This piece originally appeared as part of The Pandemic Diaries series in Issue 728/729 of HELLO! Canada magazine.
What were you doing when COVID-19 became a fact of life? We invited some Canadian stars to answer this question while documenting their lives during the pandemic – the highs, the lows, how they coped, what they learned.
Nearly six months into lockdown, and as the summer draws to a close, our celebrity-diarists – a mix of famous faces and behind-the-scenes superstars – are sharing those stories exclusively with HELLO! Canada readers. Their revealing, touching, at times humorous personal essays, accompanied by candid photos, show just how much we all have in common as we continue to navigate these unusual days, separately yet together.
Below, actress Amanda Brugel, who has been quarantining with sons Jude and Phoenix and her boyfriend, filmmaker and actor Aidan Shipley, pens a moving letter to herself. In it, she reveals her struggles during the pandemic and how the coronavirus and speaking out for racial justice prompted huge changes in her life.
Remember this part right here. For however painful and uncomfortable the lessons learned, you have evolved significantly. And in case you have forgotten, I shall remind you.
The day lockdown started, you were supposed to start shooting CBC's Canada Reads, then celebrate Canadian Screen Week, followed by a whirlwind stint in NYC at the Tribeca Film Festival. You had been planning this for months. You had 15 outfits from your stylists, pressed, accessorized and ready to ride. Girl, you were about to show 'em! But nope.
The first few weeks were surprisingly lovely. Surreal, but lovely. You finally wallpapered all the walls and organized the basement. And the garage, kitchen, linen closet, hall closet and bedroom closet.
Our March skies remained that dismal, southern Ontario shade of dark grey – for an entire month. And then came home-schooling. Which was brutal. You quickly realized how undervalued and underpaid teachers are, and how unqualified you are to instruct Grade 3 algebra.
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Pride 2020, you were different. However? There still remained discussion and teaching and dancing and sick matching shorts and nails and cocktails. So, essentially you were the same, girl. Thank you @aitorontoseoulkids for the amazing shades. We waited until today of all days to unveil them. Happy different same Pride!
Once you and Aidan finally got the hang of home-schooling, there was still the remainder of the day to fill. So you tricked your kids into doing wind sprints up and down your vacant crescent. You caught the crafting bug (baking sourdough anything was not your jam) and papier-mâchéd the entire solar system. You had 27 themed dinners, turned your family room into a movie theatre and made outdoor obstacle courses. You held more in-depth, truthful conversations with your children than ever before. You relearned motherhood, and you're all the better for it.
Then depression hit. You started drinking more. Days of the week began blending together and mimosas replaced protein shakes, because... well, why not? Yes, your family life was thriving, but your work was nowhere to be seen. You felt ashamed for mourning lost career opportunities. People were dying, struggling with overwhelming financial uncertainties and losing loved ones. You needed to get over yourself.
When you started going back to therapy, though, you quickly learned that you weren't a monster for wanting to be angry over lost dreams. And then you started to see the light.
The weather got better, and you and your boys started going on adventure hikes. Together, you discovered new bike paths, forests and streams. You donated to COVID-19 relief programs and took part in every fundraising initiative that would have you. Life was still strange, but it was beautiful in a way.
But Ahmaud Arbery was killed. And then Breonna Taylor. And then George Floyd. And within an instant, not even global isolation could muffle the cries of outrage. You then realized that years of avoiding conversations about race, injustice and equality still lived within you. So you stopped avoiding and started inviting. You spoke to your white family members for the first time about your experience as a biracial woman. You encouraged white friends to ask questions, and you guided your children to learn about systemic racism.
In the midst of all this, you nabbed a Canadian Screen Award, returned to Canada Reads and won, making history as the first female panellist defending a female author. You were starting to get your old life back – kind of.
But while all of the external success was an ego-boosting dose of excitement, it paled in comparison to the internal growth you found in isolation. You remembered how fulfilling it is to break an engaged mommy. And you learned that actively using your voice to incite change is euphoric.
You promised yourself you will never, ever forget that. Hence this letter. xoxo
In this challenging time, it’s really hard to be separated from family and friends. It’s also a time when everyone needs a beautiful escape. Here at Hello! Canada, we’re still busy creating the magazine you know and love, to spread positivity and provide some entertainment as a gentle reprieve from all the hard news. And with our new special offer for subscribers, there’s never been a better time to have Hello! delivered directly to your front door. Why not treat yourself, or someone you love, today?