I have a distaste for the smell of spring.
I know there was a time when it was different, and I cling to these memories with all my might. Wearing wind pants and blue rubber boots and sloshing about in the puddles that overtook the path behind my childhood home. Marveling at the consistency of mud, how there was truly no color so pure as it. Even in my older years, driving with the windows down just enough to offset the endless winter I was accustomed to, but not so far that a passing car would accidentally splash my interior.
The springs of my adulthood have been far less magical. In March 2019, shortly before I turned 20, I was more depressed than I had ever been in my life (which seemed to be a record I broke every year). I don’t remember why, and perhaps it’s because I’ve simply chosen to forget. But I’ll never forget how I felt. Every step felt like a marathon. The inside of my head was blurry, I didn’t eat, and I cried nearly every day. Tasks like getting off of my couch for a cup of tea felt insurmountable, so I finally stopped trying. There were, of course, the terrible thoughts and breakdowns that come with all bouts of mental health problems, but I had never felt so physically ill before.
I got bloodwork done, desperate for an answer. A nurse called me a few days later. By this point, I was completely bedridden and had long since called in sick to work. I answered the phone from my daze, not bothering to sit up.
“Did you know you have mono,” the nurse asked after the exchange of pleasantries. In spite of myself, I laughed, relieved to have a reason for my misery beyond my usual mental health problems.
For the remainder of the school year, I practically lived on my couch. I would interval studying for finals and taking naps. I begged my boyfriend to get tested, but he refused. My antagonizing roommate would not even bring me a glass of water on the days I was too dizzy to walk down the stairs. I had never been so miserable in my life. The only things that had managed to bring me some sort of comfort were cracking a window to breathe in the fresh spring air, which once brought me so much solace, and drinking cups of tea to replace most meals.
One year later, everything is exactly the opposite.
It was a winter of change; I broke up with my boyfriend and my mood improved immensely. I live with three roommates, all of whom I love, in a beautiful house that we rent. My writing is being published more than ever (frequently), and I am finally being paid. I secured a coveted summer internship. I am excelling in my classes.
And then I don’t get sick, but the rest of the world does.
In February, I will admit that I was part of the group of people who wondered if the mass panic around COVID-19 was being blown out of proportion. At this time, Canadian cases were sparse. I wasn’t vocal about my bewilderment, but I did silently resent that I couldn’t use my to-go cups at coffee shops and that my upcoming work event might be canceled.
Within weeks, I didn’t have a job. I canceled my upcoming trip to Europe that I had spent months saving for. My parents weren’t allowed to leave Saskatchewan to come see me in Alberta. I wasn’t allowed to go five blocks over to see my baby cousin.
I now know that the mass panic was not blown out of proportion. I wash my hands whenever I touch something new. I bleach every surface of our house relentlessly and only leave for the essentials. I am one of the millions of Canadians who have applied for Employment Insurance (EI). I am trying to make the best of it, but the world remains so uncertain. This is not how I imagined my twenties.
I know I am fortunate in many ways, but in times of loneliness, I can’t help but mourn not what I lost, but what was just within reach. And as a snowy Alberta winter melts away, I am once more trapped inside my house, with only the smell of tea and a hesitant spring to tether me to reality.