The Character Arc of Covid

Who are we, and what do we stand for?

As a writer, this is an important question to answer about your characters before writing a single word—the “who” and “what” is the central basis of why our characters do anything. If you don’t know the answers–you’re going to have an uphill battle in the piece you’re writing.

This is a conversation I recently had with my twelve-year-old son. At school, he’s learning about “The Hero’s Journey,” which is, by far, the most epic of all plot journeys. But my child is unimpressed. He has no urge to watch Frodo and Sam hike across Middle Earth to Mount Doom. He has even less interest in knowing the story of Katniss Everdeen. His one passion and love are comic strips–and character arc is the enemy of a good comic strip. Can you imagine Garfield deciding it is time to treat John and Odie with love and respect? Or if he went on a diet and gave up lasagna? This would mark the end of Garfield’s antics and laughter because no one tunes in to see him change. They keep reading to watch him mess up. This deep love of comic strips or slapstick driven stories makes it difficult to explain what a character arc is and why it’s crucial to story craft. So I did what I know he’ll understand the best–and I made it about him.

As in writing, so is in life. While Garfield had better never changed, I know for sure, my son will. It’s a natural character arc. He will grow up and move out, etc. But that’s too far off, so I picked something much closer: the Covid pandemic and 2020 in general.

My son and I have witnessed much in the decade+ years of his life, but there has been nothing like Covid before now. This is true for all of humankind.

We’ve been hit with an event so large, we’re simultaneously being forced through the grinder of life. In short, we have to learn, adapt, and grow to archive and survive. Early this month, LA Magazine published an article stating that “According to 28 American and British historians surveyed by virtual therapy company Bloom, 2020 was one of the most stressful years in history. The historians ranked this year among the top ten most stressful both in U.S. and world history, just below years marred by tragedies such as the American Civil War, the Black Death, the Holocaust, and the sack of Rome.” After each of these events, came great change.

This extraordinary time has forced us to twist, bend, mold, and shove ourselves into new versions of our old lives. Our jobs have changedOur schools have gone online. How we socialize is entirely different, from staying connected with friends and family to meet that “special someone” it’s not like it used to be–even a little. At the same time, divorce is on the rise, “For some couples, pandemic friction has involved a few more fights about the laundry or the savings account. For others, the lockdown has exposed issues that run deeper and offered ample time for reflection, leaving them to wonder about their options for pursuing separation during the pandemic.” We’ve seen those we love get sick and die. We’ve seen chaos. We’ve been abandoned. We’ve been picked back up. It’s been a nonstop roller coaster for going on a year here in America–and the rest of the world.

So, of all the things we may never have in common–we have this. We have Covid-19, and we have how Covid-19 has changed us. We have grown as people. In great depths, we have learned if our relationships with ourselves, our partners, our friends, our families are the real deal. Will they last? Are the bonds we’ve cultivated strong enough to keep us together? And we have learned if it’s time to sever ties and move on.

I am barely scratching the surface with my examples. But no matter who you are, I’m certain you have had a major character arc in your life story. I can say this with certainty: We are not now, nor will we ever be who we were before 2020 and Covid-19. Even if you thought your life was fine how it was, you have grown, you have changed, and you are no You 2.0.

After speaking with my son, I asked this question on Facebook, “What has been your Covid-19 story arc?” and only received one reply–so I’ll accept that maybe we aren’t ready to divulge such a personal answer publicly. Or, maybe you haven’t thought about it, but I’m telling you, you should.

What is your arc? How have you changed? How has the Covid pandemic touched you? As I used this example with my son, I saw a light bulb flip on. From something as simple as, “I’m a foot taller than I was before Covid,” to something more emotional, “I’ve learned it’s hard to be so isolated,” we all have a story to tell.

If you’re a writer, self-examination is a fantastic way to learn who you are as a writer and who your characters are. Yes, you should read, read, read, and you should write, write, write–but taking a moment to be introspective about who you are, what your journey has been, how you have changed–and what emotions were involved will also help you grow in your craft.

If there is one positive thing you can take from 2020, Covid-19, and what it has done to us as a global society, it’s using this time to know who you are, what you want, and why you want it. These things can unite us and help us grow stronger, and if you nail a perfect Character Arc in the process, good job you.

And if you don’t want to–Garfield hasn’t changed much since 1978. It’s okay if you haven’t either.

Say No to NYE Resolutions!!

Hey, friends! Let’s make a pact that this New Year’s Eve that we won’t make any resolutions. Maybe you want to set a goal. Fine. 

Maybe you like a good vision board to keep you on your path. I get it.

But no New Year’s Resolutions. 

Planning: yes! 

Organizing: for sure! 

None of this wishful thinking and acting like January 1st is a gene’s bottle containing the power to grant you that one wish you’ve always wanted to come true.

Turns out: nothing changes on New Year’s Day. If you want to invite change into your life, you’re going to have to do the work all by yourself.

And you know what else? That is okay!

Please don’t let this post depress you. I’m not saying you can’t create change in your life. I very much believe you (and I) can and will. While the flip of a calendar date does not guarantee general progress and substantial life changes, both are obtainable. Just not by placing all your eggs into the New Year’s Eve Resolution Basket, but by understanding that every single day of the calendar year holds the same potential and magic as January 1st. 

Usually, I wouldn’t even comment on New Year’s Resolutions or suggest you should or should not do something—but this year is different. 2020 was a lot. It has been a constant battle on all fronts, from the pandemic to job loss, and an election that was an emotional battle comparable only to being stalked by a hungry tiger. We’re all tired. 

But know, some good things to ignite in 2020. Firstly, the protests come to mind and the marches. 2020 was the dawning of a new generation that accepts Black Lives Matter as a movement, not merely a dismissable moment. We have removed racist statues across America. The plight of Transgender people has been brought to the forefront — bringing awareness and acceptance with it.

What else? Oh! The Earth can breathe more comfortably, with the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere dropped 17% during the pandemic. I know March 2020 feels like twelve lifetimes ago—but remember as we ran around scared and collected toilet paper like it was the 1990’s and toilet paper was beanie babies—but dolphins swam in the canals of Venice, Italy. The FIRST TIME in sixty years. 

See! It hasn’t been all bad. So let’s not go over board and act like you fail in 2020, and now you have not choice but to punish yourself 2021. Say NO to NYE Resolutions. 

Let’s not pretend this year is the same as any other New Year’s Day. Let’s not set unattainable goals for weight loss. Everyone has gained weight over the last year. How could we not? We’ve been sitting home, eating all day long, watching every single last show on Netflix. But this is not a reason or cause to body shame ourselves into believing the mega-million dollar diet industry is something more than just that: an industry.

I’ve joked with family and friends that over the last nine months, I’ve gained “the Covid 19.” 19 lbs on my hips and midsection sit like a Covid Life Preserver to remind me that I’m less active daily. I’m eating more. I’m sleeping less. 

When is it okay or give yourself a break? Answer: this very second. 

Maybe you’ve been looking for a sign that it is okay not to have a New Year’s resolution. This is that sign! DON’T DO IT! 

Like I said, set a goal. “In 2021, I’d like to tell myself I’m beautiful, every day, and mean it!” But let’s leave all those hurtful resolutions to dissolve with the last seconds in this long year.

Today is December 30th. Take some time to write a list of positive things that have happened to you:

  • I read (number) books
  • I learned to cook
  • I gave up drinking
  • I began a new job

Write a list of things that make you proud of yourself. Tape the list to a wall. Add to it daily.

And if you feel you need to disregard this post—fine—but don’t spend your New Year’s Eve resolution on putting yourself down, shaming yourself, hating yourself. Pick something glorious!! New Year’s Eve resolution is to learn to fly a plane!

Please remember when you are saying those mean things to yourself: The world isn’t a melting pot, it’s a stir-fry, and each of us is the spices that make it unique. You are amazing. Stop saying those things! Stop.

While you may dismiss this post, please consider joining my pact: No More New Year’s Eve Resolutions. Then look yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m a sexy beast!” kiss yourself on the glass, and be happy — because you’re a survivor. 

If 2020 has taught you nothing, let it teach you that. 

Never have I ever…

Never have I ever: thought I would see the world in such disarray. I never thought I’d live in a time where I watched my neighbors dance in the street in utter happiness as the last president was voted out. It reminds me of many a history video of a fallen regime and the citizens dancing with joy.

Never have I ever… but it happened.

Never have I ever cried so hard at all the nothing around me because my last nerve balanced my life on its tiny end. Points of pain became so numb I didn’t realize I was bruised and bleeding.

Never have I ever… but I was. I am.

I’ve spent most of the past week working through more emotions than I should have ever felt in the last four years — yet they all came at once. My workout sessions have transformed into mini-self-therapy modules where I jump, squat, bargain, cry, push up, lift, grow angry, and cry some more. And now, other emotions are wiggling their way out of the compartments I tucked them into.

Today, the death of a friend who passed in February hit me hard. Her face popped into my brain as I pressed weights above my head. There she was — right there — floating above me. At first, I talked to her in my head, and then it was a rapid unraveling. She died two weeks before quarantine began a month before her birthday.

And I thought — Never have I ever processed your death, dear friend — I just kept moving. Now, as I exhale for the first time in forever, here you are. I’m sorry.

I have so many plates spinning in the air. It’s my fault; I forgot to count how many I tossed up there and kept adding to them. Now my neck hurts from looking up.

Never have I ever been expected to keep going when it’s so obvious I need to stop. But I can’t stop. There is no stopping. Stopping is certain death, I’m sure of it.

Yet, I worry what the next feeling, memory, a moment will push its way free as I fumble around doing side-planks and whatever is on my HIIT routine that day. What else have I forgotten? I fear it’s so much that I’ll be trapped in 2020 well into 2021.

Never have I ever wanted to celebrate a new year as I do this year in the desert with the roadrunners and coyotes. That’s where perfection is — nature.

A scheduled transformation, sitting on my calendar, reminding me — life’s not all bad.

Never have I ever learned SO MUCH in such a short amount of time. As I process all the things I’ve tuck away, I know that I can process some more.

One burpee at a time. One cry at a time. One apology at a time. With knowing this, I can say:

Never have I ever wanted to be right where I am — at this exact moment. My hand was forced. It will continue to be pushed. With each new memory left to handle, I become a better version of myself.

Never have I ever wanted to play witness to a world on fire. For I would have happily remain in my make-believe land, prancing a joyful dance in long skirts as I hum along to Frederic Chopin’s waltz no.3 in A minor. But, someone struck a match, and left me no choice but to participate in the birth of tomorrow.

Never have I ever… but it burns, and it burns. I spin, and I spin. The world transforms — and no one can stop it.

Never have I ever thought I wanted any of this — until I was left with out a choice — then I did.

Never have I ever, until now.