Within the Year

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that COVID 19 was a pandemic. A lot has happened in the year since then and like a lot of people, I’ve been reflecting on the COVID 19 anniversary and everything that’s happened to me in the past year. From going virtual to hunting for a job, I wanted to take the time to write down my COVID life.

March 11, 2020
When the pandemic was announced I was in my last semester of graduate school. It was spring break, and I was spending the week in Pittsburgh with good friends. I had a strong feeling that our spring break would be extended because of the virus as I’d heard that that was happening with other schools. I was right. While walking around the Mr. Rogers installation in the Heinz History Center I received an email from school saying that the break would be extended for 3 weeks. Despite the uptick in cases, I spent the rest of the week with my friends before traveling to my parent’s house for the rest of the break. Of course, I had no idea that that would be the last time I’d be able to spend any amount of time with friends for the next year plus and I’m glad I was able to capitalize on it.

By then, I was a month into applying for jobs (10 applications submitted).

March 18 – May 8
By the middle of the following week (March 18) my school’s remote learning plan was announced.  

I decided to head back to my off-campus apartment where I spent the remaining months of my semester struggling to pay attention in Zoom classes, scraping together final papers, going on walks to get out of my apartment, watching an astounding amount of Chopped on Food Network, and dreading going to pick over the grocery store’s bare shelves.

By April, I’d managed to get disposable masks from a friend who kept supplies of it he ordered from China. I hand-washed them and reused them while waiting for cloth masks to arrive in the mail. I washed my hands so obsessively that they started to get dry and peel. I wiped down groceries with disinfectant. Needless to say, it was rough.  

May 9
My virtual graduation was held on YouTube. I wore pajamas and Face Timed with my parents. It was anticlimactic and I felt a bit cheated. I’ve never been much for bars and clubs but knowing I didn’t even have the option to go sucked.

May 10 – July
I spent this part of the summer in probably about the same way everyone else did. I was hating life, watching way too much TV, taking walks and hikes in the hot summer sun, baking, overeating, and feeling kind of bad about myself for not starting a new hobby or teaching myself some amazing new skill like it seemed a lot of other people were doing.

By then, I was several months into applying for jobs (75 applications submitted by July). The news was acknowledging that the job market was drying up and unemployment was skyrocketing, but I was still optimistic.

July – December
With no job prospects in sight and my apartment lease expired, I moved back into my parent’s house (of course, not without raiding the small-town grocery stores for toilet paper to bring home). Summer and winter held a roller coaster of emotions. I was deep into applying for jobs and everyone I knew was struggling to find something. People were marching for racial justice from coast to coast across the world. We were in the throes of the presidential election. I fluctuated wildly between days of volunteering for racial justice organizations and applying to multiple jobs a day to stretches where I lay despondent in bed doing little decides eating and watching TV. Despite being a usually avid reader, I’d cracked only 10 books in a year (shout-out to the Libby app). Overall, I didn’t feel great about myself despite knowing a lot of people were struggling.

In November, I spent week in Cape Cod, MA to alleviate the stir crazy. I got tested before going and stayed in a room with a full kitchen so I could cook for myself and avoid people entirely. I spent the entire time taking scenic drives and walking freezing beaches.

By December 16th, I’d applied to 153 jobs all over the country and even a couple outside the country. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, I’d completely stopped applying. I was flat out rejected from numerous organizations via email or found out I was snubbed after seeing that the job was no longer posted. Six organizations interviewed me but at various stages of the interview process decided I wasn’t a good match. I was feeling wrung out and planned to wait until the new year to start applying again. Mercifully, on December 17th I was given an offer by a well-known public health organization after three interviews in the previous weeks.

January – March 2021
On January 4th, I started working from home and will be for the foreseeable future.

What about the future?
So much has happened to all of us this year. Within the year I finished graduate school, moved back home, and applied to more jobs than I thought I would ever need to before finally receiving an offer. We watched protests, an election, a storming of the capital, and 500,000 COVID deaths.

Recently, my mom asked me what my “next adventure” was going to be, and I have to admit, I’m still not prepared to make plans beyond getting up and working every day. I haven’t seen or spent time with anyone besides my parents and one brother in months. No one really knows what the future holds for us, including me. As a healthy person in their late 20s I don’t expect to get the vaccine anytime soon and I’ve accepted that. Patience is key now. I’m just glad I have a roof over my head, my needs met, and a job. I’m trying to read more, spend more time outside when it isn’t too cold, and I’m still probably watching way too much TV, but I’m prepared to give myself some slack and save my adventure planning for another day. 

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