Last Saturday, in The Stories That Don’t Make Headlines, I shared an old friend’s experience in a California ER during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today we are switching gears from the West Coast to the East Coast. I am sharing the experience of my other friend, whose office is based in New York City and who is currently working remotely.
She and I did a Q&A. After reading the transcript of it, I related to her experience in three ways:
- The stress of observing others who do not take precautions in public: As a breast cancer patient, I too get stressed when others do not practice social distancing and other recommended public health measures.
- The annoyance of not having your typical outlets for self-care: What do you do when your usual suspects for coping, relaxation, and entertainment are no longer safe? I’m still figuring that one out.
- The frustration of family planning being put on hold: Although I am not trying to have a family this minute, both cancer and this pandemic are not making it easy for me to have babies.
What part of this interview is relatable for you?
This Q&A has been edited for clarity.
Tell me about yourself.
I work in corporate retail in NYC and live with my husband in Jersey City, NJ.
What was your life like before the pandemic?
My husband and I love to travel and are big foodies.
Love going to barre classes and enjoy walking along the Hudson waterfront on gorgeous days.
What is your life like now during the pandemic?
My husband and I are lucky enough to have jobs (and still be employed) that can be accomplished remotely. Work from home has been great.
I don’t miss my morning commute on a crowded train. I do miss my afternoon commute on the ferry.
We limit our time outside of the apartment. We pick up mail maybe every ten days, and we also time it if we are picking up grocery delivery in our building’s lobby.
We barely go outside now. I can count on one hand the times we’ve gone for a walk during the month of March.
It stresses me out how much people don’t seem to care much at all and practice social distancing. It’s as if the pandemic has done nothing to inconvenience their lives.
I ask myself, “Don’t they watch the news? Do they know what’s actually happening inside of the hospitals? Do they not care they might be putting other people at risk if they’re asymptomatic carriers? Are these people just entitled pricks?”
What have you learned through this experience?
Social distancing and telework are luxuries.
Space is a luxury in NYC. Not everyone can afford to escape to a second home in the Hamptons. Not everyone has families outside the city where they can escape to a different suburb for more space.
It is interesting how this pandemic defines “essential workers.” At the same time, I think it’s ridiculous that of those considered essential workers—most aren’t paid a living wage, given healthcare, or granted paid sick leave.
I’ve noticed that family and friends put more effort into connecting with each other virtually. Lots of texting, and Zoom or FaceTime catch-ups!
To what extent does this clarify or confuse what you want from life?
My husband and I were all packed and ready to go on vacation to Grand Cayman, but the night before we were flying out, the US announced a travel ban to Europe.
It was our escape after two back-to-back IUIs that resulted in two back-to-back miscarriages.
We were moving onto IVF in April and wanted to do some traveling before undergoing treatment.
Because of the uncertainty, it just didn’t even make sense anymore. How much can one enjoy a vacation while worrying about the next travel ban, the next COVID-19 hotspot, etc.?
None of it made sense anymore.
Our treatment has been postponed. The guidelines change every day in regards to fertility treatment. Who knows when we can realistically move forward with IVF. Hoping it will be at some point this year when it is safe again, but we just don’t know.
What do you hope to experience in the future?
Selfishly, I want things to be safe enough so we can resume fertility treatment.
I have no idea how and when in the immediate future people will feel safe enough to go watch a movie, eat at a restaurant, go shopping in stores, or travel on a plane.
Many industries, including retail, rely heavily on consumer confidence and discretionary income. What will that look like when we restart and reopen the economy? With the unemployment rate so high, it feels more like an economic collapse is imminent.
What action steps do you think you can take now?
Right now I’m mostly focusing on today. It’s hard to plan for the future when you don’t even know what tomorrow will look like.
Are we flattening the curve? Will the healthcare system feel stable enough at some point that they can focus care on non-COVID-19-related cases? What kind of policies will change as a result of the pandemic?
Unfortunately, I think the majority of people have such short-term memories that in the end, nothing will really change.
Some people volunteer their time or donate money to help with a cause. I donated money to a GoFundMe fundraiser so a dual language teacher can buy Chromebooks for her students. Most cannot afford one and are already falling behind their lessons conducted virtually.
For now, I’ll continue to focus on what I can control. I guess like others, I’m also just hoping for the best.