapted to establishing more personal spaces for each of us to re-energize, rejuvenate, and come back as better partners for each other. For Cessely, it meant more time for her gaming hobby, allowing her to stay in touch with her friends virtually. As far as I was concerned, I started spending more time hiking, photographing, and generally spending more time in nature. Taking the time for ourselves allowed us to appreciate better all the time we had with each other.
The spring and the summer slowly gave their way to Fall. We finally started taking advantage of all the vacation days that we never got to use at work to organize short weekend trips. To keep our trips safer while also memorable, we started camping or staying in AirBNBs, where we did not have to share living space with anyone. We saw Fall foliage up in the Smoky Mountains. We experienced the sunset and ate delicious seafood in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We saw the Great Falls of the Potomac River near Washington DC, and we canoed through the river of grass in the majestic Everglades National Park in Southern Florida.
The COVID-19 mass vaccination prospects in 2021 brought hope after the despair of 2020. However, it was brief, as we got to see an insurrection in the nation’s capital barely into January. It brought us a little closer in our shared experience of the US, albeit through different lenses.
For Cessely, who was born in this country, while me, who adopted this country as a home for the last few years, for both of us, it was a moment of introspection, into the soul of the country, and soul of each of us. Note that we started seeing each other shortly before Trump won the election in 2016, so the country’s political landscape did play a major role in shaping our relationship. A month has passed since the Capitol events, and things started mellowing down, and we are relieved to see a bit of sanity returning in the national atmosphere. We are looking forward to allowing our minds and bodies to recover and heal after the constant panic mode of a year.
We also look forward to returning to a semblance of normalcy around the world aided by effective vaccinations in the days to come. We look forward to seeing more of our loved ones we didn’t get to see since our wedding and those who couldn’t be with us that day, including my family in India.
Looking back, I would ideally not have wanted 2020 to mark the first year of our marriage. However, I must acknowledge that 2020 taught us volumes. It allowed Cessely and me to see each other a lot, sometimes not in our most flattering moments, and still being able to tolerate and support each other.
While I am not a huge believer in the idea of picking a day in the year to celebrate love, I am thankful that this Valentine’s Day is another year we could be with each other while having a roof over our head, and while being able to stay relatively healthy and safe. I hope that our resilience will enable us to navigate through a journey of the days and years to come, no matter how bumpy the ride gets. And we will get to do it with love, in the same spirit we guided ourselves through 2*20.