Thursday, April 2, 2020

Column: Everything seemed to stop except the bills

March 26, 2020

I wish I could say I feel at ease knowing restaurants and bars are being closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but I’m not. I am frustrated, anxious and maybe even a little selfish knowing that I still have my own priorities to take care of but do not have the financial income anymore to fulfill those responsibilities.

While yes, I am saddened that for the remainder of the spring semester at Michigan State I won’t be able to celebrate another morning at Rama or Wednesday at Harper’s, there’s a different kind of sting I feel knowing that my income has stopped, but the bills have not.

My goal from the start of college was to work enough to pay for housing and other necessities on my own and then only take out loan money for tuition and books. I was lucky enough that room and board was covered my freshman year, but monthly apartment rent and other needs can be just as pricey the following years. (Did anyone else know that printer ink was that expensive?)

I have worked in the restaurant industry for four years now. I got one of my first jobs as a hostess at a bar and restaurant near my hometown when I was 16 years old. After I turned 18, I was immediately turned over to the server schedule and from there on out, I made more in one week than minimum wage could have done for me in a month.

Soon enough, I was hired as a server in East Lansing and I was fulfilling the goal I had set for myself so many months prior. And then — just like that, it was gone within a week.

On March 11, MSU moved to remote instruction full-time, and by the end of the week, many other events had been canceled.

March 16, I found myself officially unemployed.

March 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a lockdown across Michigan.

Sometimes I get angry at myself for not realizing the worst could happen. I always thought “the worst” would be a broken bone preventing me from working or maybe a roommate not paying their half of rent, but a global pandemic? I didn’t even know what the word pandemic meant before COVID-19.

Long days and short hours was what work felt like. Class dragged on for an eternity, but when I was at a place that I liked, surrounded by people who became friends more than coworkers and doing something I was great at, it seemed that hours turned into minutes. 

I will remember the long speech from my general manager filled with an abundance of messages like, “I’m sorry, everyone,” and, “We will get through this, I promise.” But in all honesty, that didn’t mean anything to me, because words are not what are going to solve my — or anyone else’s — real problems.

The last nine days or so (I've lost count), I have not strayed far from my bed back at my permanent residence.

I had a friend tell me, “You should appreciate the time you have now, you learn a lot about yourself when you’re alone.” 

I have learned that I spend way too much time staring at my phone. I have learned that I cannot sit still for more than a few hours in a day. I have learned that I feel angry most days because of this pandemic. And I have also learned that things cannot possibly get any worse than they are now.

But from here on out, I choose to remain optimistic, because what is humanity without a little bit of hope?

To answer your question: No, I still have no idea how I’m going to cover my expenses in the coming weeks.

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