Every decade or so there seems to be a dip in the economy. The stock market tanks, people get scared, jobs are lost and big corporations get bailed out. It’s the American Way. Not every recession is the same; some are slight, and others longer and more destructive.
The Great Recession of ten or so years ago gave me a lot of gray hair and ruined a lot of lives. I’ve written about it, if you search my blog it’s easy to find. I’ll try not to repeat myself.
There have been signals of a recession for a couple of years. I’m not an economist, but I listen and watch. I thought it would come about the time I was looking to retire. I did not see a pandemic in the tea leaves. Our country’s leadership had warning of a pandemic, and did not take it seriously, which has added to our current situation. That’s a subject for another time.
Ten years ago was a scary situation, and I know people today who are scared. Their jobs are gone or how they make money is on hold based on the pandemic. I feel for these folks. This situation is not their fault. How do you prepare for something like a pandemic? Many folks work paycheck to paycheck, or within a couple of paychecks from financial ruin. You see people working the cash registers and serving in “essential” functions that cannot stay at home, or even six feet away from customers.
If I had needed to change careers a decade ago, I could have done it, painfully, but it was possible. Today, at my age, not likely. Many people will however, struggle to do that very thing.
The situation we are in now is a public health emergency. The stock market’s peaks and valleys are a result. With businesses closes, purchasing down and the majority of Americans told to stay home, it is possible a recession may follow. Despite the stimulus packages, a lot of Americans will not be fine. I may be bitchy about my own situation, but I am fine compared to many other people I know.
The building I work in is pretty empty these days. Not totally, but the few people left are like ghosts. If you pass someone in the hallway, people move far apart and don’t make eye contact. Instead of actual human interaction, you are saturated with emails and virtual meetings over the telephone. At times, I feel alone, and that’s almost as scary as the threat of infection.
Interestingly, I never thought too much about the socialization aspect of work. Work provides me a structure that I use for getting work done, not as the hub of my social world. I never thought much about working from home, although I envied people with that opportunity. What I have quickly realized is I lack the internal discipline to work at home for eight hours a day and be as productive as I am at the office. Back to the socialization comment, work doesn’t provide me many friendships, other than many casual relationships. Perhaps it is the familiarity of seeing people daily that provides a framework, my normal, more than friendships. When that framework is gone, there is a feeling of disconnection. When the boundaries of normal suddenly change, it can be disorientating, like a movie about waking up and no one is left in the world.
I do have a job to go to and a salary that pays the bills. Despite the disorientation, I’m thankful. Life could be much worse, so I do not complain. Much.
How bad will this pandemic be in terms of cases of infections and ultimately, death? I see a lot of statistics floated telling two sides of the argument. Do we cut the stay home policy short and put people back to work? Do we sacrifice grandma to rescue the stock market? The very people who are pro-life seem to be less concerned about the elderly and high-risk, more concerned about the financial bottom-line than the human bottom-line.
These times are difficult and they border on insanity. Crisis brings out the best and worst of America.
In times like these, we need the physical separation, but not the emotional and spiritual distance. There were people who walked these empty hallways and drove the cars on the deserted roadway. There will be again. When it is medically safe to resume our social lives, we will come out of our cocoons and carry on, hopefully with a greater respect for science and preparedness, and an appreciation for what we have missed. In every crisis, whether it is a war, natural disaster, recession or medical emergency, people answered the call. Easy? No, but determination and kindness are American values, we overcome and outlast any obstacles in our way.
If you have any extra portions of kindness and hope, share them widely with those in temporary short supply. Especially, during times like these.