Reflection on two years of COVID-19 Pandemic
Two years ago, I remember hearing a friend mention the up-and-coming virus that was making waves in the media - SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19. A few of my friends are in the nursing and healthcare world, so they hear about all sorts of rumors. Trump was attempting to lock down flights from China to prevent the spread. Some friends believed we were immune since we were younger in age (I believed it too). Many of us thought it wouldn't matter, and it would quickly come and go like a common cold.
That was two years ago. At our 2020 New Year's party, we held a discussion and we simply didn't think it would matter. How funny that seems now in the rear view window.
Leading into the 2020 year, I was already unemployed. I was looking for a new job for months before this. It was a struggle being unemployed for as long as I was, and I didn't think I would be so unsuccessful for so long. Bills piled up, my car was so old it was hard to maintain it as the costs were piling up, and everything just seemed so grim for so long. Everyone around me was so happy and successful, but I wasn't.
When time came for us to celebrate ringing in the new year, people were excited to vote Trump out next year in November. There was a lot of optimism for the new year, and many new developments were happening for my friends. I was sadly not one of those optimistic few, because with whispers of a virus in the wind, it sounded devastating hearing that people were actually dying of this. I have played enough Plague Inc to be slightly scared. The turn-around time on a vaccine is pretty long, and thank God we found one eventually.
But, I was foolish to initially think people my age would be safe, that we had younger bodies more capable of handling it. That because I didn't suffer any conditions already that I would be less affected by it. I had some mild optimism because my human contact was already so low to begin with - I didn't have a job, and only went for groceries once a week or so.
Come time for our 2020 New Year's Eve party, and by the time it's over, the virus is the last thing on my mind. The only thing I can think of is how I can get employed, and work my way out of this slump that I've been stuck in for a very long time.
It's January, and it's been a long few weeks of doing applications to job postings online. I didn't make any interviews of any kind, so I continued to play a whole bunch of RuneScape, as it was the only thing I consistently have fun with as far as games go.
At the end of January, the World Health Organization decides to declare a global emergency. COVID-19 has spread to multiple countries, and we already saw it spread to the United States. Come the first week of February, the United States declared an emergency, and started to fire warning shots about new health procedures.
March comes, a cruise ship is full of pandemic victims. It sounds like something straight out of Dead Island - people going on vacation, only to suddenly get sick while trapped on a luxurious cruise ship, not being allowed back on land. A pandemic is declared, it's getting out of hand. Travel bans were announced, and my hopes of finding a job were pretty much shattered.
All this was the beginning - who would think that almost two years later, 800,000 Americans would be dead due to COVID-19?
A few months later, after the pandemic has settled in and everyone is wearing masks, I was able to find a part-time gig that paid fairly well. It involved going to two grocery stores in my area, and figure out why certain cameras weren't working. The cameras were connected to an out-of-stock detection network that would inform stores when products go out of stock on the shelf, so attendees at the grocery store can restock the shelf, thus improving profit per hour (in theory).
What I found out over time, is that the staff in both the stores I went to hated the damned cameras. No one actually used it, it reported crappy metrics, and the cameras were so unreliable most of the time, because they became disconnected very easily, after rough-housing customers accidentally knock the cameras around. The electronics were cheap and poorly built, and sometimes would get lost or stop working entirely.
I did this job for a number of months, and it took a wear on my car, as the places were somewhat far away. I chimed in for weekly meetings, and they were all almost always the same thing ("Hey guys, just checking in, seeing a couple cameras here offline..."). I was only required to go when it was really needed, so it wasn't more than once a week I would do visits.
After a while, our grocery store partner decided to pull the plug on us. I lost both my stores, and in the process, effectively my job. I did a full removal of all the hardware, sent it all back (excluding the batteries, which I still kind of have). After that, I didn't hear from the job much at all. Later on, I got my termination letter.
So much for trying to work in a pandemic.
Unemployment benefits were kicking in around the country, and by the time I lost my part-time gig, I figured I would be elligible for it. After all, I am trying my best to find work in uncertain times, could they at least give me some partial credit?
So, maybe the unemployment benefits would kick in for me, and it would be a lot of help. My friends were all getting it, so why wouldn't I?
The unfortunate reality is that when asking the department of labor for help, they did not want to help me in any capacity. I showed them my documents for termination from the camera job, but that was not relevant to them. I was denied any kind of benefits, so I had zero government assistance whatsoever. I have friends who haven't made a single attempt to even begin working during the pandemic, and yet I am denied any kind of assistance. What kind of backwards state do I live in here?
Thus begins another few months of not having any financial assistance, and soon the elections will occur.
November 2020, Trump is officially elected out of office. Many, if not all of my friends were joyous that he was finally gone. The damage he did by saying masks weren't necessary, or by re-tweeting doctors claiming drinking bleach will cure you, or you should take horse medicine, or whatever other crazy bullshit he was spewing, would be over.
I'm not the biggest Biden fan in the world. I would have preferred Bernie Sanders to started kicking some butt into high gear, but this is the world we live in. So far looking back at the first year of presidency, I don't see any real difference. We had a real disaster with the pulling out of American troops, letting an Afghanistan capital fall into the hands of the Taliban. Was that the right call? I really don't think so. Same American bullshit politics, different scapegoat.
I won't miss Trump, but I am certain it won't be the last we see of him.
It's at this point in my life, I have some new developments going on. I don't have a job, my friends are all moving foward in their lives (getting married in 2021, or buying a house etc). It's great for all them, but I couldn't help but feel that ... my life was stuck in time. I was frozen. My life wasn't moving anywhere. I had ambitions, but I couldn't make any progress.
I had lost family relatives to COVID-19. Many of my family members were getting sick. My sisters were all nurses dealing with the front lines of it. I spent my Christmas entirely with my roommate and none of my family. Everything that went on in the past year was gone. I was using distractions to forget about all those things. The pandemic changed the way I thought. Everything was all about survival now.
This depressed state of mind warped me. I tried my best to make progress, but met with resistance time and time again. I applied for work, but in interviews I wouldn't be able to meet up with some insane demands. Maybe my skills weren't cut out for it, maybe I should have done better in school and actually finished. I couldn't go back to school now, I couldn't afford it. If the government wouldn't give me unemployment benefits, they certainly wouldn't give me anything to go back to school.
A series of events unfolded over the course of the last few months of 2020, which gave me hope for the year of 2021 to become something better. It evolved in a way I didn't initially think it would, looking back nearly a year ago to the start of it. But it was a motivator I really needed in life to keep pushing on. Maybe 2021 would be different.
The 2021 ball drops. Here we go, the second year comes.
In the beginning, I tried not to think much about it. The flame started to burn deeper, and my thoughts begin gravitating towards only one thing. But in order to continue this, I needed to make a grand change in my life. I needed to do a complete and utter overhaul of my current state. I need to go from unemployed person, to employed person. That was my one big goal for 2021.
Unfortunately, 2021 did not start the way I had initially thought it might. I had gotten into an arugment with someone, and it left a deep scar that hurt for a while. The impact of it is still there. I feel it haunting me every day. Apologies were made much later, but it still haunts me in the back of my head. New Years Eve was a rough night because much of it was spent arguing. It left a bad taste in my mouth for a while.
Eventually the wounds started to heal up, and by spring the hatchet was kind of buried. I was still unemployed and feeling down on myself, but it felt good knowing it was all resolved and done with. I still think back on it and what happened, and it's not something I think I will ever forget.
January 6, 2021. I don't think we'll ever forget this day in our lives.
A Trump rally transforms into the biggest political science subject of the decade - a hostile take-over attempt of Congress.
Throughout this day, I watched footage of the events unfold. What was once a rally for Trump supporters to walk over to the Capitol Hill building, unfolded into a deadly series of events for all the politicans inside, declaring that President Biden was the election winner. Trump was rallying against it, trying to get his supporters to stop the inauguration of Biden.
But I don't think Trump ever stopped to realize that he was inciting a mob - the mob became violent, broke windows, fought past security, and actually got inside. Members of Congress were evacuated, and security cameras reveal just how close we came to deadly conflicts occurring. Capitol Hill security force officers are in dire need of medals of honor.
The mob broke into the chambers, looted the offices of the congressional members, stole items, and were looking to practically hang Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Many rioters were found and prosecuted, some claiming to be QAnon, other with ties to Proud Boys. It's clear that January 6 was a targeted day for many Trump-aligned groups.
Months later, Trump would do his best to say he had no part in any of this. But it was too late, we all know he incited violence indirectly and was the real cause of this incident. A truly grim start to the year.
Early into the 2021 year, after that disaster, most of my friends are rushing to get vaccinated. The queues are filled up. It starts to build up a layer of anxiety for me, between the stress of trying to get an appointment, then worrying if I can get the second dose in time per the recommended window. Or worrying if I would suffer fatal symptoms and would even lose my life entirely, that was on my mind a bit too.
I obviously didn't want to become an anti-vaxxer, but I also had a lot of skepticism initially, and was scared at the start. I heard a lot of FUD-like rumors early on, because the early adopters and media would do their best to encourage people, or dissuade. It's hard to trust who has the right information.
I waited until it became more available. Elderly people needed it more, teachers, retail workers, any people who faced unknown variables each and every day by touching hands of breathing the same air of people who refused to wear masks. I didn't want to endanger all my friends, but at the same time, it was real damn hard to get a scheduled appointment. Even with my nurse sisters trying their best to help out.
Around May or so, I got my J&J single-dose vaccine. I know it's probably the lowest quality with the least protection, but it's better than risking missing the second dose in the recommended window. I wear my mask in public a lot, and I'm okay with continuing to wear my mask when appropriate. I don't want to believe that a vaccine means going back to an ordinary way of life - being vaccinated prevents dying from a horrific disease, but I can still very much catch it.
I felt okay afterwards. The stinging in my arm was only temporary, and maybe lasted a day at best. It only stung if I actually touched it, which I don't really do that often to begin with. Whether I had protection or not, because microbiology is kind of invisible to the human eye and hard to grasp, I did the right thing. If I need more boosters later on, I'll absolutely get them.
Around the end of May, some time after receiving my vaccine dose, I got a job interview at a weird location and was accepted into the position that same day. It isn't a lot of money, but I believe I am capable to fit into the company. I have been at this job ever since, and while the pay isn't great, it helped me start building my way out.
Going back to my car issues, the travel was very far. I have contemplated taking the train versus driving, and for the most part, I didn't drive my old car for fear it would break down on me randomly.
My mother, my roommate, and many other people have all helped me out and gotten me to work when I needed it the most. Without them I would not be able to get to where I am currently, and with all that effort, I was able to make real progress - I got a new car.
After a few months of saving up, we were able to scrape up enough money to get a lease. The car lease was the only logical decision I could make at this point - cars were coming and going like hotcakes in the market. New cars were hard to get, due to chip shortages. The electric vehicle wave may also be upon us in a few years time, where gas vehicles get outlawed. I don't want to have full ownership of a car that uses gas when that comes - who the hell would buy it then?
Luckily, I got a new car with a pretty expensive lease. It's not cheap, but I know the market is kind of hard to manage right now. My credit isn't amazing, simply because I was pulling on strings most of the time throughout the entire pandemic. I know there's a cost to pay, so I just have to live with it now. I have a safe means of travel, and that's good enough for me right now.
I had to say goodbye to my old car. It was my friend for seven long years. It was cheap and hardly used, but the amount of repairs that were needed was very high. It sucks to say goodbye to an old car. The experiences I had with it, both good and bad, are hard to replace and I'll try to remember them how I can. I don't like seeing old cars go away knowing they might go to a junk heap, but I can only hope it's in a better place now being used to it's potential.
It's October. It's my birthday this month, as well as several other people. I am reminded of my age, and my thoughts are lost on how long it's been since this pandemic started, since my last birthday as well. I hit a certain fun number before the pandemic started, and here I am on my second pandemic birthday.
It lines up with a Halloween party, so I am more than happy to piggy-back off of that. I don't need a special party dedicated to only me. This time I was the Uber driver for some people using my new fancy car.
It was great seeing people from all over who I haven't seen in some time. It lead to quite an eventful evening, and was a blast. Great way to spend my birthday, almost made me forget we even had a pandemic. We were all vaccinated, so for one small fleeting moment, we forgot the pandemic was even a thing.
Later in October, we also had our friend's wedding, and that was fun too. My feet hurt so much from dancing. But I learned my lessons from having a wedding on a Friday - be sure to just take off work. It's way easier and less stressful. I don't want to go through that again.
November, my co-worker tells me that this up-and-coming weekend they are going to the convention Anime NYC. "How cool", I thought. A nice return to a normal life, and she's an adamant My Hero Academia fan, so she'll get custom art prints signed by voice actors from the anime series.
Except, it turned out to be much worse. Anime NYC was considered a super-spreader event because of some random traveler happened to be carrying what is now known as the "Omicron" variant - transmits fast, but less deadly.
Suddenly, the pandemic gets worse. Spikes are happening again, cases are all over the place, and family and friends are catching it again. My sisters who are triple-dosed have caught it as well. The effects don't seem as deadly, they always say they feel fine other than having a cold.
But it doesn't bode well for the holidays. Seeing entire families shrinks down to only seeing a couple people at a time, and shrinks down from restaurants to at-home dining.
I survive a small family Thanksgiving dinner, and then survive a much smaller Christmas family event. Everything is slowly getting downgraded.
It is now the 27th of December, days out from the 2022 New Year's Eve party.
I check my Cloudflare dashboard to see if anything new is occurring on the statistics page - and I see a cool little thing of note.
In the span of thirty days I had almost 1,000 unique visitors. Whether that's bots checking my site crawling the internet, or people actually browsing and reading what I write, I think that's a cool thing to share. 🙂
The last two years have had their own share of bumps, but I experienced a lot of good in the same period as well. I had formed connections I didn't think I would previously, got a new job, got a new car, and have developed this site nearly from scratch using Zola.
While I think we still have a very long road ahead of us, we're getting back to the way things used to be. A lot of my friends have gotten engaged, or moved out into their new homes or apartments, but for me, I am looking for tiny victories where I can take them.
For as confusing as the world is, I am going to stick with a simple New Year's resolution this time. No more weight loss goals for me, I am going to stick to something I think works - I want to draw every day.
Art is the only way I feel I can continue to express myself. I don't do it enough. I don't have my iPad on-hand enough times for me to want to start drawing. I think I am going to start carrying around a small book and start doing at least one doodle of some kind a day. I want to improve my skills, and this is the best time for me to do so.
For those small few reading this page, I do wish you a new merry year. My story amidst this pandemic is far from over, and I have so much more in life to do. So much more code to write, so many adventures left to explore. I'm not giving up yet, I still have fight in me.
Let's fight back and make 2022 our year.