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COVID-19 pandemic / part 2

A snapshot of a dashboard by Johns Hopkins University for global tracking of COVID-19 confirmed cases.

It’s mid-March. People are packing their office equipment in the office. Mandatory working from home starts soon, aligning with lockdowns in Europe. People around me say that we’d be back in two to three weeks, at most three months if things go wrong. Nine months of working from home later, that statement sounds like delusional optimism.

There are many reasons why things didn’t go as planned. The actions across the globe that have brought us to the current situation have been and will be analyzed again and filed for our offspring to read and wonder—nothing interesting there, just normal human behavior.

What’s more interesting is that we finally have working vaccines (one of them was supposedly developed in just 48 hours(!) back in March, but it took eight to nine months of testing to confirm its efficacy and safety). The progress of the science community is impressive. That was good news. The bad news is that it’ll probably take us the whole of 2021 to vaccinate enough people to get the virus under control. Guess who’s not going to make any optimistic predictions (unless this was one, and I’ll be referring back to it in 2022).

That guarantees us, and me, many more months of imprisonment in a makeshift broadcast studio through which I make “contact” with other human beings for ten hours a day, making my eyes weary and my back aching. At the same time, I’m immensely grateful that I have a job and family and friends to call. Talk about mixed feelings.

I wasn’t prepared for how hard the pandemic with small kids is going to be. My kids are at the age when they notice something is wrong but can’t comprehend the situation around them. “No, we can’t go to the swimming pool. No, we can’t visit your grandparents during the holidays. Yes, we have to stay locked in for the next ten days. Why? Because of the virus. What is a virus? When will it end? Why do we have to wear a mask when going outside?” So many questions and no right answers for the tiny humans. And what are the kids going to take away from all of that? What lessons do they learn from walking to the park but then dad turning away because too many kids and parents are packed together?

My workspace is less than a meter away from my bed, completely blurring the line between private and work. Work never leaves—it’s the last thing I see before I turn off the lights and the first thing I see when I wake up. To keep my sanity and distance, I lock all work laptops and phones away on my last workday of the week. Out of sight, out of mind (sort of).

Not everything is horrible. I enjoy the simplicity of life brought down on us, and more time with my family. Kids develop fast in the first few years, and I’m delighted I’m not missing most of it. We wake up and eat together every day, and that happened only on weekends before the pandemic. I don’t think my wife is as happy having me every moment of every day at home (sUpPoSeDlY I’m ThE tHiRd KiD iN tHe FaMiLy), but we all have to make sacrifices.

(If you can’t remember how benign the JHU dashboard looked in March, check out the screenshot I took then.)

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