I had an idea of writing this year in “chapters.” It’s an idea I saw from someone I followed on a platform I now forget. Maybe I was subscribed to their feed via email. I really don’t remember and it doesn’t really matter. The point is, I had this idea and I’ve been putting it off, putting it off thinking I had to finish writing about 2019 to even begin writing about 2020. And now, here we are, in the midst of a pandemic that’s altered much of the day-to-day.
Truth be told, I want to cry right now but I can’t seem to get the tears to flow. My eyes aren’t dry and I can feel that combustible lump in my chest that builds just before one gasps and sputters.
Have I finally reached a quiet psychological breaking point?
Beginning in late January, I began the mental somersaults of what I felt was inevitably a transition to remote work, if not a layoff. As news of the virus in China trickled in every day, I suspected that it was only a matter of time before the U.S. would experience something drastic as well.
My own timeline of events is fuzzy but mid-February is probably around the time that some psychological exhaustion and trauma began to set in.
The deaths at a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., was the first news that gave me a start. That was around February 24.
Coupled with news about xenophobia and fear-based, racial attacks against Asians and Asian-Americans—particularly in NYC—added a layer of stress that I, quite frankly, have never experienced before. It wasn’t just the attacks on Asians. I had the added stress of living adjacent to an Asian immigrant enclave, and potentially begin attacked by a fear-enraged person who felt justified in venting that emotion towards anyone who looked Asian.
Those few days I commuted to Union Square for work had me overly vigilant. It was exhausting.
In early March, the case and death counts around the world started to go up. Italy. Spain. New Rochelle, NY. I began cutting my commute to the office and balanced that with what “regular” activities I still had.
On March 12, I got a new tattoo. A treat to myself. The next day, at 5 p.m. my employer sent an organization-wide message: offices are closed for a month, and all schools are closed effective immediately. We were all transitioning to remote work and learning.
The re-open dates for our schools kept getting pushed back, and likely will keep getting pushed back, extending remote learning for our students.
My office? It’s closed indefinitely. Work will be done remotely indefinitely. That delineation between work and home is gone indefinitely.
I took a break after writing the above. It was after 8 p.m. and I went for a long walk in my neighborhood. Don’t worry. My nabe was a literal ghost town with a handful of cars driving by. It was surreal. The air felt nice and fresh so that’s that.
I don’t feel the full weight of despondency that I did when I started writing this but the stimulus that initiated it still lingers in my mind.
I’ve been doing marketing, journalism, and communications work in education for some time now. Between that, my studies, and research on poverty, race, and education, I knew that home life for most children in low-income and poor families was materially abysmal. Much more so when it comes to nutrition and health care.
For many kids in more-urban districts with a higher concentration of poverty, school is the place they get their 2-3 daily meals. Without it they go hungry.
What really hit me the other day was when I had to update some language on one of the school’s websites.
Next week, some New York schools are on spring break. For this particular school, there would be no meal distribution that week. To address this, the regular meal distributor gave families extra food to “get you through the week.” We also provided families a list of food pantries and meal providers should they need it during spring break.
My heart shattered after I published the updated web page.
For many of these families, whose situation is already precarious enough, to be even more burdened during a pandemic is utterly unacceptable and inhumane.
Photo by Graphy Co on Unsplash