Little moments of community

Something particularly cruel about this pandemic was being separated from people we love during the time when we needed it the most. But paradoxically, this isolation itself was something we have shared collectively, a communal experience.

What got me through this year were the moments of community that reminded me that, although we are isolated, we are not alone. I have selected three, in chronological order.

1. The masks

hand-made face mask

Hand-made face masks: the pandemic reminds us to look out for each other.

In February, my husband and I went to visit his family in Rome. Long story short, we ended up stuck for several months in my mother-in-law’s apartment under strict Italian lockdown rules, dealing with contradictory safety information, toilet paper hoarders, sold out masks, and coming to terms with the scale of the tragedy. There were several touching moments of community happening then (we all saw the videos of Italians singing in their balconies), but one in particular really stayed with me.

One day, my mother-in-law, Claudia, went across the street to buy milk at perhaps the only open shop in the block. That day was the owner’s birthday. She confessed to Claudia that the previous night had been difficult: every year, she would celebrate with family and friends, but this year nobody could gather and there was nothing to celebrate. After having a good cry, she decided to stay up all night sewing reusable cloth masks, and spent her birthday distributing them for free to everyone in the neighborhood. Claudia brought home three (one for each of us), and that’s how I got my first reusable mask.

2. The conference

a TypeWknd Discord channel

A screenshot of a TypeWknd Discord channel.

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you, like me, enjoy going to type conferences. But in 2020 there were times where it felt like my type communities were falling apart.

Then I got invited to give my first solo talk at TypeWknd. I was nervous and had trouble defining my topic, and after confessing this to the organizers, one of them, Jess McCarty, offered to have a video call with me and help me brainstorm. It was incredibly supportive.

As for the conference itself, there were ongoing discussions at a Discord channel, free workshops, chaotic and fun design games, and while it did not feel exactly like an in-person conference, it was interesting, inspiring, I met people (virtually), and felt like I was a part of something. It was typographic chicken soup.

3. The election

I moved to New York in November 2016, which means I have only experienced life in the US under Donald Trump. Although I am completely in love with this city, New York can be hard and isolating even in non-pandemic times, and over the past four years I have often asked myself why I insist on staying in a country that chose a president who does not want me here.

On the days following the election, while the votes were counted, I barely slept. I remembered falling asleep in 2016 and waking up to Brexit. To Trump. Irrationally, it felt like I had to keep watch, with my muscles tense, my teeth clenched.

It was a sunny Saturday morning when most news outlets finally confirmed Biden had won, and I was flooded by such an overwhelming sense of relief that it couldn’t be contained to the four walls of my apartment. I needed to go outside, immediately — to kiss a sailor! We got dressed, grabbed our masks and we stepped out onto Brooklyn to find a spontaneous party, with people dancing on the street, everyone celebrating with such a genuine sense of joy. Being Brazilian, I can best describe it as Carnaval, or winning the World Cup. People still wore masks and (mostly) kept a distance, so there was no actual kissing of sailors, but it felt wonderful to be connected to a whole city who, I realized, had been anxiously suffering with me, and now shared the same joy, hope and relief.

Bette(r) Days celebrates the things that did not suck in 2020. Each day in December, we’ll be posting about the highlights of our collective garbage fire of a year, type-related or not.