Strange Summer Thoughts – Pandemic Edition

Aug 6th, 2020 in Personal

Here we are, more than halfway through 2020. How’s the year wearing on everyone? I’ve been sure feeling it, as optimism at the start of quarantine back in March has soured into cynicism. I’ve embarked on some drastic steps that I hope will get my mojo back, and kick off a period of mindful exploration.

First and foremost, I’ve just left my full time job with BWW Media. I’d say I’ve returned to being a freelancer, but even then I don’t really have an intention to work for anyone until Winter’s approach. I’ve saved enough and budgeted for far longer than that, and ultimately my peace of mind and freedom is just more important than a steady paycheck. I’m excited to talk about what I’ve got planned, but please allow me to unburden myself on my work a bit first.

BWW was my first job where I finally caught the golden goose of “full-time remote”, and allowed me to follow through on my goal of moving outside NYC and sustaining myself in the process. I eventually came to realize that I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I do still enjoy working on the WordPress platform and its adjacencies quite a lot, but I think as the sole developer it was sometimes too much for me. I didn’t feel secure that I could do things like backpack or road trip for a week or two on vacation without having my laptop on me in case of emergency. I need that ability to fully disconnect.

With that looming pressure, and the stress of a hack in May we suffered that I had to take responsibility for and address, made me feel like I had to step away. I also feel secure in this decision, as the coronavirus has fundamentally realigned technology work; even if it’s fully resolved this year (if it goes away ‘like a miracle’), people still aren’t returning to their offices in the same way ever again. I feel confident that forward it will be much easier to work remotely, when I am again full-time with a team. I’ll miss my coworkers though, it’s always tough when deciding to walk away; teams form real bonds that hurt to break.

Covid may also have just fucked with my mental health enough to push me over the edge too. My travel for the year and plans to visit back East have been fully stymied. I’ve been stuck in my nice, forested home here, but even then, I’m still stuck. My opportunities to meet new people have eroded and frayed, and that cabin fever can really grind on you. I’ve tried to stay chipper in the home life, and blessedly, we got a new neighbor, Clair, another adventurous spirit who has been a welcome addition in my life.

A particularly poisonous aspect of the Coronavirus struggle has just been the politicization of it. I lament deeply that a chance for national unity has been turned into a partisan slugfest, while the president stokes the coals the whole time! The fights over stay-at-home orders, mask wearing, if it’s all just a hoax.. they’ve just been awful to look at. I’ve personally been in several altercations, and I’m sure many others have as well. It’s tough not to feel despondent as an American looking at other countries that took it seriously, made the hard, responsible choices, and have now controlled the virus better to the point that they enjoy an approximation of normalcy in their lives. At this point, I’m starting to feel like even next Summer is in doubt of things returning to normal.

At least the Dems have a strong tailwind now 100 days out from the election. How people can still support Trump after blowing the pandemic response, tanking the economy, and antagonizing the huge protests on race and policing.. I don’t know. I’m increasingly optimistic on the polling here for AZ, but I won’t be watching the results live…

Instead, I’ll be thru-hiking the Arizona Trail! That’s some 800 miles of desert wilderness, from Utah to Mexico, that I plan to be on in the months of October and November. I’ve thought a lot about this trail since moving here, and how it’ll truly be the way I attune to the Southwestern climate. I’m finally retooling my backpacking kit for the upcoming journey, and perhaps that will be just the beginning, as both the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails beckon to me.

Before embarking on the long trip, I’ve got two months here. Beyond the usual personal projects (website? website!), I’m also gonna cobble together a road trip to the regional national parks. I bought an annual pass just before lockdown and never got around to using it, so I ought to cash that bad boy in. Utah’s parks are the prime target, but I also may venture as far as interior California. I’ll write about it once the itinerary is fully fleshed out and the trip completed.

I’m gonna try not to spend the whole time playing video games, but I do have to give a shoutout to Dead By Daylight which has wholly captivated me the last month. Four survivors have to work as a team against a murderous killer. I’ve had many a night of being tossed unceremoniously on meat hooks (what happens when you suck at the game), but it’s an adrenaline rush both evading and hunting. I ebb and flow on how intensely I play games, and right now, I’m hooked. Unique challenges, some competitiveness and opportunities to play cooperatively always drag me in most fiercely. The see-and-saw of time spent having fun (esp. with gaming) versus moving the needle forward on extracurricular goals is a tricky bit of psychology that probably warrants its own article sometime.

Have I mentioned that I’ve been feeling an increasing homesickness for NYC lately? Nine months now is definitely the longest I’ve been away. I think about how I’ve nearly “nailed it” here, Covid aside, in terms of affordable, active living, truly ideal weather and abundant nature. Alas, I still can’t shake the nostalgic allure of that pulsing energy from the city core out to the far boroughs I found myself residing in. At least the pain is dulled knowing the clubs, the gyms, the board gaming and coffee shops are all limited there as they are here. Maybe that’s why I really feel the longing, because Flagstaff is bereft of fun things to do only because of the pandemic.

I hope the general tone of this write-up hasn’t been too dreary for you, dear reader. Weathering Covid has been a trial we all have had to individually endure and it’s been wearing on me as hard as anyone else despite my privileged insulation and comfort. I worry about the state of the nation regularly, and am hoping my job shake-up and adventuring plans help me persevere and find my focus on striving for greater things.