The pandemic came fast. One Monday at my software startup in mid-March 2020, my boss asked me to prepare my team for a “work from home trial” the following week in case the pandemic — if we even called it that then — got worse. The next day, me and my co-workers were unplugging our monitors, cradling them in our office chairs and wheeling them out to our cars amidst excited chatter. In the first of many impossible occurrences that year, our adamantly anti-remote-work CEO had mandated full-time remote work. Things changed quickly after that.

My feelings on that period of my life, however, have come by slowly. Only now, 3 years later do I feel like I have enough distance from the toilet-paper-hoarding hand-sanitizer-hunting anxieties of that time to be able to meditate on my own experiences with any sort of intelligent introspection. It was a stressful — fine, I’ll say it — unprecedented time. The fresh unknowns that materialized with each today made it difficult to think of anything other than what would confront us tomorrow. COVID’s long tail reared its virulent head month after month after month. Needless to say, it has taken time to heal.

Some people, of course, never did. For my family, COVID was like an unwelcome house guest: a mere inconvenience, leaving scattered evidences of its presence in our house for a few weeks afterwards, nothing more. We were lucky. Countless families were affected in more lasting and traumatic ways than I will ever understand, and I mourn for them.

In a way I suppose this was the tragic irony of the pandemic: a shared global experience that resulted in infinitely fractured and isolated experiences. It is hopefully with that in mind that one can appreciate the goodwill with which I state a realization I’ve only recently made: the pandemic was one of the happiest periods of my life.

Having, perhaps, been teetering on the precipice of work-alcolhism, being granted hours in the middle of the day on any given day of the week to do things as benign and uneventful as take a walk around the block felt like a revelation. As things that used to be highlights of my day either closed down or became impossible to do, things that were previously boring took their place. My social barometer reset. For the first time in a long time, I had so much time.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember choosing to fill that time with particularly productive things. I did take up running I suppose. Pandemic boredom drove me to watch professional baseball, now a beloved pastime of mine. We bought a puppy and named her Willa, before deciding 24 hours later that wasn’t for us. In fact, other than a few strangely specific memories — renting the Cats movie one night and googling “jellicle cat,” ripping apart the hard-to-open takeout boxes from our favorite restaurant trying to stay afloat — I mostly just have vacuous memories of spending many hours with my wife doing nothing of much importance at all.

My wife and I went from a world of taking our separate routes each morning to our separate jobs, exchanging a few quick-worded texts throughout the day, and reuniting over dinner, to one where it felt like every hour one of us found an excuse to say hello. There was nowhere to go, nothing to spend money on, and nothing to watch on TV. Those first 6 months were an exercise in mindfulness and being present with each other. We learned to love each other in a different way than we had ever loved each other before. That is, we learned not just to love the other person afresh, but to love being with that other person in its most basic form, a subtle but marked difference.

I do remember being frustrated at times, yes. But for the most part, I remember the things we did once we moved past the frustration and embraced that great period of pause. Cornhole at the park wasn’t just a way to entertain ourselves at a party; finding new walking trails wasn’t just a way to spice up an exercise routine. I remember learning to savor a thing — any thing — for just what it was, and nothing more.

I sometimes reflect on how those early pandemic months would have lodged themselves in my brain had they not occurred during the miraculous season of spring. If winter’s final snowfall had not already turned to runoff, would I have been more disappointed in the early ending of the ski season? If the crisp April air and bright April sun were replaced with the short days and cold skies of January, would I have been more inconvenienced to work on my porch rather than the office? Or perhaps, if November’s prospect of impending winter were bearing down rather than the knock of summer’s warm embrace, would the endlessness of quarantine have felt more confining than it was?

Instead, the pandemic’s occurrence during Spring’s promise of fresh starts and new beginnings provided a fresh start to my own life, an opportunity to take inventory of what habits were worth fertilizing and which to let melt away with the winter snow.

Of course, as time goes, it’s spring again, now three years from that day in the office. I find myself reflecting on the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s great poem The Waste Land,

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

With the rains this spring, and all springs to come, I hope I can revitalize the dull roots of my COVID memories and remember to cling to the sacred boring.