This morning I woke up on the couch in my parents’ basement to children clattering on the piano a floor above me. While my niece attempted to practice some faintly recognizable nursery song, my nephew seemed to be practicing his glissandos, alternating sweeping his finger across all of the black and white keys respectively. This carried on for about three minutes, until a certain point where my nephew decided it was time for both of them to stop, allegedly for fear of waking me up.
Perhaps I should’ve thanked my temporary roommates, as their premature alarm got me to work “on time” for the first time in about a week. This office of three people (myself included) has seemed to have a pretty loose interpretation of punctuality over the two months I’ve worked here, but I took it as a personal win of sorts.
Despite the fact that I commute from one suburb of Chicago to another each day rather than staying at home, I actually feel that in some respects, taking on this job has greatly heightened my sense of social isolation. Work today and over the past few weeks has consisted of packaging, shipping and doing minor repairs on audio equipment. My interactions with my co-worker today consisted of mutual good mornings and him asking me if the screwdriver was out of battery as I was plugging it in to charge. My more talkative boss usually comes in about an hour before I leave. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little lonely, but in the grand scheme of things I’m grateful to have any sort of work this summer, let alone a position in which I can call myself a “technician” on my resume.
In between mic testing and folding boxes, I was preoccupied today with planning my impending move-out from my university home in Bloomington, Indiana. The lease I shared with four of my friends ends on Friday, and I plan to make the four hour drive down Wednesday night. I’ll be relocating with two of my roommates to a smaller house a few blocks down the road, where I’ll live for the semester until I graduate in December. Under different circumstances, I’d probably be feeling a bit nostalgic to be leaving the place where I not only lived, but also spent time with loved ones, rehearsed with my bands, and hosted shows that welcomed many in the Bloomington music community. In times of COVID, though, I find myself strategizing how to spend as little time as possible in this house due to the chance that one of my roommates, a gigging musician, may have caught the virus whilst playing at a newly reopened bar weeks ago. Thanks Indiana!
Throughout the day, I checked in with my girlfriend periodically over Snapchat. She lives about an hour and a half away from me in Northwest Indiana. We try to spend every weekend together, alternating between visiting our respective homes. I feel immensely lucky to be in a relatively short-distance relationship, and the fact that we’ll be back to seeing each other every day makes the thought of the move back to Indiana so much more manageable. When we’re apart, I still sometimes feel uneasy trying to communicate through selfies paired with single lines of text, but I know at this point we’re able to see past the inherent awkwardness of Snapchat as a platform after being together for over a year. I’ll spend the evening catching up with her over Zoom, where we’ve made it a nightly routine to play 8-ball pool against each other on our phones while synchronizing our Netflix accounts and watching some show that doesn’t require our full attention. I saw her just yesterday and yet this call is easily what I’m looking forward to most.
Over the past week or so I’ve found myself increasingly thinking about how this endless summer seems to finally be winding down, and how in some ways I still feel extremely unprepared. I haven’t touched the software I’m “professionally certified” in for months, and I’m supposed to graduate with an Audio Engineering degree by the end of the year. My university has opted to stick with the hybrid approach of allowing both in person and online classes, and I find it hard to believe we’ll stay longer than a month before everything gets shut down and we’re told to go back home. After months of pondering how to treat my mental health, I finally managed to talk to a psychiatrist last week and have been putting off picking up my first prescription of anxiety medication since then.
I dropped off my work shipments at the post office on my way home. It usually takes stepping out of the office for me to appreciate how privileged I am to be in the position I’m in, given how dire everything is becoming so close to me. The US has an average unemployment rate in the double digits, and I lucked into this job through the connection of a mutual friend. Mere miles away from me, Trump has threatened to send a “surge” of federal agents to the city to deal with peaceful protesters, while I continue to live my life virtually unchanged as a white male in the suburbs and still tell outsiders that I’m “from Chicago”. I have the option to social distance in a way that’s convenient for me and keeps my family safe.
I’m returning to Indiana to finish my education, to a town where a black man was almost lynched on the fourth of July, and subsequent protesters were met with violence. As a freshman, I marched in those same streets in Bloomington against white supremacy in Charlottesville and still remember seeing those angered drivers, hoping I was just being paranoid that one of them might snap. That fear, however rational it may have been, is nothing in comparison to the fear that marginalized people have to face day to day in this country.
As I sit on my couch writing this, my nephew keeps trying to get my attention so he can show me some new achievement he got in Fortnite today. I reflect on the volatility of not only my country as a whole but the places I call home and realize I should be thankful for the mundane moments in life.