Remember February? Back then, a night out meant traveling across the city to see a movie or live music or to try a new restaurant; now it means traveling across your neighborhood to a friend’s deck for BYOB, no-contact happy hour from 6 feet apart.

Before, it would’ve been strange to wear a mask to the grocery store; now it’s polite to cross the street when you see a stranger coming.

We’ve replaced summer vacations with evening walks and backyard kiddie pools. Even the fastidious among us are adopting pets. Companies that used to sell us booze or hair-care products now make hand sanitizer. We’re out of work, or sick, or we know someone who is. 

Our lives are unavoidably different in the wake of COVID-19, and they’re likely to stay that way until the outbreak is contained or treatments and vaccines become available. This is what our lives look like now. February feels like it happened a long time ago.

But it isn’t all disastrous. 

We’re newly appreciative of the things we’ve happily jettisoned along with our routines, the things we miss having in our lives, and the ways we’ve adapted to keep joy, connection and fresh possibility in our lives. Here are just a few of them.

— Megan Burbank

To throw in an even more personal touch, we got our staffers to sketch out their interpretations of what we miss and what we don’t. What do or don’t you miss about pre-coronavirus life? Tell us in the comments below, and your answers could appear in a future edition of The Mix.

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Things we don’t miss

Megan Burbank / The Seattle Times
Megan Burbank / The Seattle Times

Wearing office clothes

Blame it on the “we all look like 12-year-old boys” aesthetic of alt-weekly offices in the early 2010s, but I’ve always hated dressing up for work. Splintering myself sartorially between “Serious Weekday Megan” and “Fun Weekend Megan” has always seemed a dubiously valuable performance of adulthood. I’ll wear depressing, H&M-sourced business casual under duress, but I’m glad I don’t have to anymore.

Instead, I work from home in athleisure, because I exercise every day for sanity reasons, and if I’m eventually going to put on soft workout clothes, why wait? I’ve stopped using any kind of hair product, I wear significantly less makeup and I will probably never get a manicure or pedicure again. I miss my professionally colored fake blonde hair, but laying off the bleach for a while is probably good for my split ends and my ego.

If nothing else, the pandemic has made me realize how much time and money I used to waste on my appearance, all in an attempt to meet a beauty standard I found politically repugnant in theory but impossible to avoid in practice. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing these things if they make you happy. But I don’t miss them. Recently, someone I follow on Instagram posted an image of all of the marks that are pushed into a person’s skin by restrictive everyday garments like bra underwires, jeans zippers and seams on tight clothing. I gaped at them in my comfy leggings and workout top. It all looked so impractical, so painful, so borderline torturous. I can’t believe that used to be normal, I thought. I hope it never is again.

— M.B., features reporter

Kelsie Uno / Special to The Seattle Times
Kelsie Uno / Special to The Seattle Times

Commuting/traffic/waiting in line

I definitely don’t miss my three-hour round-trip commute! I live in Kent and, on the days I would have to go into the office, I’d head to Kent Station (getting there super early to snag a parking spot), hop on a Sounder train to the Chinatown International District, take light rail to Westlake Station and then walk to South Lake Union. By the end of a tiring day, I would often find myself saying, “I’m getting too old for this!” Work from home? Yes!

— Lori Taki Uno, desk editor

Bethany Jean Clement / The Seattle Times
Bethany Jean Clement / The Seattle Times

Feeling stuck in a different kind of “Groundhog Day”

I do not miss everybody blithely taking everything for granted as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and systemic racism continues unabated and women’s rights get not-so-slowly abraded and the environment goes to hell and the powers that be get exponentially more terrifying and everything just gets worse … This is a new worse, and definitely an abjectly terrifying one, but at least it appears poised to dismantle some of that other stuff, maybe, knock frantically on wood?

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Bethany Jean Clement, food writer

Things we do miss

Stefanie Loh / The Seattle Times
Stefanie Loh / The Seattle Times

Dinner parties/social plans

Like a lot of us, I am belatedly realizing that I once lived a life of glorious adventure. Meeting a friend for a drink and sitting right up next to her on a bar stool! Having people over for dinner and squeezing them around a too-small table! Spontaneous socialization that didn’t involve elaborate social-distance planning! It’s not that I did these things every day, but it’s funny how even introverts like me are now looking back wistfully at happy hours that weren’t on Zoom. I have no particular wisdom to impart from this realization; let’s just be kind to each other, tip big on our takeout, and dreamily anticipate gathering again around a table, someday.

Moira Macdonald, arts critic

Megan Burbank / The Seattle Times
Megan Burbank / The Seattle Times

Fitness classes

I’ve been dutifully taking my ballet and yoga classes from home since the pandemic shut down fitness studios, and while it’s been worth it to keep up my technique, I miss dancing on a real sprung floor. It’s second only to hugs on the list of things I miss from the time before.

Ballet is hard on the joints, and while I have a makeshift dance space in my home — a sheet of marley flooring and a barre I made out of plumbing piping — I miss the feeling of give and support you get from real dance flooring, the ease of being able to check your alignment in a studio mirror, and saying hi to the other dancers in the waiting room before class. It’s a privilege to be able to keep taking class from home, and I’m also grateful that the yoga studio I used to go to in-person has made the leap to a robust, all-streaming program. Both have been absolutely critical to maintaining my routine and sense of normalcy in lockdown.

I’ve also been delighted to see the ballet world open up to streaming performances, making them available to a much broader audience of viewers and democratizing an art form that has some well-documented problems around accessibility and diversity. It’s been exciting to see these changes happening virtually; I just hope they’ll translate to the IRL ballet world when it’s back in action, and I hope that’s sooner rather than later.

— M.B.

Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times
Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times

Going to the movies

Despite having plenty of content available at home, I miss every single thing about going to the movies — especially going to the movies by myself. I miss scrolling through the showtimes to pick where to go. I miss how freezing cold it is (especially when you’re escaping summer heat). I miss watching previews even when they seemed to stretch beyond the 15-minute mark. I miss how polite bites quickly turn into handfuls of buttery, crunchy, warm movie-theater popcorn, washed down by a Coke with waaaaay too much ice. I miss crying in the dark with a room full of strangers and the looks of solidarity you give each other as you shuffle out, sighing in contentment or laughing with one another if the picture was a total bomb. I miss the magic.

— Jackie Varriano, food writer

Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times
Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times

Concerts (you know, live music)

My “things I miss” list goes on and on, but it begins: Concerts, concerts, concerts.

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I miss weekly open mics at my neighborhood bar (the Blue Moon). I miss checking out flyers for hyperlocal acts at Cafe Racer, and I’ve tried not to think about the bands that should have played Neumos and the Neptune this spring and summer. In defeat, I’ve accepted all my refunds from Ticketmaster. When Harry Styles canceled his Tacoma Dome show scheduled for August, I came to terms with the fact that I likely won’t see a concert in 2020, a significant (if inevitable) bummer.

Sure, there are virtual shows, but the ephemeral, one-time-only nature of live music is impossible to digitize, as are the sparks that shoot down your spine when your favorite band’s bassist peeks out from backstage to survey the crowd. That energy exists only once, in that room and on that night.

Life won’t really feel “normal” to me again until we can cram into a 1,000-person club, sing and scream and dance all night, and leave sweaty, without voices and with the nights’ encore ringing in our ears.

Right now, that sounds horrifying.

— Trevor Lenzmeier, features desk editor

Stephanie Hays / The Seattle Times
Stephanie Hays / The Seattle Times

Random conversations with co-workers

Eight hours is a long time to be sitting in one room, alone, staring at a computer screen. Usually when I’m in the office, I take trips to discuss a story with a colleague, or get a drink from the water fountain, or heat up lunch in the kitchen. And in these little expeditions from my desk, there was the great luxury of stopping by a friend’s desk, or bumping into someone who is also hungry and in search of food. These lovely chats were often with people I don’t regularly work with, so when the pandemic sent us all home, they became people I talk to rarely, if ever. And I really miss those opportunities to commiserate over how we hadn’t had enough coffee that day, or to go over our upcoming weekend plans. Sure, I can still message people on Slack, but it’s different when you’re not both bored, staring at the clock, desperately waiting for your lunch to come out of the microwave.

— Stephanie Hays, features designer

Yasmeen Wafai / The Seattle Times
Yasmeen Wafai / The Seattle Times

Travel

I know I’m not alone in missing traveling. The only trip I had planned for the near future was to visit Denver in August to spend my niece’s first birthday with my family, and while it wasn’t some extravagant overseas vacation, I was really looking forward to it and I’m sad to miss this milestone. There’s always some risk when traveling, of course (hello flying tube of germs!), but I can’t wait until we can travel without a pandemic looming over us.

— Yasmeen Wafai, features news assistant

Bethany Jean Clement / The Seattle Times
Bethany Jean Clement / The Seattle Times

When things made sense

I miss when life was like a card game and, sure, you had to play the hand you were dealt, but at least the cards made sense. Full house? Excellent. Pair of fours? Well, it’s something. Handful of garbage? Bluff or fold — that’s two clear choices! All right! COVID-19 time is like you’ve got one Uno card, a Hallmark sympathy card with a rose plus “Big hugs!” on it, a tarot card of a person with 17 swords stuck through them that’s somehow supposed to be a good sign, a jack of hearts, a Dock Ellis baseball card, and a bonus business card from someone you don’t remember ever meeting. Ante up for that! I don’t even like cards.

— B.J.C.

Stefanie Loh / The Seattle Times
Stefanie Loh / The Seattle Times

Hugs; trust in humanity

Remember the days when you’d go on a double date with good friends, spend a couple of hours catching up over a delicious meal and then exchange hugs to say goodbye? I miss those simpler, more carefree times.

But beyond that, as someone who’s always tried to believe in the best of humanity and give everyone the benefit of doubt, I also miss being able to wander around the world striking up conversations and friendships with strangers I might encounter in everyday life. Two of our good friends in Seattle are a couple we met while on a cruise in March 2019. Alas, no one is going on any cruises for the foreseeable future, and really, even if we met another couple while out hiking or camping now, with the pandemic raging on, everyone is so wary of bringing new people into their lives that I’m betting we wouldn’t try to exchange phone numbers with a pair of strangers to suggest a second meeting. It’s so sad that we are now at a point where we feel afraid to touch other people not in our household. I also hate that I eye people with suspicion at the grocery store now. Like, ‘You’re not wearing a mask. Are you going to get me sick?!”

— Stefanie Loh, features editor