Thoughts On Being An Essential Worker

I am an essential worker. However I live where I work, so it’s like being an essential worker on crack. Imagine being an essential worker in your own home, taking care of others, The rules about taking care of people changing from week to week, outside invested interest upset with you no matter what you do, never having a day off, all while trying to homeschool your children, and anyone that lives outside of your home can no longer come in to help provide support because you’re needing to self-quarantine. Like everything is fine and we are happy, but its like those post zombie apocalypse utopias that are always just waiting for the zombie infestation to break through the protective barrier walls. So its as good as it could possible be.

For me, the hardest part is the judgment from the outside coming in. The reality is that things have actually been going really well internally within our organization, yet because there’s a worldwide crisis it is being projected upon us that we are also in crisis, even if we’re not. And so even if we’re not in crisis we’re still having to deal with the fallout as is if there were, regardless of the fact that we are kicking ass and taking names, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plus the absolute whiplash that occurs from constantly being given different directives each week is undervalued right now. And the expectation to stay on top of these rulings and disseminate information to third parties is expected to be immediate even though there is different information coming from the governor, the Board of Health, and funding agencies and we need to digest review and make policies out of that information. It has been this weird juxtaposition for me of my home life and work-life going really really well paired against the backdrop of insecurities of others generated from the outside in.

For the first time since March 10th, I took my son on a playdate last week. It was the first time I put all the kids in the car and drove to somebody’s house with children to socialize since this impending doom and fear settled into the fabric of our country. It felt weirdly momentous after having been confined to my beautiful and loving home for such a long period of time. And I don’t think people understand the drastic measures that we had to take where we live to keep a vulnerable population safe. There were no trips to the grocery store. There were no trips to state parks. There was no reason to even get in the car and drive. So to sit behind the wheel of the car for the first time in four months, and drive away from my home to go to the only other family that was even close to following our policies and procedures as an organization, to engage in a play date outside and socially distanced felt epic.

So as I’m driving down the road, you could’ve knocked me over with an eagle feather, because everywhere were signs thanking essential workers. And I literally could’ve cried because even though the signs are put up by total strangers in places nowhere near my house I felt like I was being seen and validated. No one up to this point had thanked me. Instead of thankfulness I had received other people’s anxieties and fears manifesting in doubt.

I do not think enough validation or compassion has been given to essential workers. Most of us are still making the same amount of money as before for being asked to do the job we did prior to COVID but in an actual worldwide pandemic without financial conversation or a compassionate understanding of what it means to carry the weight of society when we are not all able to contribute. Most of us are doing this work with many of our own support systems no longer in tact.

So to all my fellow essential workers, thank you. Thank you for the long hours. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for taking precautions to keep us all safe. Thank you for the extra work you have to do to keep your own family safe when you go home from work. Thank you for continuing to contribute when not everyone was able to. Thank you for being so flexible to the changing guidances and ruling and doing your best to work within them. Thank you.

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