How Will Oregonians Be Different When the Coronavirus Pandemic is Over?

The end is in sight. The end of the year, the end of the winter, the end of the pandemic. It’s in sight, but not here yet — and things could certainly get worse before they get better.

The impact the pandemic has had on businesses has been catastrophic, with joblessness at rates not seen since the Great Depression. Restaurants are taking a significant hit, though some are offering take-out, including Thai Bloom on Northwest 23rd Avenue. April 8, 2020 Beth Nakamura/Staff

 By the time we are out from under the coronavirus, we will probably have been dealing with its impacts for more than a year. Already it seems like it’s been forever. And we are not the same people who rang in the new year on Jan. 1, 2020.

This year, I became a different person — a more cautious and judgmental person, a more sentimental mother, a more involved daughter, and a much more accomplished baker.

In November, I asked readers to tell me how they have changed. Many people responded. Here are just some of their stories. These submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

— Lizzy Acker

“It’s made me more observant. With less cars and people about, there’s more stillness. I now notice different species of birds.” – Nathan Corliss, 36, Portland

“As a Vietnamese American, the pandemic changed the way I viewed my place in this country. I went from feeling fairly safe in this city to feeling insecure about how others will perceive me and my family when we are in public. This pandemic opened my eyes to the fragility of my rights as a minority and that l was so naive about my assumption that others see me as equal even though I live in a city lacking in diversity. A month into the pandemic, on a bike ride with my 4-year-old daughter, a white woman jogging in the park yelled racial slurs at us while we biked past her (keeping more than 6 feet away). When we stopped for a snack, a white man walked very close to us and started coughing. Another man yelled that we are going to die as I biked home through our neighborhood. After these incidents, I didn’t leave our house for months unless it was for groceries. I am much more careful when I take my kids out for walks now, and I avoid making eye contact and cross the streets to avoid people. I’m not sure I will feel completely safe again.” – Michele Hoang, 37, Portland

“My entire life I have been outgoing; always in trouble for talking in class, the storyteller at parties, the one that enters a room of strangers and leaves with a room of friends. Not anymore. I don’t know if it’s being out of the social habit or a victim of cabin fever, but I find myself turning into a recluse. And I’m angry. Angry at people I see going to Hawaii, Disney, or wine tasting — galavanting like the world isn’t a horror show. When I do go to the store, people are rude, impatient and generally unkind. I get it, going out is like walking the plank, but what happened to common decency?” – Chris Geraci, 54, Ridgefield, Wash.

“I am amazed at my own capacity for experiencing such a range of emotions, and how many emotions I have throughout any given day. Without this pandemic, I’d never have the chance to know my son so authentically and see him grow and develop an understanding of the world he lives in.” – Kelly Decklar, 40, Portland

“I already know that when I get to be older, if anyone asks me about this pandemic, I will refuse to talk about it. It ruined half my junior year of high school, and now my entire senior year. It killed some friendships that I had. I honestly cannot remember what normal life is like. And I don’t know what I will be like when I am with people again. Will I still be who I was before? Or will I be more subdued, and more quiet? I ponder about that often, because I truly don’t know.” – Michael Steinberg, 18, Beaverton

“For me, the pandemic has boiled everything down to its essence: what I thought mattered, what I believed was essential and what I spent my time doing. My daughter who is 13 recently said ‘Isn’t it crazy to be living inside a future history lesson?’ and I agreed. The biggest change I see in myself is an awareness of the ways I’ve been lucky in my life and a renewed sense of obligation to continue working on behalf of those who are struggling during this time.” – Laura Moulton, 50, Portland

“I have become so much more aware of everything around me. Suspicion consumes me sometimes. I am always looking at people who don’t wear a mask or wear one improperly or a mask that isn’t legitimate. Having my elderly mother with dementia living with me now since my dad died in August in the nursing home has changed me too. I know he died of loneliness because my mom who used to see him every day now could not see him at all. She would walk a mile to go see him and then be turned away. Sometimes she would fall, sometimes she would call me lost, sometimes her neighbor would call. My five grandchildren, I live for them and I am scared. I don’t understand those that don’t take this seriously. I just don’t.” – Terria Nightingale, 64, Dallas

“2020 has become a refuge, being comfortable in a place that is apart from the madness and turmoil, a place and time for going inward. I have slowed down, postponing and canceling so much of the busyness of our times. I read more, I write more, I dearly appreciate my world.” – Neal Lemery, 67, near Tillamook

“I am a wedding planner, which I say from the top because COVID has done to the wedding industry what I hoped to do to the wedding industry: Killed it. This is very challenging news for my fellow vendors. We are, like so many, trying to figure out how to make a living in this new world. It is also, I think, very good news, particularly for couples who want to start a marriage.

“I have seen COVID force couples to have the conversations that I have advocated they have for years. The pandemic has made them ask the most important question in all of wedding planning. Not the when or the where or the how much but the why. Why are we getting married?

“The answer is usually all about love, and that’s a beautiful thing. I look forward to seeing what it means for the future.” – Elisabeth Kramer, 30, Portland

“I used to be spontaneous. Now I don’t go anywhere without studying the rules of engagement: I have to know how to approach any store, restaurant or other venue intimately before I go there, and when they make minor adjustments, I tend to freak out. Hopefully, I’ll get over this phase and learn to roll with the punches.” – Robert Mohrman, 69, Portland

“My life is either that of a hermit as I stay home most of the time, or when I absolutely must be in public, hazmat, where I wear my Moldex 8000 respirator, my lab gloves, and my glasses to protect myself. I did meet my new sweetheart at Market of Choice in Eugene back in September while dressed in full hazmat. It was like a masquerade because he was wearing a surgical mask and I was behind him and I recognized him from the back by his hair and his walk. We worked together for about seven years, many years past,  and saw each other once in a while. When I said, ‘Adam is that you?’ He turned and was shocked to see me like that, he wasn’t sure who I was, but he said, ‘Yvonne, is that you?’ I told him I had moved to Yachats, and was alone, so we exchanged numbers, and it later was clear that he too was alone. We now have the beginning of a blossoming relationship to look forward to, instead of navigating the cold, dark winter alone.” – Yvonne Hall, 59, Yachats

“We might not return to ‘normal,’ but life is too precious to give up or be careless. I miss people and places and activities outside my home. It’s only for a little while longer and then we can move forward to something new and exciting. I don’t think I will change that much. I know I will appreciate life even more.  I will probably explore more places and meet more people and create more friendships along with all the friends I miss now.” – Patrice Toombs, 70, Roseburg