By Sean O’Leary, SDI Vice President

Have you heard that the COVID-19 pandemic started last year? I’ve only been reminded about it a few million times this month.

At SDI, we’re marking our own anniversary this week, as we officially hit a year without being in the office regularly. We were so young and naïve on that Tuesday in March 2020. We all came to the office in the morning, had a nice big St. Patrick’s Day lunch, and then headed home to work for the afternoon. We took guesses on when we’d be back, and we were all so hopelessly and hilariously wrong.

“I think we’ll be back by April.”

“Might be longer than that, could be May.”

“My birthday is early June, I bet we’re back by then.”

My birthday is still early June, and I’m still betting we’ll be back in the office by then. My prediction was only off by a year. It happens.

There has been a lot discussed about the past year and what we lived through. And it’s been pretty terrible. While I’m one of the lucky ones who did not lose a loved one due to COVID, there was far too much heartache and worry.

For me, the worse came when my aunt, who lives on Long Island, tested positive last March during the first wave. She was admitted to the hospital, at a point in time where it didn’t seem like many were leaving the hospital. Thankfully, she did, though she ended up as a “long hauler” with symptoms that lasted for months, one of the first to deal with that. She did get featured in USA Today because of it, which created the best frenzy in our family last spring – what is the best picture we have of Aunt Cre?!?

I mention last spring because there’s a different feeling in the air this year. When the weather warmed up in 2020, COVID spread across the country and we retreated into our homes with the fear of the unknown keeping us up at night.

As the weather warms up this year, there’s this thing that I believe is called “optimism” but it’s unfamiliar. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like this.

I’m not delusional enough to think we’re completely out of the tunnel yet, but the light is finally visible. Vaccinations are steadily increasing across the country. My parents, and my wife’s parents, have all received at least their first shot. My wife, a teacher who has been in-person since August, is fully vaccinated. There’s a hopefulness that comes with most springs, but one we missed in 2020.

For us at SDI, we’re feeling that too with our clients, our partners, and our potential clients. For the first time in a long time, planning for the next few months doesn’t involve doom. We still carry the scars of 2020, but the potential for the back-half of 2021 to involve normalcy is exhilarating.

We’re thinking about the potential of live, in-person events returning. We’re discussing messaging and media outreach for clients that goes beyond the direct impact of COVID-19. We’re planning big anniversaries and media campaigns with our arrows firmly pointed at the moon. Why not? We lost 2020 and it’s time to make up for lost time.

As I started to write this, I wanted to be funny. Unfortunately, a year of living through a pandemic has dulled my sense of humor. It’s not necessarily funny that the thought of wearing pants again frightens me since I’m worried my expanded waistline may bust through every belt I own.

On the other hand, it may be funny to you that I want to dropkick my webcam off a bridge when we return to the office and I never have to click “start video” on another Zoom call.

Okay, so maybe there is humor to be found. More importantly, there is humanity to be found. I miss having a coffee in the morning with friends and colleagues. I really miss having a drink after work with friends and colleagues. I miss in-person meetings and pitches. I even miss the feeling of nerves that comes over me when I start a public presentation.

I recently heard the worst phrase on the news from a medical expert, “As we enter the second year of the pandemic…” My God, the second year. How did we survive the first? I don’t know. But we did.

At SDI, we’re excited for the future while realistic about the present. Together, great things lie ahead. And we can’t wait.

But for now, I think I need to go for a run so my suit pants will still fit….