Please enjoy this free preview of Bryce’s second book, Before We all Die, Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside which will be released tomorrow, January 21st, 2021. E-books are still available for preorder and paperbacks will be available for purchase beginning tomorrow. To keep up to date with Bryce, you can like him on Facebook.
It was January, maybe early February, and my friend and coworker asked if I was nervous about the virus that they had found in China. I told her I wasn’t, although I understood where her fear was coming from. She was from Taiwan. Her parents still lived there. It was something concrete to her, but it was so far away from me, my experiences, and anyone that I knew.
Our workplace was raising money for the Australian wildfires. While the virus seemed scary and heartbreaking, all it was was a disease. People would get sick and then get better. Doctors would find a cure down the road and everything would be okay. A wildfire seemed scarier. That felt out of control, like it could affect your life in a substantial way: smoke could trap you indoors, flames could affect your business.
I’ll admit that this blasé view of disease comes from an extraordinary place of privilege. I’ve always had healthcare even if I couldn’t always afford my medications or a trip to the doctor’s office. I’ve never lived somewhere without a hospital and doctor’s office nearby. I’ve never come down with something particularly scary or life-threatening, nor have many people that I know. I’ve never had a real, true reason to be afraid of a disease.
As we all are aware by now, things started to move closer to home and the news picked it up more and more. Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic. It was a respiratory illness, and it seemed a lot like the flu. They started to talk about closing down the schools. They were monitoring it, frequently cleaning classrooms. I told someone on Facebook that this was just a flu. We needed to be careful of our seniors, ensure that they got what they needed, both physically and mentally, but our lives didn’t have to change. I needed to make money; children needed to be in school. I thought the guy who was telling people around our neighborhood to wear masks and goggles and stay inside was being exceptionally overdramatic.
With well-over 200,000 Americans dead, and one million people around the globe, I hope it goes without saying I know how wrong I was. Lest anyone be especially concerned, I caught on quickly, always wearing my mask in public and washing my hands. When our business shut down to plan our next move, I did what every young adult did: moved home. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, parents, and myself all lived in my parents’ house. We pooled resources and spent time together during the shutdown.
Everything felt so hopeless, knowing we’d be stuck inside our houses until May, scared and shocked by the empty grocery store aisles, wiping down grocery bags, and feeling like going outside for a walk was your only form of entertainment. It felt like this could really be something, something you see in a movie or read about in a book. And then May came and went, as did the summer, and nothing changed. We all just adapted, or failed to adapt, or posted on social media calling it a hoax or the end times.
Now, it’s December and it’s worse than it’s ever been before, despite the hope of a vaccine on the horizon. If I’m being honest, I’m scared to get my hopes up again. I just kept thinking it would be over. Now that it actually might be, the hope feels as unreal as the quarantine did in the spring.
In April, I started writing and posting some happy short stories, an earnest attempt to make people feel a little better. My mother, very much not a fan of my typical sad stories, encouraged me. That’s what started this book. Most of the stories contained in this collection were written this year. A select few have appeared other places, been retrieved from abandoned documents on my computer and forgotten corners of the internet.
I was inspired by the things that make me happy. Although, I was not always happy when writing this. As a scientist, I became quickly frustrated by the widespread attacks on people who have dedicated their lives to the dark, unglamorous, often cruel scientific world to slowly make the world a safer, better place. I have felt isolated, betrayed, lonely, tired, frustrated, couped up, and crazy. This book resulted from the space in between all those seconds. Yet still, I wrote this. Still, I’m here.
There are stories in here about surviving suicidality, about being a sibling, about friends who meant a lot to you but now don’t play an active role in your life. I wrote about falling in love and having love work out. I even wrote about my actual happy place I developed with my therapist many years ago.
As the collection grew, it felt increasingly empty. I began writing more poetry and posting it to my Instagram account, a way to cope through the never-ending night. I’ve written poetry for a decade and never really thought about including them, in this collection or any other. But I started to read more into my writing, into the hope and desperation, the fear and the longing for something more. Some of the poems contained here are from this year but most are from other seasons of my life, poems that still resonate with me.
I added essays last, portions of blog posts I’ve published or abandoned. I came up with a few topics of my own and searched my journals for writings that felt appropriate, that looked at the world with a certain lens of wonder, of hope, of courage amid tragedy.
This collection is a hodgepodge of experience. This book is a celebration of happiness to me, of resiliency, but I need you to understand that happiness is a subjective experience. My hope is that something in here gives you a reason to smile or continue a little taller through the Crushing. I understand that it may not. What may be happy to me, based on my experience and my perspectives, may not be happy to you. I hope you’ll read it anyway. I hope you walk away with something, gripping it carefully and tightly in both hands.
2020 has asked so much of you, but I’m going to ask you for a few more things. This book is self-published so there may be a lot of errors. There may be few. Hopefully, there are none. I ask that you forgive me for any you find.
I also ask that, as an independent writer, you leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or some other fun corner of the internet, so that other people can find this book.
Twenty percent of my personal profits from this book will go towards organizations that help people recover from horrible situations like global pandemics. I want to thank you on their behalf for your support.
I hope that when our lives get back to normal, we remember who the heroes were. I hope that we remember who kept society running, and who society dropped first when shit hit the fan. I hope we remember to visit our grandparents, to care for the imprisoned and outcasted. I hope we’re slower to take the little things for granted. Mostly, I hope that you’re well, that you recover from the scars 2020 gave you, that you carry yourself always into the future while never forgetting the past.
I am very thankful for you and for your life. I hope you love yourself a little more and cling, childish and hungry, to that which brings you hope and light.
Bryce Van Vleet is the author of two collections which can be purchased here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.
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