I thought we would have had this all figured out by now. It has been a year and a half of pandemic, of working at home, of juggling school in the kitchen, and Zoom meetings in the closet and yet, here we are. The only thing different is we now have the tools to fix this, to make it easier, to save lives, and yet.
I live in Iowa, a red state, where vaccination rates hover around 50 percent and aren’t getting much better, and schools, which start next week, are not allowed to mandate masks. Neither are they allowed to move to fully online should there be a breakout.
Where I live, mask adherence is low. Nothing here will shut down again, our governor and state lawmakers will make sure of that. And honestly, we barely shut down last year. Most businesses could open with some restrictions by May 2020. All restrictions were lifted in February of this year. Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds has been bragging that all of Iowa’s resistance to shut down efforts has led us to have a budget surplus. But the reality is, we’ve been railroaded by the economy. And while theoretically with schools open, women can get back to work, it feels more dire now than before.
I’ve been living in fear as the Delta variant cases rise, watching the school year approach waiting for something to happen. Some guidance. Some help. Anything. But beyond the tax credit, we have nothing.
Cases continue to rise. People continue to die. A good portion of Americans are firmly in collective denial. And we just have to sit here and work?
I am not complaining exactly. I am so grateful to have work. Last year at this time, I was worried about finances as a single mom working for a newspaper that was barely holding on. I’m grateful I can feed my kids without worrying about the next paycheck. That hasn’t always been the case.
I am not the only one seemingly staring at the next few months and saying, “So we just keep doing this?”. A friend of mine recently quit a prestigious journalism job, because as she told me, “I just can’t keep doing this. And for what?” Another dear friend of mine also just quit her job, her dream job, which required long hours and low pay. “I want benefits and I want to go camping,” she said.
She was tired of a job that had all the prestige but was costing her her freedom. It wasn’t worth it. Not anymore. She was speaking to a collective sense of exhaustion, the burnout of those already burnt out.
Both of my friends have had COVID. Both know the realities of the virus far better than I do. They are not isolated cases. Workers are quitting their jobs in droves in a move that has left businesses struggling and hiring managers desperate.
People are tired, broken, facing another year of disease and loss, and we are supposed to care about “corporate synergy”? Nah.
Last year, media outlets were hammered with op-ed after article declaring this pandemic was a recession for women, that women were breaking.
And now, a year later, the problems are still there. Just compounded. The New Yorker called this moment COVID mid-life crisis. It’s forcing workers, particularly women, to take a long hard look at their lives. An article on Today calls this period in life the Great Resignation.
Whatever you call it, it’s clear that the old ways of working are not working. But we’ve yet to find new paths to survival. We cannot keep leaning on the broken systems wondering why they are failing us.
But we are here, broken, and still going.