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

This Is Hard

I wish I could say that I'm adjusting to this whole global pandemic thing, but that would be incorrect.

I am not. I'm not adjusting. If anything, I am becoming less adjusted as it becomes ever clearer that this virus is going to be with us for a long time, along with a tanking economy, abominable leadership, and an increasing death toll.

It's not really the virus itself or the possibility of getting sick that's causing most of my stress. It's the secondary effects of the virus, the waves it's made. For example:

Jobs. I mentioned it in my last post and won't rehash it all here, but like many people, I'm stressed about the stability of my job. Higher education wasn't in great shape before the pandemic, and now it's getting completely pummeled. The virus is taking advantage of all the cracks in the system. My institution is in the process of figuring out what and who to cut. Meanwhile, I'm absolutely terrified about my partner having to return to a classroom full of children in August.

Both of us have been applying for jobs; neither of us has heard anything.

Money. We're saving as much as we can at this point. Fortysomething is starting his annual summertime contract work, and most of those earnings will go into our emergency fund. But we've received no news about his yearly bonus, which is usually announced and set in stone in April. We rely on that extra cash, and this year, we're depending on it to help cover our health insurance premiums. I hope it shows up. If not, I hope the powers that be let us know - and soon - that it's not happening this year.

The thing is, we were feeling absolutely fantastic about our emergency fund a mere three months ago. Now it seems like peanuts.

Relationships. In Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles, which features a profound global event that bears some resemblance to this one, the protagonist notes, "Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different—unimagined, unprepared for, unknown."

As a professional catastrophizer (someone please start paying me for this thing I've been doing for free my entire life), I've thought a lot about all of the bad things that could happen in the world. It's not like I wasn't aware of the possibility of a global pandemic. But what I hadn't considered - what I think a lot of people, even scientists who study these things, hadn't considered - is the isolation that comes with a new biological threat. During other types of disasters, people can lean on one another. They can visit each other. They can physically comfort one another. But with this, the only thing we know will protect us is keeping our distance from those we care about.

Worse, the confusing government response means that we don't have clear guidance on things like whether we need to wear masks outside the house, whether it's okay to hang out with someone as long as we're more than six feet apart, whether we should cancel our travel plans, whether it's safe to eat a meal outside, etc. etc. etc. And so everyone is basically making their own judgment calls, leaving a lot of room for each of us to question what others are doing. Even amongst my own friends, I see this happening. Maybe it's not an overt thing, but the differences in opinion are threatening relationships that are already under strain because of physical distancing requirements. And that's hard.

Running. All of my races have been canceled. That's a bummer, but I can handle it. What's tougher to handle is the way coronavirus has fundamentally changed how I feel about running.

For me, running has always been more about being outside and getting into a more focused headspace than it has about losing weight or looking a certain way. It's fresh air. It's freedom. It's a chance to challenge myself. For half my life, it's played a key role in my effort to maintain and improve my mental health.

But now the trails are crowded, and the people using them aren't always considerate (I'm looking at you, snot rocketers). Lacing up my shoes feels like preparing to traipse through a minefield. Running used to be my happy place. Now I'm constantly on high alert, and my brain never settles. I know not everyone sees it this way; in fact, some runners are logging more mileage than ever. But for me, this situation has put a serious dent in my trail mojo.

It's like the one thing I could always count on to get me through is no longer available.

(That said, I've started strength training again. I did a lot of weight lifting a few years ago, and while it isn't the same as running, I enjoyed it. So I'm going back to it - partly to stay in shape, partly to ensure that I get my daily dose of endorphins.)

Worrying is a mostly pointless endeavor, but it's not something I can just shut off, especially when there's so much to worry about, when there's so much death and suffering. And I get that some people are seeing the opportunities in this situation. I wish I did. I don't. I wish I had something insightful or encouraging to say. I don't.

I feel like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting for the other shoe to drop (although, seriously, how many shoes can drop?!? Haven't we run out of shoes yet?)

I'm okay. I just wanted to write it out. I can't tell if other people are feeling this way. I think they are?, but it's hard to know, especially based on social media. So I'm putting it out there - partly because it's a form of catharsis, partly to let you know you're not alone if you're feeling any of this, too.


  1. I appreciate your writing. I used to read you on Twitter and tracked down your blog when you deleted your account. My situation is completely different. An attorney with 4 kids, living across the country, working from home but my office reopening soon and the majority of coworkers not at all concerned and expecting to "get back to normal." I like your perspective on education. I have 2 kids in elementary, one graduating from high school and another at a big 10 school. I get stressed too, even in my different location, job situation, house situation, so know that everyone does, whether they say it or not. I like to read other people's perspectives because they are all valuable. Leadership is sorely lacking and unfortunately, we are all left to do the best we can with the information we have. Best of luck to you and I hope the job search turns up something soon so you might get a bit of peace of mind.

    1. Thank you. That's really kind of you. And I do plan to return to Twitter before my count is totally erased. I'll probably lock it down a lot more and just block more often.

  2. Very honest, thank you.

    1. I'm not very good at sugarcoating things or downplaying how I really feel. LOL. Thank you for reading!

  3. I'm not spiralling but I do feel like my sanity is being rubbed on a grater a little every day so there's less of it as the days, weeks, and months wear on. There's too much taking away of sanity and not much good news to refresh the worn away bits. And the utter chaos of our federal government's craptastic response to all of this is the opposite of helpful ��

    Sending... I dunno, support?

    1. Thank you, I appreciate that. <3 The grater analogy is so apt. Honestly, some days I feel almost perfectly fine. Other days, I just... tank.

  4. I feel the same way about hiking this year as you do about running. Not as much zen with all the crowding.

    Acknowledging how hard it is really does help sometimes, even if it doesn't make it better.

    1. Thank you! YES, I love hiking, but the trails are packed right now. I certainly don't blame anyone for wanting to get outside, and if they feel comfortable with it, more power to them. It just makes me really uneasy right now.

  5. I feel like someone has taken away a solid 50% of my energy and coping skills. The impact of COVID on the world is horrific, and to not be able to be close to the people I love while it is happening just amplifies the awfulness.