PHOENIX (AP) — For what feels like the first time in my life I’m craving change, longing for something different. But the start of each month aches like I’m repeatedly waking up and reliving the same nightmares from the previous month.

The headlines read another business shut down, another family member gone too soon, another Black person taken, another celebrity lost. All the while another day goes by and it still feels like we are in March — for the seventh time.

Who could have predicted that “after the pandemic” would still seemingly be just as far away as before?

It is especially hard on those who immerse themselves endlessly in today’s events. But it is not without purpose and definitely not without reflection. I see the calendar changing, but it is hard to see time passing. And despite it all, I’m grateful.

We made it through half a year in a pandemic. Can you believe it? Some of you may have picked up a new hobby, read books, finally finished that home project, reconnected with friends and family.

Me? All of the above.

I live alone in a studio no more than 700 square feet (65 square meters) in downtown Phoenix. It has given me nothing but time to myself.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to wake up every day, grateful I have a routine to adhere to — and, most importantly, grateful for time.

Today I stopped and smelled the roses. And by roses, I mean what I thought would be fresh air from my balcony. I was instead greeted with an uncomfortable whoosh of hot wind and a warm kiss from the sun. It's almost fall.

Every year I decorate for the seasons. This year was especially important to remind myself that time is passing. I'm bringing out the haystacks and the scarecrows. It’s a little early for pumpkins — but why not?

I open up my planner, light my leaf-scented candle and pour a mug of hot chocolate. This is the season when I map out my yearly plans; that is what six years in higher education conditions do to you.

But this time, instead of planning, which has made my work-from-home life a little less spontaneous, I’ve decided to just embrace time. It is exhausting thinking about what could have been this year. Multiple vacations, concerts and weddings are all crossed out of my planner.

Instead, I'm thinking about what this year has taught me so far, about myself and who I want to be. I decided to leave my planner blank.

I have worked for The Associated Press for more than a year now. I’ve written about 2,000 stories. I’m a working woman at 25 years old, and I’m nothing but grateful.

I know people who were laid off from their jobs, threatened with payments they weren't sure how to make, sick with COVID-19, grieving the loss of a friend or family member and harassed because of the color of their skin. This year has been tough on everyone, and right now I'm just blessed to be able to wake up. It's not a luxury that everyone has been given this year.

This moment seems endless. But as I look at my fall decorations, I'm reminded that time continues and we should be grateful, knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel.

———

Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. Follow Phoenix-based AP West Desk news associate Cheyanne Mumphrey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cheymumph

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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