A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way


Everything Has Changed

I wanted to write something about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it's affecting us, but until today, it's been hard to find enough motivation + brain space to make that happen. Let's see what I can put together on this incongruously sunny Sunday.

The Current Situation

As of this moment, more than 2,200 people in the United States and more than 33,000 people worldwide have died from the coronavirus. In the U.S., the shit really started to hit the fan at the beginning of March; since then, it has deteriorated drastically, in large part due to the federal government's absolutely abominable handling of the situation. I won't get into that here because my head will explode. But I will say this: I don't feel safe.

Arizona's cases have started to pick up over the past two weeks. There are now more than 900 documented cases in the state, and there have been 17 deaths, two in our county. All restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and other gathering places are closed along with schools. We are not under shelter-in-place orders yet, but given that our local ICU is already full and the hospital has insufficient PPE, I'm guessing that may happen this week (the Republican governor is reluctant to take such measures and refuses to let mayors make the call for their own cities; don't get me started). 

Day-To-Day Self-Isolation Life

My family has been preparing for this since the end of January, when the first coronavirus patient in Arizona was identified. We were closely watching what was going on in China, and the first inklings of community spread were emerging in Europe. We're both scientists; Fortysomething is a biologist. We knew the virus would spread, and we knew it didn't care about borders. We slowly stocked up on dry goods and emergency supplies, and by mid-February, we were pretty well set. 

I began self-isolating at the end of February, and Fortysomething and the Kiddo have been doing so since school closed on March 13. We're not going out except to run (to avoid crowded trails, I've been getting up before dawn and heading out as soon as it's light enough to see the road) and bike (the Kiddo's chosen form of exercise). We were going to the grocery store every week and a half or so, but a positive experience with Instacart yesterday has us convinced we'll have our food delivered from here on out, unless Instacart shoppers decide to go on strike for the long-term. 

Day-to-day life includes work for the adults, online learning for the Kiddo, baking bread (I was doing it before, but with the Kiddo home all the time, it gets consumed more quickly these days), Zooming with my book club and other friends, watching the newest season of Survivor, working on puzzles, preparing meals, and napping. Lots of napping. I feel like I'm tired all the time.

Basically, we're lucky to be able to stay at home, so we're just trying to hunker down, not get sick, and keep out of the way. The not-getting-sick part is especially important given my shitty health insurance - another thing that I can't think too much about before losing it. That's why we're shut-ins at this point. That's why I have a hard time walking out my front door without having a panic attack.

Mostly, we're trying to take it a day at a time, something I've never been good at. Now, it's a relief to focus only on the handful of hours ahead and make them as good as possible.

Finances in the Time of COVID

Financially, we're okay at this point. We have emergency savings, though we did draw them down a bit to purchase supplies (if this doesn't qualify as an emergency, I don't know what does). Fortysomething and I both still have our jobs. I worry a little bit about my gig: I could see my employer cutting some of us adjunct instructors to save money. On the other hand, my work is in online instruction and my pay is peanuts in the grand scheme of things, so I hope I have some security? Our state has mandated that nobody can be evicted right now, so even if we did lose our jobs, we would be able to keep living here.

I'm supposed to re-up my short-term health insurance next month. We'll see how that goes. It's a terrible plan, and if the premiums increase too much, it won't make sense. But paying the $800+ to be on my partner's plan would also be a huge crunch for us.

Although I don't like to live with regrets, I now have serious regrets about signing up for the stage race in August. I mean, there was absolutely no way for me to know that this was going to happen. But man, I'd really like that $1400 to be in my bank account right now. The race, which is supposed to take place in August, hasn't been canceled yet. Surely it will be. I don't see how it will be safe for hundreds of participants to camp, eat, and run together for days on end only four months from now.

We should be receiving a stimulus check from the government in a few weeks, which will be greatly appreciated. We'll save about half of it and use the rest to support local businesses, the food bank, and the city shelter. 

In the Tornado

I wrote a few things about five weeks ago that I ended up not publishing. Re-reading them, I'm struck by how insanely different things are now. Everything has changed, and we're all going to continue living in the middle of this tornado for at least another month or two. Let's face it: most of us can't even tell which way is up. We're just trying to get through the day. We don't have time to ascertain long-term repercussions. But when the tornado is gone? We'll have to deal with the fallout. There's going to be a lot of it. 

The immediate silver lining is that my community is working together as best it can to deal with this massive challenge. I hope that the long-term silver lining will be things like the adoption of universal healthcare and living wages for hourly workers. And I hope that rich people are finally getting the message that if we don't fix our rampant systemic issues, everyone will pay the price for it.
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