2020—Very Bad. Would not recommend.

2020—The Most Uncomfortable Year Yet

In January I remember chatting with a good friend about how January was always the worst month of the year. Still reeling from the holiday months that just passed, we all seem to be in a fog in January—myself included. Typically, in February the fog lifts. The excitement for Valentine’s Day is palpable. Personally, I am excited about my birthday, which is two days after Valentine’s Day.

I spent my birthday weekend in New Orleans with some friends. For whatever reason, I remember feeling lost. I was constantly dodging bodies in the crowded city when all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and stay there forever. When Jake and I got home, I asked if we could take a break from people for a little while. I was drained from interviewing and socializing and needed a break to relax and reflect.

A few weeks later, late March 2020, just as cities began locking down and quarantine was in full swing, I accidentally burned myself after spilling near-boiling water on most of my leg. The pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced—I almost passed out. Medical supplies were in short supply due to panic buying so we had to improvise. Jake had to use finger gloves when he couldn’t find sterile hand gloves at the pharmacy. I rationed the burn cream and gauze. I couldn’t walk for weeks, much less practice yoga, run, or exercise. I started to feel sad and lonely more often than not. I was curled up in bed everyday not socializing just like I wanted though—the irony was too much.

Eventually, the open wound healed. Although I still have the second-degree burn scar—it will take months, if not years, to fully heal. In the meantime I decided to refocus my efforts on fostering for our local animal shelter—Dallas Animal Services. I had fostered four dogs prior to my incident and I was eager to get back to it.

In April, after weeks of isolation, we met Red—our fifth foster. He was three years old and just about the sweetest pup I had ever met. He walked right by my side and always had a big smile on his face. But Red had a problem: he was vomiting everything he ate. After a day of vomiting all of his food and even water, we called the shelter and asked to take him to see a vet. Scared that he would vomit in the car, I laid a blanket for Red in the backseat and didn’t sit with him. When we dropped him off at the shelter so the vet could check him out, I gave him a smile and a pat on the head, completely unaware that I would never see him again. You see we later learned that Red had a condition—megaesophagus. This condition caused Red to vomit because he was losing mobility and tone of his esophagus. Red was withering away and suffering, unable to take in any nutrients. And so the shelter decided to put him out of his misery. I got the call as they were putting him down. I wasn’t able to be there with him because of quarantine regulations. I cried for hours and I cry again as I type this. Red—I miss you everyday. You deserved better.

As May rolled around I was convinced that we were in the clear. The strict lock down was lifted and life would soon get back to normal. But it didn’t. I was on the job hunt and companies were on hiring freezes. I my anxiety intensify with each passing day. And then the protests started. I was oblivious at first because I was fostering dog after dog, determined to save as many lives as I could. When I finally came out from under my rock, I read about the horrendous and unnecessary murder of George Floyd. I took the time to listen, like most, to what was being said. I watched videos, read books, listened; I took it all in and I continue to learn.

The protests continued into June, some were labeled riots, others peaceful demonstrations. And so I keep listening, helping in whatever way I can. I wrote to my representative, donated, supported and continue to support black-owned businesses and voices. The death of George Floyd spurred action, spurred change. People are starting to speak up, bills are being written, progress is being made. And that is when I realized that all the discomfort of this year will spark change. It already has.

The coronavirus pandemic—however inconvenient—exposed our broken food industry. An industry that not only breeds disease and sickness but also abuses billions of animals. The death of George Floyd, among countless other black lives, shined a light on the systematic racism that is still prevalent in these United States of America. I realize now that things will never go back to normal and I am happy about that because we can do better than normal.

As I come to these realizations and reflect on my own troubles I let go of the feelings of rejection. I understand that I still have so much privilege. I wear my burn scar as a reminder that the pain I felt has changed me and while the scar will one day go away, I will never forget. I remember Red along with all the other lives that have been lost in this cruel and unfair world. I know I can do better and this year, however uncomfortable, will make me stronger.

Between coronavirus forcing everyone to quarantine for months, massive layoffs, and a demand for an end to systematic racism, this year has been nothing if not uncomfortable for most people. It started with stressful trips to the supermarket trying to stock up on toilet paper. Now, as we approach the halfway point to the year 2020, it’s a collective call to end systematic racism as we continue to navigate the coronavirus times. I am not sure what the rest of 2020 holds in store for us but I am ready, no matter the discomfort. Because being uncomfortable is okay, it’s what spurs action and brings about change. What we do this year, during these uncomfortable times, will define us. So let’s do better. Let’s get stronger.

While year 2020 may only be halfway through, it is already one for the history books. May the rest of this year bring more change; even if along with it comes discomfort. Nothing worth doing is ever easy anyway.

Until next time,

Leah Pinkus

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