A year of wake-up calls

How are we going to move forward together?

Welcome to At The End Of the Day. I’m Hannah Sung and I write this newsletter to put a people-first perspective on the news.

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Okay, are we all still playing this game? This week marked the first anniversary of the declaration of a global pandemic and many of us are reminiscing about what we were doing one year ago.

I was scoping a bar to make plans for a friend’s book launch (oh, how naïve) before finding myself panic-shopping 48 hours later like it was the Apocalypse. I didn’t find toilet paper but I did snap a pic of the empty aisles in a bold move I call, “Could anything be literally more useless than this sad photo?”

I have great memories in my camera roll, too. Group selfies (not the pandemic kind where everyone is awkwardly spaced apart). Vacation pics. Just all that gorgeous, carefree, germy-and-close regular living.

Yet, despite my rose-coloured glasses and the news media drumbeat this week, I’m uncomfortable with all this one-year-ago-ism.

Dwelling on the Before Times makes me miss it too much. However, I also find it hard to daydream about the future. 

In Ontario, we are headed for a third wave. The new variants are, as predicted, crossing over into becoming the dominant strains of the virus.1

The final stretch of this marathon is, for me, the toughest part to fathom.

Years ago, in Brooklyn, I inadvertently strolled through a real-life marathon. The very last participants of the New York City marathon were straggling through. One lone person jogged slowly in front of a phalanx of first responder vehicles bringing up the rear. There were no crowds to cheer this person on and I felt a massive surge of admiration for them. That last leg must absolutely be the hardest.

In this race between variants and the vaccine, we’ve still got several dicey months left. And I can’t bring myself to picture how hard we’ll party until we’ve finally gotten past the finish line.

(But once we do, watch out).

I was feeling very stuck earlier this week, not being able to look back or toward the future.

Then, on the radio, I heard a morning show host ask an infectious diseases doctor whether there were any “silver linings” to the year we just had. The doctor replied, “There are no silver linings. I think of them as wake-up calls.”

Once more for the people in the back: No silver linings. Just wake-up calls.

This precisely describes our pandemic year and it’s been relentless. Wake-up calls are emotional. They’re uncomfortable and yes, they require a reckoning. 

I’m determined not to waste all the wake-up calls of this past year by sleepwalking into the future.

And I wish political leadership in Ontario would heed more of the science-driven, expert-led wake-up calls they’ve been given instead of continuing to rack up the list of “I can’t believe this guy” moments of truth.

For example, in this week alone, Premier Doug Ford tried to score cheap and racist political points in an egregious comment about Indigenous NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa.2

And a CBC news story revealed much about why Ford’s government is trying to turn protected wetlands into an Amazon warehouse while you’re not paying attention.3

Our political leadership in Ontario is infuriating.

But throughout this pandemic, I’ve had an immense renewed confidence in the power of group action.

One year ago, we didn’t have community fridges.4

One year ago, “mutual aid” were two words many of us didn’t know to say together.5

One year ago, we didn’t have an estimated 1000+ people serving the mayor of Toronto with their own people’s notice in response to the city’s injunction against Khaleel Seivwright.6 These folks stood outside in the rain, in a pandemic, to take a stand against homelessness and the cruel treatment of people without options.

It’s inspiring. I want to tap into that powerful energy here in this newsletter, too.

I’ve been writing At The End Of the Day for as long as the pandemic has been scaring the bejeezus out of us. And from the beginning, I hoped that readers would be as much a part of the direction of this letter as I am.

You know about my wake-up calls over the past year. I’ve been writing them in this newsletter. But what about you?

Tell me about the biggest wake-up call you’ve had in the past year.

Don’t be ashamed if it’s a realization you didn’t already have. Let me know what issues or ideas have seized you during this pandemic. I’d love to explore them with you in upcoming newsletters.

Just hit reply or find me on Instagram @at_the_eod

I’m thinking of ways to have conversations together, whether it’s on Instagram, Clubhouse or in a live chat here on Substack. The point is that I’d love to hear back.

After all, we’ve had a total information overload in the past year. Now what are we going to do about it?

Thanks for reading,


✨✨✨ At The End Of the Day is edited by Ishani Nath ✨✨✨

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Further Reading and Footnotes

But What About the Kids? Flying? ParentData newsletter by Emily Oster

The vaccine game: Baffling rules, surprise winners, The Globe and Mail

Blame the anniversary effect, My Sweet Dumb Brain newsletter by Katie Hawkins-Gaar