Here in the US, it’s now been almost four months since the covid-related shutdowns began, and it seemed like a good time to take stock of how things are going. I’ll give you a snapshot of life in my office, and then I’d love to hear your own thoughts in the comments.
Back when this all began
Here in Colorado, schools shut down on March 15, and my husband’s work–a government research lab–also announced that anyone who wanted to could work from home indefinitely, then quickly changed that to “must work from home.” My coworking office initially stayed open, but I decided to stop going in as soon as other things started closing, because my husband has some health issues that may or may not be autoimmune, and my parents–who are in their late 70s–live near us and we see them frequently, so the office just didn’t seem worth the risk.
Looking back on it, one of the funniest/saddest parts of this whole situation is how quickly we all assumed it would be over. My daughter’s high school initially announced two weeks of Spring break instead of one–then, classes would resume as normal. Odder yet, I recently walked by a still-shuttered restaurant near our house that had a notice posted on the door, to the effect of, “We’re closing down until early April, when hopefully all of this will be behind us. Can’t wait to see you then!!” (if only…).
How things look now
It took about three or four weeks for me to accept/admit that covid was not going away anytime soon. By mid-April, I put my coworking office desk on hold indefinitely and finally succumbed to setting up a desk in our living room since I no longer have a home office (the curse/blessing of coworking!). My daughter’s school announced that online learning would continue until the end of the year–and she’s a senior in high school, so that was the end!–and my husband’s work announced that no one could come in to the building until further notice. My daughter “graduated” (stood in front of the school in her cap and gown, and there was a car parade that was actually really fun), I’m still working from the living room, and my husband is still working from the kitchen table.
For the aforementioned reasons–and because we’re still holding out some hope that my daughter will be able to head to college/university in another two months–we’re very cautious about the covid situation. We do lots of stuff outside and do some socially-distanced get-togethers with friends, but only one of us (me) goes grocery shopping or to retail stores, we don’t go to any restaurants, cafes, hairdresser, gym, and we’re not planning on doing any overnight trips until after my daughter leaves for college (assuming that happens).
On the work front
Executive summary: translation work is stable so far, online courses are booming, and interpreting has dropped to almost nothing. I’m also enjoying the expanded range of online training opportunities that are available right now.
-When the pandemic hit, I was fortunate to have two major translation projects for direct clients already in the works–one NGO project of 100,000+ words that I work on every year at this time, and a massive website overhaul for one of my European university clients. Both of those went ahead, and kept me busy–almost too busy, but it worked out since there was very little else to do–from mid-March until about a week ago. Now I sense a bit of a slowdown, but it’s actually welcome since I worked like crazy for the last two months.
-When I wrote a post back in November about how to prepare your freelance business for a recession, I definitely wasn’t envisioning a pandemic. But a lot of what I wrote about in that post–inspired by an episode of the podcast The Freelancers Show–applies to what we’re living through now. In particular, the fact that training and professional development offerings tend to thrive in a recession. People have time if they’re not working as much, they think about back-burner projects (like, “I always meant to start working with direct clients”), and they want to position themselves as well as possible for the work that’s out there. All of this has proven true in my online course business: every class I’ve offered since the pandemic started has sold out. My classes usually get a good amount of registrations, but “all sold out” is a first.
-My main interpreting client is the Colorado Judicial Branch, and work from them has slowed to a trickle. Pre-pandemic, I was working in the courts two to three times a week, and I wasn’t even taking everything they offered. Now–with all trials postponed and most other matters being handled via short hearings over the phone or Zoom–I’ve earned just a few hundred dollars total from interpreting since mid-March. I haven’t actively looked for remote interpreting work because I don’t enjoy it that much, but I’m not actively opposed to taking on more remote work if it pops up.
-One of my own back-burner projects–modernizing the Training for Translators website–is now on the front burner, and my web designer is working away at it. The site functionality will still be the same, but with some graphical updates.
-A silver lining of the pandemic is that so many more people and entities are offering online training right now. I’m going to do a two-week conference interpreting course in August, and I’ve done three or four all-day interpreting trainings so far, mostly offered by trainers who don’t usually teach online.
On the non-work front
-I try to force myself to focus on the positive: no one I love has gotten sick, my husband and I still have jobs, and my family is getting along well despite spending 24/7 together. We’re very fortunate to live in a beautiful place where we have never been restricted from exercising outside, and we can do all-day hikes or bike rides right out our front door, which is a big sanity boost. We also have lots of friends who live within walking distance, so even when things were really locked down, we could walk over to a friend’s house and at least talk through the windows. Although we’ve missed out on a lot of things that can’t really be made up for later–my daughter’s high school graduation, my husband’s and my planned 20th anniversary trip to Europe, etc., in the grand scheme of things we are fine.
-I think the shock of the quarantine hit particularly hard at the outset, because this is typically a time of year when we’re running in a million directions between my daughter’s bike races–last year she went to California twice and Quebec twice between March and August, and there was rarely a time when we were home for two weekends in a row–and our own work and travel commitments. This year I was scheduled to speak at the BP conference in Nuremberg, then at the New England Translators Association conference in Boston, and then we were thinking of spending a month in Europe for an anniversary trip and to watch my daughter in some bike races. I also normally play a few lute gigs at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, ride a lot with my bike club team, and we were hoping for a bike trip in British Columbia as a sendoff before my daughter leaves for college. I know…rolling on the floor laughing, right?? Clearly all of that has been scrapped, and it really was kind of a “60 to zero” situation at our house, which took some getting used to. I still use a paper date book, and for a while I’d turn to the next week, only to see something like “Flight to Munich, 2 PM,” like a relic of a bygone era when people used to do things like leave the house.
-A small thing, but my lute duet partner figured out a way for us to continue playing remote duets together. We meet on Zoom, and take turns muting ourselves (playing along with the other person) and it actually works pretty well. Not the same as playing together in person, but from the technical standpoint, it’s very doable and keeps both of us motivated to continue practicing.
Where I’m at right now
-About 80% of the time, I can take an “it is what it is” attitude toward the pandemic. Like, really the only thing you can do is take it one day at a time and do your part. We’re healthy, we still have jobs, and we live in one of the most beautiful places in the US. We get along. We have lots of friends right in our neighborhood. It’s been great to have the extra time with my daughter before she leaves for college, and I feel more prepared for her to leave since we will have had more than five uninterrupted months together at that point.
Then the other 20% of the time, I alternate between “When will I ever be able to…again” (hug my parents, go to a concert, eat in a restaurant, go to a conference, interpret in live court, fly on an airplane…are those things really so much to ask??) and “What’s the point??” (thinking about all the effort I’ve put into music, bike racing, interpreting, etc. etc. and not knowing when I’ll ever do those things in the real world again). I say that not to complain, but to say that no one can be expected to look on the bright side of a pandemic 100% of the time. If you also have days here and there where you feel down about the situation, it’s not just you.
Readers, over to you! How’s everything going in your various corners of the world?