Reflecting on a year of the pandemic

Navigating the difficulties that resulted from the virus

In 2019, I made tremendous strides in my career, fitness, and personal life. It was a year filled with personal highlights, such as paying off my student loans early and expanding my freelance career to the point where I was no longer dependent on my main job. I had kept off the 50 pounds I had lost two years prior and exercised four days a week. I was becoming pickier with the work I was taking, accepting only the high paying or the super fun jobs. I learned to skateboard. Poorly. But I learned, nonetheless.

By mid-February 2020, I was ready to give my two weeks. One of the sports broadcasting companies I work for had given me a solid confirmation of work until October and a tentative offer of work until spring 2021, with the opportunity to train for a higher paying, more enjoyable role. Enough work was confirmed for me to step away from my main job.

Then the virus hit and shut down my main job before I could officially give my notice. This helped because they gave me a temporary layoff notice that got me onto EI before CERB was rolled out. That was the only silver lining. On March 12, 2020, I lost all my work in one day. A week later, my wife lost all of hers. Three weeks after that, our washing machine and dryer quit working and the stove lit on fire. A several-thousand-dollar house project could not wait any longer. Knee surgery booked for 2020 got postponed, with no reschedule date as of yet.

That was the beginning of the slide down. My mother-in-law passed away in August. My temporary layoff got extended. And extended. And extended again to the end of July 2021. My union at my main job, for reasons no one could understand, decided to enter into negotiations while we were shut down. The collective bargaining agreement they sent us to vote on completely left out my department. Union members voted in that collective agreement, despite my pleas to not accept the agreement, which has left my job in limbo. Will my department even exist much longer? The company’s social media page indicates it will not.

Many job applications went unanswered. Too many to not take it personally. The main sports broadcasting company I work for (owned by the same company that promotes #LetsTalk) cut their crews in half. Unfortunately, I was not on the right side of that line. Doesn’t losing your job negatively affect your mental health? After all, mental health is something this company claims they care about. 

Throughout the past 11 months, I have caught myself sinking (spiraling, actually) into a depression I have never felt before. Without constant noise and distraction, I find myself crying or getting mad over the simplest things and arguing over nothing. I’m constantly trying to manage my knee pain, always aware of the painkillers I have taken, often using CBD/THC to help with pain and insomnia. But they leave me lethargic and I often waste the day, which feeds the feeling of uselessness. 

For years, I had tied my self-worth and identity to my job. Sitting at home, marginally employed for close to a year, I have had to learn that I am more than my job and more than a paycheque. My wife has preached that to me for years, but only recently have I begun to listen. It is hard to not take work, or the lack of work, personally when I have been rejected so many times. At least I have my health, as they say, which I try to remember. While it has been a tough experience and I struggle, I know I am still significantly better off than so many other people. I am thankful for that.

Feature Image: Stephen Strand (left) with his wife. | Stephen Strand

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