Ian RuderMarch 13: What better time could there be to start a journal than in the waning hours of Friday the 13th? What could go wrong?

Back in March, when the magnitude of the pandemic was just settling in and stay-in-place self-improvement resolutions were all the rage, I decided this historic period would be a perfect time to start keeping a personal journal.

Understand that I’ve tried to keep a journal too many times to count and I’ve always failed. Always. But this was going to be different.

March 28: Two weeks and still going strong!

COVID-19 seemed to present the perfect opportunity: an unprecedented global event, complicated emotions, constantly changing circumstances and, perhaps most importantly for me, lots and lots of time. With months of lockdown looming and no social events, dinners out or trips, I was bound to have plenty of opportunities to document my day-to-day.

All of those predictions proved correct.

April 6: I ventured out for the first time in three weeks today. I didn’t like it — everything feels like a threat.

The world is crazy. Emotionally I’m all over the place, and I have tons of newly-free time. After five months of journaling, I wish I could tell you my endeavor lived up to my expectations, but in keeping with COVID-19 trends, the reality is more complicated.

On the one hand, I finally succeeded in sustaining a journal and have grown to enjoy composing my daily entry. On the other, staying in place and pandemic living don’t exactly make for the most compelling journaling. When you don’t go anywhere or see anyone for days on end, the entries begin to resemble a less funny Groundhog Day.

April 18: Swapped out the gray hoodie for the orange one. It still smelled OK, but five days in a row seems gratuitous.

May 7: I set a new personal record wearing trusty old gray seven days in a row! #Proud

June 25: Is it OK to wear a hoodie on a work Zoom?

It wasn’t always so mundane. Looking back on my early entries, I’m impressed by my own insights and thoughtfulness. Back then, I took time to reflect on the latest news and clearly made the effort to chronicle how it impacted me.

By month two, I could hardly bring myself to read the newspaper. In month three, I started blocking friends on social media and rethinking where and how often I got my news. By month four, I resigned myself to passing the hours playing video games.

August 7: I’m tired. I have nothing interesting to say. Sleep is all I desire.

COVID fatigue has set in. The always-on, 24/7 social media/news cycle is exhausting and, quite frankly, overwhelming. Between the depressing realities of isolation and the daily casualty counts, the pandemic has proven its ability to crush our plans and hopes.

Finding ways to stay sane is more important than ever, and to my surprise, I’m finding solace in my nightly writing. Having time for reflection, no matter how mundane, has been therapeutic. Keeping up the journal is a bulwark against depression and the idea that COVID-19 fatigue can win.

The irony of my journaling “success” is not lost on me. That I finally managed to keep a journal in a time of unprecedented monotony has led to some good laughs. As humor is in short supply these days, I’m thankful for that.