Rollercoaster Ride

Rollercoaster Ride

This blog post has been a long time coming.

2020 is just over half way done and it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride so far. But not your basic, whoop-de-doo, 30 second rollercoaster ride. This one is the craziest rollercoaster ride you can imagine. Kind of like going backwards through a corkscrew, upside down loop, another corkscrew, the steepest drop you can safely engineer, an upside down loop followed immediately by another corkscrew, and arriving back to the loading area just to get immediately reversed into the same loop again… and again… and again.

Got the idea?

Good.

Everything started on Tuesday, March 10th. Honestly that week was the semester’s hell week. That Sunday was Day Light Savings where we lost one hour of sleep. It was also around the time of full moon. This week included a Friday the 13th. Two weeks prior, we had celebrated a Leap Day. That week of the semester included two exams, a practical, a presentation, and three major assignments that were due (two of which were group assignments….. Have I ever told you how much I despise group assignments?!).

It was also the week that we learned our semester was being thrown into a EF5 tornado. Following spring break, our classes would be virtual until some time in April. On the bright side, spring break was the following week & if our classes were virtual for a few weeks I would save money on gas.

Josh & I were supposed to go to a Flyers game the first Saturday of my spring break. It got postponed (and eventually cancelled when the NHL decided the regular hockey season was done).

I was supposed to go to Boston for the AOTA Conference. It got cancelled. I fought with the airlines for days on getting a refund for my flights. I eventually got both refunds.

I spent my birthday in quarantine.

I started sending my grandparents weekly cryptograms to ease social isolation.

I busied myself with organizing the Quarantine Miles Challenge in attempt to keep myself busy (& motivated) and to connect community members through social media. It was fun for the two weeks I organized it but then people lost interest and that was that.

The semester became easier (in my opinion) virtually. Other than sitting at my computer 10-12 hours/day “attending” classes on Zoom, doing busy work assignments, posting on discussion boards, keeping up with emails, trying to navigate the group projects we still had to do virtually, and trying to actually learn what grad school was supposed to be teaching me, I liked working from the comfort of my home, saving gas, miles, and driving time, and having more time to walk the dogs.

April 15th. My grad school projectory was shot out of a cannon and obliterated into thin air right in front of my eyes. Level II fieldwork placements were postponed for three months. (It still kills me inside to type that out). I was supposed to start my first placement May 18th and my second placement September 14th. As of April 15th, 2020, I would not be starting my first placement until September 14th and my second placement until some time in January. As of April 15th – a horrible, no-good Wednesday afternoon – I would not be graduating in December. I would not be studying for my boards in January. I would not be taking my boards in February/March like I had envisioned. I would not be job hunting in the spring of 2021. Everything obliterated.

They told us there might not even be a guarantee that we’d start in September. Excuse me? I have a life to live. I have debt to pay off. I have a job I need to obtain. I have crappy health insurance and a car that keeps chugging along even with 322,000 miles on it. I can’t keep postponing my life. Something needed to be done. Yet, every inquiry regarding a contingency plan was responded with “we don’t think we’ll need a contingency plan so we don’t have one right now”.

Ok…..

Okay………….

OKAY!

No, not OKAY!!!!!!!!

It makes me want to scream.

I bottled up my angry energy and exerted it on finding a job. There was absolutely no way I was going to spend the three months of my postponed grad school education sitting around doing nothing.

I accepted mini jobs at the winery like painting parking curbs and picnic tables just to earn a buck while the semester was still going on. I became quite the painter for a few week’s time.

I also applied to jobs on Indeed. Good ‘ol Indeed. I started receiving phone calls from places I swore to myself I never wanted to work in (or ever needed to work in ever again)…. retail. I was miserable. I was angry. I was frustrated.

I declined each one and said I was in the process of starting another job. Which was true. Very true. I had applied to Amazon. The enemy. I loathe Amazon. Amazon ruins small businesses….small businesses that I hold near & dear to my heart as my family’s business is a small, local “mom & pop shop”. The kind of place Amazon probably dreams of stomping on across America.

Yet, I felt it was my only option. In my mind, essential retail establishments would present a higher chance of contracting COVID-19 than a warehouse. Dealing with 200+ customers/day as a cashier (disclaimer: that number is probably far from being accurate because I’m horrible at making estimations) seemed far riskier than working in the same warehouse with the same people every shift.

So I took the Amazon job. It would be a place where I wouldn’t think twice about resigning from once I needed to resign. Nobody would know my name. I would be a number or a username in their system. I would clock in at the exact minute of my shift start time and listen for the bell to clock out at the exact shift end time. In. Out. Done.

I started that job on May 8th – the last day of finals and my semester. I completed all my paperwork during the semester so I could start immediately. No time to waste, no time to think about the fact that my grad school projectory was on hold for three months.

I’ve been working 5 days/week since May 8th. Sweating in the warehouse. Bruises on my arms from carrying heavy and large boxes. Sore back. Sore arms. Sore shoulders. A five hour gym session I was getting paid for.

Pick up box. Scan label. Place box on palette. Scan label. Repeat.

Still, nobody knows my name. Fine with me!

Even as the semester was winding down, a week or so after that dreadful Wednesday afternoon, I busied myself with my next quarantine/Stay at Home challenge – the Miles for Heroes Challenge. It was an amazing success and I got to deliver food to three nearby hospitals from the money that was generously donated. Doing good for others felt good. Pay it forward. Do good. Be kind.

Since May 8th, my days have become a routine. My family’s business has been the craziest we’ve ever seen. So, I’ve been working there 5 days/week in the mornings before my Amazon shifts.

Routine: wake up, run/ride, shower, breakfast, walk dogs, check emails & do social media marketing, work for 3-3.5 hours at bike shop, drive to Amazon lot, bike to Amazon building (I refuse to take the shuttle they started forcing us to take because I skeeve public transportation during this time so I bike 1.6 miles to/from the building every shift), drive home, shower immediately, eat dinner, check emails, watch Gilmore Girls or read, go to bed, repeat. I’d rather fill my days with crazy, hectic, busy job-to-job work than sit around dwelling on what should’ve been.

The pay checks have been nice too. I hope to earn enough money this summer to pay for my tuition for both my placements so I don’t have to take out more loans. That is the goal. I hope I can achieve this goal but I don’t know how much tuition is because they keep withholding the tuition statements until they “figure things out”.

All I’ve been doing consistently is working.

I’m not motivated to run. I’m not signing up for any races (mtb or running) because I cannot face any more cancellations or postponements on things I hope to do this year. Races I hoped to run in in April and May were cancelled. I don’t have the energy to organize more running/cycling challenges. I barely even have the intrinsic motivation to run 3 miles.

It’s funny though. All I wanted to do when I was in grad school was run far. I wanted to train for an ultra. I wanted to go trail running on my favorite trail systems in DE/MD. I wanted to train strong…. run strong. Now, all I can muster up the energy and drive to do is 3 miles at 9:30 pace. Pathetic.

March 14th was the last group run I attended. I haven’t ran with anyone since April 10th (with Josh). In April, I was running 10-15 mile runs solo on the road or nearby trail. Delaware & Maryland made out-of-state visitors quarantine for 14 days before doing anything (although I’m not quite sure how they were enforcing that) but I didn’t even risk crossing the bridge to my favorite trail systems. Leaving NJ was cancelled.

The pandemic challenged the country. I think we all grieved the things that we lost as the pandemic crossed America (staying longer in NJ than most other states). High schoolers, college students, hopeful job applicants, engaged couples, couples having babies, families missing their older loved ones, and healthcare providers making endless sacrifices all had something to grieve at some point in the last three months. All that was lost. All that was cancelled. All that was postponed. All of it.

Still to this day – June 21st – the pandemic continues to challenge us.

Will wearing masks in public be the new norm?

Will we fear not wearing a mask?

Will there ever be a day when we don’t have to worry about using Lysol wipes to clean groceries?

Will there come a day when we’re not afraid to touch door handles?

Will we ever feel safe to fly again or go to a restaurant?

How many people is it safe to invite over for a BBQ or bonfire?

When will it be safe to go back to churches?

Will healthcare facilities or schools every let students in for fieldwork placements?

Will students even go back or start?!

No answers to any questions.

To regain some sanity, I disconnected myself from most of social media. I use Facebook to continue social media marketing for my family’s business. I only use the business account on Instagram. I haven’t logged into my personal one for quite some time. I deleted GroupMe to disconnect from my cohort. I mindlessly scroll through Strava but I’ve stopped posting my runs. I rarely even record my runs on my watch anymore. I don’t want to know my pace. Social media became too much, too overwhelming, too much of a horrible dark hole. I don’t miss it.

Yesterday was the first day of summer. I feel like I barely even remember the spring season. April and May are a complete blur. There isn’t much to look forward to this summer. I don’t even feel comfortable going to races that have been “altered”. I’m definitely not going anywhere on a vacation. I’ll just work. Earn that money. Make that dough. Day in. Day out.

The world is a weird place right now. It’s been weird for months. I don’t know what normal looks like in the future. I can’t picture it without seeing people in masks.

I check the state and county’s numbers for new cases every day. I don’t know if I’ll be starting fieldwork in September. I’m not overly optimistic. No point in getting my hopes up again just for it to get cancelled.

Where ever you may be reading this – masked or unmasked – I hope you get through the challenges that you are facing. There will come a day when I can look back at this post – the countless struggles that were cathartic to write out – and that I can reflect on everything that was overcome. Every obstacle, crappy job, and hectic workday will hopefully just be a stepping stone to something better, something less crappy, something more enjoyable and self-fulfilling. Something meaningful.

Here’s to the craziest backwards, corkscrew-y, upside down loopy rollercoaster ride you can imagine. If you’re the passenger, it’s ok not to enjoy the ride. I’m fairly certain I’ve been stuck on this ride since March 10th. Eventually, I hope for myself and for you, that the ride will end and you’ll get back on the basic, whoop-de-doo, 30 second rollercoaster ride and everything will be ok. Maybe you’ll even get to watch a nice sunset.