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Business Casual and a Way Forward: Thoughts on the last 3 years

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

I went to work to put some space between myself and "what happened" 3 years ago. It's funny because I never saw myself working in any sort of traditional sense unless something horrifically tragic were to happen to Scott. That was my sort of "well if I must..." idea. Never did I think that I'd take on the stressors of being a "working mom" simply because the stress of staying home was far worse. I think being a stay-at-home mom mocked me in the years following the Big Disruption. It was a half-life from what I was accustomed to... nay, to what I had built, but somehow had to be OK with it. We couldn't travel. We couldn't really put down roots. We couldn't. Couldn't. Couldn't. In a sort of desperate fit of rage, I decided to focus on what I could do. I could go to work. I could try and put my mental energy into something besides wishing the world wasn't so co-dependent on PCR tests and interest rates.

Perhaps now is the time to just give a little refresher on where our life was and where it is now to provide some helpful context.

3.5 years ago the world was upended due to covid. Our lives were poised to hardly be affected by the response of lockdowns and school shutdowns. Really the only thing that the covid response was supposed to do was to cramp our travel-style. Scott worked remotely (he had for 10 years already) and the boys were quasi-homeschooled. In this bizarre turn of events we found we were not cut out for long-term fear-mongering, layoffs, and irrational governors who had their sights set on other political gain and not what their constituents actually needed. So we uprooted our family and moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest. In September of 2020. We sold our house in hopes of working towards financial independence that would keep us safe from jumpy investor boards and collective societal economic meltdowns. The plan was to leave the high cost of living of the Seattle area and move to Arizona and invest heavily in real estate to push us into the FIRE strata earlier than we had planned.

Hahahahahahahaha. Real estate sucks right now. So we just have been in a holding pattern. Unable to advance any plan beyond saving and keeping our family intact.

One of my biggest fears as we ventured into this "brave new world" was that my kids were right on the verge of their adolescent years. The last thing I wanted was for them to face instability that would somehow doom them to a life of cigarettes and bad choices. You know what I mean.

We walked right into an absolute shitstorm of bad timing. If it wasn't the crappy interest rates, it was the fact that we couldn't develop a community as everyone was masked and afraid of one another. If it wasn't the fact that no contractor worth their salt would work in a timely fashion it was crazy-high inflation, societal instability, and basically having our entire identity thrown into question.

Someone would ask me "So how are things?" and I never knew if could answer honestly. I wanted to answer: Terrible, thanks for asking. We had to leave Washington because we didn't love the idea of being locked in our homes by a politically obtuse governor. Scott lost his job and was denied unemployment because the world collectively decided to freak out over a germ that seemed to be manageable, but nobody wanted to discuss that part. We've followed the rules and been financially prudent and yet we find ourselves unable to advance in any appreciable way. It feels like a slap in the face. We've moved to a place that we thought would provide a lower COL, but we find that the market here is also ballooning because people actually don't like the weird policies of the West Coast Cities. We can't really travel because somehow the whole world forgot that children were people and all the covid requirements are fuzzy at best for kids. Also, after our youngest child was sobbing when the kindly Dominican physician came over to swab his nose so we could return home- we decided this wasn't worth the trauma anymore. It sucks because we have had approximately 3 people we can actually be honest with about our sadness and frustration without having accusations thrown at us. We've been living in my hometown and I've been working because there is literally nothing else we can do. But, please tell me how much you love working from home in your pajamas. Sounds great.

It's been hard. I've cried rivers of tears over what could have been and the fears of the what-ifs. I've had to hold the space of "I want to be there for my children, but also I need to be physically away from home." and make peace with the fact the two can exist.

I have spent the last 3 years trying to stay connected to my children and to my husband. Everything from movie nights to forced conversations. In the beginning, we would make weekend trips to Costco that were 2 hours (each way) just so we could be together. The closeness of the car and windshield time felt comforting. It was this bizarre constant we could hang on to "Are we going to Costco this weekend?" Yes. Yes, we are. We are going to get eggs and Biscoff and eat dinner at In-N-Out and come home at 7pm.

I would compulsively clean the house every weekend too. The faint musk of Fabuloso lingered well into the next day.

I've heard people say "Do the next right thing". How do you do that when everything seems so freaking gray? There was no clear path forward. But somehow out of the weird weekend routines, polyester blazers, and conference calls a small path did appear.

We put the boys in Catholic school. It was a gauntlet of academic rigor and an unfamiliar tradition. But, it ended up being the best thing for them. The hyperstructure gave them something to focus on and kept their little minds busy. I became less fearful of "cigarettes and bad choices".

I continued to work because I found that I was actually quite good and had something to offer the professional world. My closet amassed a collection of business casual clothing that I'm still not exactly OK with.

Scott held steady and was/is there to make sure the family got through the weird changes. He watches the markets and hopes for better days when I find myself physically unable to do so.

The dogs probably have had it the easiest.

And in the background through it all has been the love and unfailing support of "a few good people". The people who said, "We've got you. Your life does not need to be perfect. We know you followed the rules, made Dave Ramsey proud, and so much has been out of your control."

I took to not discussing these things because the grief and changes we have gone through have been so keenly messy. A friend of mine once said that she wishes we could go back to the old-fashioned "mourning periods". Because grief gets so messy and you find yourself just lashing out and finding your footing... it is best to do it privately. Nora McInerny said "The first iteration of yourself after a major loss is not great." And so over the last 3 years I've tried to privately move through the loss of so many things while also holding space for the things we have gained.

Our family's way forward is still not particularly clear. We find ourselves still just taking it day by day. How are the grades? What are the interest rates? How are the groceries? How are the blazers?

We take fewer trips to Costco now. Our weekends are spent with a small group of friends we have developed. The markets still suck. But there are fewer PCR tests. So I suppose I should count my blessings.

Our plans were ruined. Everything kind of fell apart for 3 years. But, we have managed to find rhythm and meaning despite it all. Which is no small feat.


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