Are you a frontline worker dealing with new stresses or irresponsible management? Is working (or not working) from home starting to take a psychological toll? How are you coping with reopening? Submit a story using this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story” and provide as much detail as you’re comfortable with.
Authors’ identities have been verified, and submissions have been edited for length, grammar, and clarity.
Kallie Marie, fitness instructor, New York
Financially: I got unemployment right away for the loss of my Pilates classes that I was teaching around NYC, and I am still trying to continue my self-employed music industry hustle, but I can’t focus.
At first I thought I was going to use the pandemic to get loads of music done, but then my living situation rapidly fell apart. By April 9th my roommate’s boyfriend lost his job. She started paying his rent. She was not able to support them both and by April 29th they moved to Colorado to stay with his family until they can get on their feet there. This seemed to upset my landlords. I got an email from their attorney stating that they no longer wished to renew my tenancy, and that the family, after the original owner’s passing last summer, would like to do something different with the property.
I am a month-to-month tenant of ten years and they’ve decided now is the time I should move.
Everyone keeps asking me, “but surely they can’t do that! There’s an eviction freeze!?” They’re right, there is. That’s just it though, I am not being evicted. And thank goodness too, as an eviction on my record would make it even harder to find a new home. So I have been trying to find a new place to live, except my credit isn’t great after a series of health problems, surgeries, injuries, and loss of my college teaching job in 2016-2018. Now mid-pandemic none of my friends can help me move, and no one wants a tenant on unemployment with a low credit score. Some landlords are asking for a co-signer, which I don’t have.
I spend most of my days panicking and crying wondering where to move, how to move. I have, as of this writing, been unable to obtain a lease. I have also tried to find housing as a roommate, but many people are not thrilled about quarantining with a musician, and I need a larger room to work and sleep in because of my equipment. I have a home recording studio that is part of my income and my career. If I let go of that then I let go of my last scrap of income. I worry daily my unemployment will be shut off.
My daily life has dramatically changed: I was once active and fit. I try to do a few home routines and tune into friends’ Zoom Pilates classes to keep myself fit for a return to work. I feel gross and stay awake for days at a time. I try to jog, but seeing the cops on the race track handing out masks, and my former hip injury that I just recovered from in late 2018 makes running not ideal. I feel trapped and stuck, and adrift. I am fortunate I have found support on Patreon, and in the general music community at large. I’ve been on quarantine alone in my apartment for more than a month.
I used to worry about what I might be able to afford to do for my 40th birthday in September, and now that seems trivial as I just worry that I will have a place to live by then – and an income.
I am scared and distracted on a good day. On my bad days I am useless and crying not wanting to let go of my home of 10 years and the community that I have found and love in Astoria, Queens. I just don’t know what is going to happen to me, or anyone, or anything in this country right now, and it feels like this is just the beginning, but I don’t know of what.
Samuel, catering, Florida
I love my job, and have been furloughed for 11 weeks. My last paycheck was 10 weeks ago and, because I live in Florida, have yet to receive money from either state unemployment or from the CARE act. All I have to my name is the $5 left in my savings account that’s required to keep my bank from closing it out. If not for my husband’s income, I’d be homeless right now, with my vehicle repossessed and no family to turn to. Which... is a thought I’ve tried not to dwell on too much, but the depression spiral has been real and steep.
I’ve felt useless. I finally landed my dream job and now feel like every skill and tidbit of knowledge I’ve worked for over the years has amounted to nothing at a time like this. My husband has been supportive and sweet, saying how much he likes having me home with him (he’s in advertising, so his job can be done remotely), but it frustrates me and I feel myself pushing him away. He gets to express his talents and communicate with the outside world all day, while I sit on the couch and watch everything in Netflix’s catalogue. I feel empty.
Anonymous, product manager, Texas
Financially speaking, I’m doing just fine. My wife and I know we’re fortunate to have apparently stable jobs, despite one bout of layoffs at my wife’s company which really undermined that confidence. We’re trying to help where we can, supporting local food and medical efforts, but it never feels like enough.
Emotionally, I’ve been much better. Over the past few years, I’ve struggled with depression. It’s largely been seasonal, though it does follow me into the spring these days. When things began feeling serious, my wife and I were in Hawaii on vacation. I was taking the time to decide whether I wanted to leave my job (I’ve become disenchanted with it). The vacation clarity gave me some real insight and I made my plan.
Then we started checking the news a bit (we generally fast from it on vacation) and realised we might need to cut the trip short. Since then, I’ve found it very hard to let go of the decision I made to leave the job. Some weeks I can’t help but cycle through the same thoughts about leaving my job, not knowing what for, knowing it would be foolish to leave without a plan in the current environment, and finally hitting the couch, exhausted from the mental and emotional effort.
There is always some shame associated with my relative feelings of security along with my visceral feeling that I need to move on. So many have it worse, but that doesn’t change that the quarantine’s weight on my mind is getting a nice booster from my wish to leave the industry in which I’ve worked for 15 years.
I’m doing what I can to not buy into the lockdown as a reason to strive for competitive self-improvement, but I can feel the weight in the house, and that doesn’t help with feeling ashamed either.
Anonymous, semiconductor engineer, California
My wife and I tied the knot last year, on my birthday. We had been dating for some six years. We had met when I spent a few semester of my undergrad in Japan. We got to talking about space, a black president, the future... and we kept things up. I am black and she is Japanese. I am originally from Kentucky, which sounds like it shouldn’t make sense, but a large potion of Kentucky’s GDP comes from Japanese investment. Toyota remains one of the states largest employers. There is a Japanese community in Kentucky, so our story isn’t so uncommon.
Two years ago, I moved to California in the hopes of developing my career in semiconductor engineering at a large company. The salary increase shot me to one of the top wage earners in my family, however the cost of living difference between California and Kentucky really hasn’t changed [my relative wealth] very substantially. I still live from paycheck to paycheck, and up until covid was paying hundreds of dollars every month in student loans.
Largely, I have been able to shield my wife from the financial burden any student loans has had, and still maintain an apartment, food, car, and any amenities that we may need. However it’s a struggle to save. I contribute the max I can to my retirement and continue to pay as much as I can on my student loans, but they somehow manage to grow. I left school with $50K in debt. In the last six years I have paid $20K, but because of a forbearance I had to take while finding a job when I graduated my balance is still $65k or so. It just seems insurmountable.
Also since being here for two years my salary at work definitely hasn’t kept up with the cost of living. The rent increases at my apartment $100 every year. It seems I have to explain my worth to a new manager every six months or so, after every reorganisation. My position remains similar with no clear path to advancement. It feels more upsetting because they hired me as grade-1 engineer, as is, fresh out of college, no work experience, even though they scouted me from another company that I had already been working at for over a year – not to mention the years of related job experience that I had, because I was an adult college student. I subsidised my education and living expenses by working IT, and working telecoms pulling cable. I had to because there was no one else. My mother passed when I was a kid and my dad is a retired high school history teacher.
I bit, for the chance to elevate my circumstances, but it just feels like another trap. At least they let me feel trapped from home.
So its just my wife and I, both in a strange place here in California, away from our families, and alone. We have done our best to make friends and build a community of our own, but the isolation has been crushing.
Right before the pandemic I was ecstatic: we finally got enough money saved up to buy a house. And more importantly, we found out we are going to have our first child! Five months later, my wife is healthy and things are holding together, even thought they’re wobbling like a tire missing a spoke. My dad gave me his power of attorney and wrote a new will because he understands what’s coming and wanted to prepare: he is a 78-year-old black man in the South. Thankfully he’s living alone, but he wants to make sure, that, if he dies alone, we will be able to take care of the expenses.
Don’t know how many mornings I can sob and smoke in the car before working a shift at my makeshift home office, but these days it seems endless.