A Day That Changed Everything
The last week and a half has flown by in record time. I went from a serious upper respiratory infection and strep throat to getting back to racking up miles (I will roll 500 this week) but then everything changed. We started to have contingency planning meetings at work at the end of the first week of March. And then, there were murmurs of things changing. And, finally, I saw that another Big Ten school (a peer institution in a neighboring state) had gone completely online for three weeks.
At that point, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning on the 10th, I said to my husband, "OSU just moved online, we will follow, I bet. Prepare yourself." We both work in IT for the same department. His job requires him to be on-prem. Mine does not. I figured we'd be out for a few weeks and come back. I didn't figure our preschool would just shut down. In retrospect, I probably should have. I had no idea how swiftly the announcement would be made or how bizarre it would feel to be packing up various things from my desk and moving everything home. Instead of all of that, I rode to work in a bit blustery, somewhat rainy weather and ate up the time on the road. I should have known that morning when I'd told my husband about OSU. I should have known when a serious this-will-be-cancelled-most-likely conversation was had with a department chair at a meeting happened that day. I should have known most certainly when I walked by the Learning Management people and saw a sign that said, "We're working, please only WORK related questions". I should have prepared myself but I didn't.
The announcement was made around 3:30 PM. I was walking on the walking desk. I saw people running around to grab office supplies. I saw chaos. I saw people saying goodbye to one another near tears. I laughed to myself. This wasn't the end. We'd be back soon! People came and said goodbye to me and I promised we'd be together soon. I was wrong. There were, at the time, only a handful of cases in our state. I had been watching the numbers abroad for months because I'm fascinated by virology and also a big fan of the game Pandemic. I was worried for those abroad. I was scared for other people. But I never figured it would get here. I had too much faith in... what? Our discordant executive branch? Why was I so surprised by this? I'm still unsure today what I thought was going to happen. That we'd shuffle our schedules and then come back to normal after 2 weeks. I didn't have the car (I never have the car) so I rode home to get my husband and the car. In doing so, a driver tried to kill me. More on that another time. I called the police and then rode like the wind to get home. We had a fussy kid and needed to get a whole host of IT stuff back to our house. We saw one of my coworkers doing the same at the loading dock. I remarked that we looked like thieves. We went home, had takeout, and then my husband set up my work area for me. It was the least he could do, he insisted, if I was going to be living in the basement "for awhile". I remarked that it wouldn't be that long. It would be only 3 weeks, right? I already had a plan in place for backup care. Everything would be fine. And then on Sunday, a former coworker in a different department messaged me and said, "Did you see the email?" She and I had a really bad history of getting texts like this from other coworkers. It was never good. I knew almost every other Big Ten campus had not only followed suit with us but most had decided to move classes online until at least the end of the semester. That seemed unfathomable. Of course, it wasn't. This was the email from the president. Telecommuting for the rest of the semester - indefinitely even - and no more on-campus instruction for the same time. I cursed a lot. And then panicked. If they were closing, the school district would, and if the school district did, preschool would. More swears. I couldn't believe this reality. Monday was panic day. I was off of work but I tried all day to wrap my anxiety-ridden, OCD-garbled brain around all of this. Thankfully, I received clarity from HR and worked out details with my manager and my husband's has been willing to be flexible with us. He only works part-time. But as I was scheduling instacart orders and trying to justify spending money for this "service", I had no idea this was going to be our normal. And, it has been. We are cocooning ourselves as much as possible. It is HARD. Trying to work with a kid in the house - even with help or a parent watching her - is distracting and hard. I am getting good at wearing headphones. I took my husband's advice and decorated my basement office. I put up better lighting. I hung up my sports memorabilia that hadn't seen the light of day since 2016 due to a baby, moving twice, and then sheer laziness. I've tried to do my best. My kid misses her friends. I miss my friends and coworkers. We skype and FaceTime and Zoom with people we love. We try to bake and do activities together and enjoy this precious time - however stressful it is. I try not to think about my asthma and what could happen if I got infected. I try not to worry about my husband bringing it home from work to me. I try not to feel guilt about having to flex my schedule and adjust to new realities despite assurances that it will all work out. I'm incredibly lucky and thankful that we both still have jobs. That our industry needs us more than ever. I'm thankful that my husband only works part time and his work wants to keep him because they need him. I'm thankful that my child's school has paid its workers throughout this pandemic. I'm thankful for the things her teachers sent home which remind her of the school she adores. But, I'm sad. My mileage has suffered because of weather. My average walking distance is poor without my treadmill desk and massive walk to the bathroom and kitchen. I need to schedule Zoom sessions with my coworkers and boss to feel human. Living with a 3 year old with no break is awful. However, we continue to ride as long as we can. I am focused on what we can do. I'm focused on how much we are getting out and moving and how confident my daughter is getting on her balance bike. Maybe when this all passes, we will be able to buy her her first big girl bike.