Let’s start with important context. Our healthcare workers and researchers are brave, incredibly hard-working heroes. We honor all of our essential workers. Folks who care for the sick and provide for our basic necessities do it under the most trying circumstances. History will show these people were the ones who got us through this.
Any discomfort the rest of us might be feeling as we shelter in place pales in comparison. But our stories matter, too. Each of us faces a set of circumstances we’ve never faced before.
My oldest is a junior in college. He lived in a run-down college house about 650 miles away. He has friendly, loyal roommates. At school he’s independent and completely in charge. He studies hard, plays hard and has a great time. Then COVID-19 hit. His college told him to go home. He moved back into his childhood bedroom to live with Mom, Dad, a sister and a brother. Now he’s pursuing his degree in theater performance using the internet with something called Zoom. Let’s just say he’s a little grumpy.
My daughter, a senior at a Minneapolis public school, hasn’t been in class since Friday, the 13th of March. It’s highly unlikely she or her classmates will ever go back. There will probably be no Prom or a traditional graduation ceremony. What’s left of high school is in Google Classroom on her Chromebook. In her spare time, she wonders about college. Will it be more laptop learning from her bedroom? What about friends? How hard will college be? Will she have enough money? COVID-19 wiped out her summer job with Minneapolis Parks.
Our 7th grader is still developing his study habits. Online classes don’t help. He craves routine. The global pandemic brought him closer to his video game system, but it cast a major snag in his love of fishing. Prior to COVID-19, school and sleep were his primary barriers to fishing. This year, he finally met a kid from the neighborhood who loves fishing nearly as much as he does. Today, all they want to do is ride their bikes to Lake Hiawatha and fish together. However, middle-schoolers are incapable of keeping a six-foot physical distance from each other. This means my wife and I take turns chaperoning what should be carefree, unsupervised boy time.
My wife is a coordinator at a major Twin Cities fitness center. All three locations are closed, but ironically she’s working harder than ever. When public gatherings were shutting down, she led work to build on-demand, web-based fitness classes. She helped launch live-streaming classes taught by instructors from their own homes. She converted part of our bedroom into a small exercise studio suitable for Zoom and Facebook Live classes.
Unfortunately, like thousands of others across the country, her salary and authorized hours were reduced. Her employment is now less certain as her leadership team determines a long-term strategy in this new reality.
My job as a PR/media relations consultant has me almost equal parts busy and idle. Work changed dramatically for many of my clients. Predictability is out the window. My strategy: take the long view. Think big picture. I try not to let the day to day trip me up. When work pops, I grab it. When it doesn’t, I send emails. I write. I sleep. I rearrange my office. I walk.
In other words, I make it up as I go along. In my lowest moments, I feel utterly non-essential. So, I’m telling my story. Because stories matter. What’s yours?