'What I don't miss ... and what I do': The pandemic, 1 year later

The once-familiar sights of traffic on the Long Island Expressway, crowded concerts and packed restaurants have become an afterthought for many Long Islanders since the pandemic shutdown began last March. It's sights like these that they say they aren't eager to get back to. We asked Long Islanders what they don't miss — and what they do — about their lives before COVID-19 altered their day-to-day routines.

What do you not miss about life pre-pandemic? 

A change of pace helped these Long Islanders realize there were aspects of their busy lives they could do without.

Credit: Nina Romano

Singer/songwriter Nina Romano, 34, of Patchogue used to sit in traffic on the L.I.E. "driving three hours to play a one-hour gig."

Credit: Edward 'JJ' Jones

Rapper Edward "JJ" Jones, 43, of Lindenhurst says the lack of large parties has helped him learn to appreciate, even more, quality time with loved ones.

Dagoberto Artiles, 46, an assistant principal at Jericho High School, says he now spends more time in the kitchen than he does at restaurants.

Credit: Dominique Maciejka

Dominique Maciejka, 37, of Oakdale owns and operates two Long Island stores — Paper Doll Curiosity Shoppe in Patchogue and Paper Doll Vintage Boutique in Sayville. She's hoping in-person meetings stay a thing of the past.

What new habits have you picked up? 

More free time meant more experiments for these Long Islanders.

Credit: Anthony Dewar

Anthony Dewar, 38, a registered nurse in the Medical ICU at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, doesn’t miss the gym as much as he expected. Bicycle riding is "a good way to get out of the house, get fresh air and get exercise."

Credit: Stacey Hammond

Stacie Hammond, 45, of Oyster Bay, says, "Yoga has been instrumental in getting me up, centered, letting my anxiety leave so I can carry on with my life and get everything done with so much uncertainty in the world."

Credit: Laurie Ann Creus

Musician Laurie Ann Creus, 31, of Farmingdale, is using her spare time to self-reflect. Her habit tracker, similar to bullet journaling, allows her to "color in" a task when it's completed, which she says is "satisfying."

Credit: Angelo Peluso

Angelo Peluso, 73, of Port Jefferson, has experimented preparing his fishing catches in the kitchen, exploring seafood recipes and making sushi.

What has changed the most about your life?

The pandemic has marked a major life shift for all.

Credit: Catherie Hoang

While many people got puppies during the pandemic, the Hoang family of Huntington added chickens named Waffle and Nugget. "I always wanted chickens, toyed with the idea of having backyard chickens," says Catherine Hoang, 39, a teacher. "I never thought I’d be walking in a foot of snow to go to the chicken coop on a snowy morning at dawn to give them warm oatmeal to warm them up for the day."

Credit: Kaitlin Fink

Kaitlin Fink, 30, is a fifth grade teacher at John Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton. "The moment I knew that things had changed this year was when my students walked in and they all had masks on, they had these plexiglass shields in front of them, so we really knew that this was going to be a different year."

Credit: Ally Weiss

Ally Weiss, 17, is a Syosset High School senior who says the pandemic ended her dreams of visiting college campuses before choosing one; she is taking virtual tours instead. She’s devoted some of her extra time to do independent research into the role anxiety plays in the college admissions process.

Credit: Ron Buckley

Registered nurse Ron Buckley, 39, of Middle Island is an avid KISS fan who planned to attend several concerts in 2020, which were all put on hold. "As they started getting canceled, that was the pinpoint for me knowing things were going to be different going forward."

Credit: Ebony Guerrier

Ebony Guerrier, 38, is a mom of three from Uniondale who says her kids have just about had enough of staying near home.

Credit: Edward Norris

As a choral director at Glen Cove High School, Edward Norris, 41, of Smithtown is a people person who thrives on interaction with his students. However, the pandemic has brought out an undiscovered talent. "I’ve become pretty good with technology," he says. "I wasn’t really a big tech guy being a music teacher, I’m used to working with actual human beings. But through Google classroom and Zoom, we have found different ways to stay connected."

What do you miss?

These are the things Long Islanders say they can't wait to return to.

Credit: Griffin Spikoski

As a teenage gamer with 1.5 million YouTube followers, Griffin Spikoski, 16, of Smithtown, is in his element online. But what he’s craved most during the past year is in-person interaction. "It’s a completely different vibe and feeling to hang out with your friends in real life. I’m looking forward to getting back out there in society and getting to see everybody again."

Credit: Anayo Michel

Anayo Michel is the owner of Layla’s Dance and Drum in Valley Stream, and her studio offers African, Latin and Caribbean dance. She says she misses human interaction. "I wasn’t upset with being at home with my family but I do miss human interaction. I really enjoy being around people. I can’t wait until this is over and we can hug and touch."

Credit: Denise Renga

"My husband, my son and I love to travel and we don't have the opportunity," says Denise Renga, 50, of Glen Cove. "I want to go to Europe, the Grand Canyon, soon."