How I made treasured friends--at home--during the pandemic

podliving image
Jenna (second from left) and her friends celebrating “Friendsgiving.”

"So no one told you life was gonna be this way"

It's the intro to one of the best sitcoms of all time, Friends* (created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman)--but I feel that, in a lot of ways, it's also a fitting anthem for the bizarre, terrible, and wonderful year that was 2020.

"Your job's a joke, you're broke / Your love life's DOA."

March of 2020 sucked. I had just lost a job that I loved due to pandemic-induced downsizing. I was living on unemployment and taking on more freelance work than I could reasonably handle. My mental health was not at its finest--and my craft closet was overflowing with art projects (i.e., coping mechanisms). Even with my carefully curated distractions, there was no escaping it--I was "stuck in second gear." It was not my day, my week, my month, or--you guessed it--even my year.

I passed the hours going for long walks, picking dried tie-dye pigment out from under my fingernails, and crying on the phone to my parents about how life as I knew it was over. (Oy! Sorry, Parents). But in a way, I was right. My life had irrevocably changed, but little did I know it was going to be for the better.

"I'll be there for you / (When the rain starts to pour)"

It started with a happy hour. In May and June of 2020, I noticed some new folks moving into my apartment complex. By virtue of living in Chicago, new tenants weren't uncommon. But something felt different about these people. Eager to find out what it was, I made invitations for a socially distant gathering, stuck them on each person's door, and hoped for the best. 

The night of the happy hour, we showed up on the communal back porch with masks, wine coolers, and craft beer in tow. At first, it was kind of awkward--it had been a while since any of us had spoken to anyone besides our pets. We were very much out of practice with the whole socializing thing.

But then we started talking…and talking…and five hours later, we were still talking…and six months later, we're still talking. 

We talk while we cook dinner for each other; while we decorate each other's homes for the holidays; on weekend hikes and getaways and excursions to the beach. We talk about our hopes and dreams; our fears and frustrations. We've consoled each other in times of loss, and toasted each other in times of triumph. And slowly, together, we have begun to find our mooring in these--I'm gonna say it--unprecedented times.

"I'll be there for you / ('Cause you're there for me too)"

Like some kind of made-for-TV sitcom, we have become a chosen family--with all the antics and oddities that entails. I could script an actual sitcom detailing all the ways in which these amazing people and our unique circumstance have uplifted me in this difficult time. But, instead I'll say that--thanks to my pandemic pod--home has never been a more inviting place.

* Theme song, "I'll Be There for You," by The Rembrandts
Jenna Cohen is a marketing and development professional living in Chicago.

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