One Year Later I look back at my COVID journal. April 21, 2020. “It has taken until now – nearly six weeks – for me to start thinking that I actually would like to interact with a human being after all. Pandemics are easier for introverts. I was feeling great, and I had a valid reason for being antisocial. But now I’d really like to sit in an audience and laugh together, or clap for a performance, give a whoop during a song. I’d like to go the theatre. I’d like to wander the aisles in a grocery store without everybody being in masks and gloves, and I’d like to not have to worry about how close I was to them, or think with dread about how many people had touched the PIN pad before me.”
“The price of crude oil dropped below zero for the first time. That is so weird. I’ve never even heard of oil being below 0 dollars a barrel. Will said gas was $1.75 in Pawtucket. Dennis said it’s the same thing in Salem. I haven’t left my house for a week, so I don’t know what it is here.”
Looking back, I see that I went through phases of being at peace with pandemic isolation. The first six weeks of enforced solitude were a delight. Then I realized I missed people. But I listened to friends who were seriously suffering, and I realized we all are experiencing this differently.
April 22. “I received a call from the Columbia Food Bank in Pennsylvania. I accidentally donated to the wrong place. Danielle offered to return my money because she and a co-worker discovered there is a Columbia Food Bank near me. I told her to keep the $100 because they are a food bank too! I then looked up the correct one, the Columbia Pacific Food Bank, and donated another $100. People are losing their jobs, but my retirement pay and veteran disability pay steadily chugs along.”
That was such a fun story and such a sweet group of people in Pennsylvania. Danielle said when they received my gift they were interested to see that I was from Oregon. They all started asking each other, “How do we have a friend in Oregon?” No one knew. So then they suspected a mistake, and began sleuthing. Sure enough, there is a food bank near me that has almost the same name. Danielle actually called me to explain and offer a refund. Can you even believe that? The way I saw it, every food bank in the country was getting hammered, and people in Pennsylvania need help as much as the people in Oregon.
April 23. “My friend Will and I got in a fight. I’m just not doing so great. I’m sick of life being so crazy. I’m tired of being alone – or being scared when I’m near people like in a grocery store. I just don’t have the bandwidth to forgive Will when he is being a jerk.”
“Tara was on the phone with me for an hour, doing homework. Tara can’t go to campus and get peace anymore, but has to stay home. Brynnen has the day off and can’t help themselves but chat at Tara, and Tara can’t help themselves but chat back. So T sent B off to the bedroom and called me to have on the phone the entire time, to help keep them focused. It seemed to work. There was a lot of silence while T read stuff and watched instructional videos, but I didn’t mind. I’m happy to help the kiddo and I was colouring postcards the whole time.”
The entries from the 23rd illustrate some practical fall-out from the pandemic: the ways our behaviors were affected. Did you find yourself fighting too? Tensions were high. I remember telling myself all the time to be kinder and remember that people were on edge. I couldn’t always do it because I was under stress too. Tara’s studying strategy was interesting, but I thought it was creatively clever. To keep them from paying attention to whatever Brynnen might be doing, Tara called me. But Tara didn’t really talk to me, just had the phone line open to me while they did their work. I heard the kid mumbling to themself, saying “Oh!” when they figured something out, and making little thinking and writing sounds. After an hour, T says, “Ok, I’m done. Thanks, Mom!” And we hung up. ha ha ha ha.
April 26. “I am so frustrated with online school. It’s so difficult to get reassurances of all the pending homework, the due dates, the professor’s expectations. In the archaeology class we have a pretty tough quiz every other week. Or once a week? It’s hard to tell so far. I keep getting it wrong – either forgetting it or taking it a week early. It’s the beginning of week 5 today, so I’m frustrated that I’m still not always sure what’s going on. A couple of times I’ve missed a reading and only found out about it when I read other peoples’ discussions and they referred to an author I didn’t recognize.“
“Today was the first time I heard the word “austerity” on the news, mentioned as our likely future. I wonder what austerity will look like. In particular, since both of my paychecks (pension+disability) come from the government, will they be more or less safe?”
The prediction was false and as a nation we never had to undergo changes due to austerity. What we had (and still have) was a bunch of people who stopped spending because they lost their income, and a bunch of people who had the same income as always, but spent it on new things because their old habits, like travel and concerts, were no longer available. Rather than widespread austerity, what I did see was an instinct of people to spend as much money as they could to support the businesses they cared about. In the year since, I have heard many, many small businesses say that their loyal customers played a huge part in keeping the business going.
It’s a year later and I’m getting better at online school. I’m also figuring out the difference between a professor who knows what they’re doing online, and one who doesn’t. Props to the professors who had never taught online, never wanted to teach online, and then didn’t have a choice but to figure it out.
The takeaway: It seems certain that classes will be in person, on campus, this Fall. Yay!!