How I didn’t spend my pandemic

I meant to write this as a year-end recap, and I’ve been writing it in my head for a few weeks. So – here’s what my life has been like since March.

Last year, in early March, about a week before <gestures> all this, I wrote about how I was ready to get back into focusing on my career, as my son was about to turn one and things were calming down in my life. LOL.

Then everything changed. While I was still feeling motivated and not completely mentally drained, I wrote about how marketers should handle marketing during ~these uncertain times~, and ended up being invited to speak on a webinar about it. Somehow, I was getting back into things. Over the next few months, I was on another webinar, a Litmus Live session, and an email “podcast” (Podcast in quotes because it was more of a recorded video chat that’s not actually released as a podcast, but it was fun).

And, I realize it might be a Bad. Idea. to write about this, but here goes – that same week in March, I was in final interview rounds for a job at a company most people would expect me to easily get. I had started the interview process in January, ready for a change. But, I didn’t get the job. Maybe it was because I wasn’t right for the position (certainly possible – it was definitely a stretch for me). Maybe it was because during my final interview, which was a presentation (that I had been working on at VERY WEIRD hours of the night all week) and then being grilled by a panel, I was acutely aware of my husband and son 5 feet away in the next room over, trying really hard (trying, but not succeeding) not to distract me. I don’t know. Maybe it was because I was incredibly sleep deprived, because the same week that everything in NYC shut down, including our daycare, my son turned one and learned how to stand up in his crib, and he started a sleep regression, where he was up until almost midnight every single night – for seven weeks. Which meant that we were taking turns trying to get him to sleep for hours, and eating dinner at 10 PM. Oh, and I was also still doing my normal full time job. But not getting that job was a pretty big punch to the gut – up until then, I’d gotten every job I’ve interviewed for and really wanted for the last decade.

As if all that wasn’t stressful enough – NYC was pretty damn terrifying. We lived in Astoria, Queens, walking distance from a hospital that was hit pretty hard. Constant sirens. In March, they were still telling people only to wear masks if they were sick. We actually rode the subway with no masks at the end of March to take our son to his one year checkup, rationalizing that we could ride the subway without touching anything and holding our son in the carrier, but if we took a cab or uber, we’d have to touch door handles and seatbelts and lots of other things to buckle in the carseat. The walk home from the train (which required getting off at the station 3 blocks from the hospital) was crushing: every single restaurant and business in our vibrant neighborhood was boarded up (thankfully, that was mostly temporary) at 11 AM. There were people wearing hospital bracelets roaming around, and many of them were coughing. We practically ran the 7 blocks to our apartment and didn’t leave for weeks.

I didn’t have time for Zoom happy hours (you know, because of the baby not sleeping). I still haven’t watched Tiger King (and probably… won’t). I haven’t made bread or taken up any other baking endeavors, and the only puzzles I’ve done have been helping my son with wooden 5 piece ones that just have basic shapes. During a time when the whole world was embracing introverting, watching TV, reading, and taking to craft projects and quietness — I didn’t get to. And that was really, really hard for me as a person who loves exactly that kind of lifestyle. I’m grateful that we got to be around our son for first steps, first words, and countless other milestones, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very resentful and angry listening to people talking about their quarantine hobbies. My hobby was survival.

After a few pretty scary months of only leaving our apartment to walk the dog, things got a bit better in the late spring. Our son finally started going to bed at 7pm again. We met up with friends outside for socially distant hangs and walks, and the park near us re-opened, so we finally had a place our son could burn off energy. We started renting a car on the weekends and going up to Westchester to look at houses, because while things were getting better – we knew we had outgrown our apartment, and honestly, NYC rent becomes pretty frustrating when you can’t access any of the reasons you chose to live in NYC. There’s no more “but the CITY is my backyard!” when everything’s closed indefinitely.

As much as I needed to get out for walks, I got extremely anxious whenever there were too many people out, or if there was a group of guys playing basketball or tennis at the park, not wearing masks. Astoria had become my home, my community, over the past decade, but suddenly I didn’t trust anyone in it and was constantly terrified that we’d get sick. Walking around our neighborhood, I became anxious to the point where it felt like my brain was short circuiting, and I couldn’t think or talk, if there was too much going on around me (even just trying to walk the dog/push the stroller and have a conversation with my husband while other people were… also outside). Then I started having my own “sleep regression,” where I would toss and turn for hours even though I was very exhausted. I now require melatonin gummies, lavender lotion, and the Calm app to have any shot at sleeping, but I still wake up from 3-5 AM most days (but I go to bed around 9:30 or 10). It’s also manifested in constant headaches, and neck and back pain.

Needless to say – any “extra” career things were put on the back burner for a while. I haven’t read anything career related or attended any webinars I wasn’t speaking on. And even for the ones I was speaking on, I only agreed to do it if would be minimal prep on my end. I feel like I haven’t kept up with industry news lately. I – don’t 100% get what AMP for Email is, and for a while thought “Dark Mode” was just how everyone’s feeling lately (isn’t it, though?).

In July, our daycare re-opened. We finally found a house in Westchester that we loved, and our offer was accepted an hour after we made it. By August, I was feeling a lot better, just knowing that we’d soon have a yard and space, and I was feeling a lot less stress since our son had gone back to daycare and I could actually focus during the day — right as work was getting particularly difficult due to staff reductions and a massive migration project.

So I did what anyone else suddenly facing the impending sticker shock of Westchester County property taxes would do, and I started doing some freelance work in the evenings. I was doing my normal job until 5 pm, taking a quick 2 hour break for daycare pickup/baby time/eating, and then working from about 7-10 PM every day for a while. Also while navigating buying our first house and preparing to move. As I’m sure you can imagine, working that late wasn’t great for sleep, and my brain was constantly on overload. I started drinking cans of Recess and listening to yoga music while I was working (but did I actually DO yoga? Nah. No space). I ended up deactivating my Facebook account in September, because I needed to eliminate things that were cluttering my brain. I haven’t missed it.

The freelance work has been exciting – I’ve learned a new ESP I had never used before, I’m building emails again, and dipping my toes back into startup/eCommerce world, which I never thought I’d do again. It was nice to have a new challenge, in a different industry, but one I had a lot of personal interest in. That project’s winding down now, but it was a great way to remind myself what I like about email. And, you know, buy some furniture for the new house.

I don’t know what’s ahead, and I know I can’t really reference the pandemic in past tense just yet, as it’s still very very real, and very bad in many places. But I’m optimistic. I’m optimistic that people I care about have started getting the vaccine. I’m optimistic that if there IS another major lockdown here, I at least have space and a yard now. I’m optimistic that the US is getting a new president this week. I’m optimistic that it’ll be okay soon.

4 thoughts on “How I didn’t spend my pandemic

  1. As someone who knows you personally, it’s been refreshing and eye-opening to hear how your year went and the important milestones you’ve crossed (first birthday!). Our 2020’s probably couldn’t have been more different, but I’m DELIGHTED you’re out of the city. Good for you, good for your family, good for your sanity. Wishing you well and take time to smell the roses once they bloom. They will đŸ™‚

  2. The good outweighed and outlasted the bad for your and your family. Perseverance and really hard work saved the day. The cost was high–Insomnia is tough, job interviews hard, and then there’s the pandemic–the rewards great. It seems you are in a comfortable place now (family, lovely home, more sleep). I sincerely believe it will remain so with the only changes being improvements and more wonderful happenings. I am keenly aware of the stress created by your work environment. Making it through that without a pandemic would be enough to do in many. There are numerous layers of obstacles and opportunities you faced and I am glad that you are in a place where you can share much of it with us. Happier still that you and your family are happy and healthy.

    I just opened a fortune cookie. It says, “Kristin will have many more great opportunities to grow in ways related to work and more importantly in ways related to family and friends. More success is in her future!” (The print was really tiny. I took a photo and zoomed in.)

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