Covid-19 upended our lives at the start of 2020. It was a quintessential black swan event: something I never imagined could happen in the modern age and took me (and probably the whole world) by surprise.
I remember reading an article during the early days of the pandemic that said something along the lines of “this could be a big deal; even though people around you are acting normal, you are allowed to be worried; and, finally, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you prepared yourself a bit”. Truth be told , I didn’t take it seriously but did act on it. I wound up a couple of friends, rented a Zipcar and drove down to Walmart in Renton to “stock up as Americans”. In hindsight, I may just have wanted an excuse from work and this was one. We shopped without masks because we hadn’t taken the pandemic seriously enough at the time to purchase some, and didn’t buy too much because we lived in small apartments.
At work, I recall a teammate who canceled his planned trip to China after news of the pandemic broke out. A few days later, we heard that a work colleague in the same building as ours was found Covid positive. That Chinese teammate quickly went home and I wondered whether he was overly worried. I continued going to the office and the gym until my spouse put her foot down and told me to stop.
The pandemic affected us similar to how it did to others around us. For instance, staying locked down in home wasn’t fun. We started ordering groceries online and often left them untouched for a few hours when we could. (My parents back home would even wash them with warm water but we didn’t go that far.) We did a few hangouts and online games with friends over video. I substituted my regular gym (which was Flow Fitness at the time) with long walks near my place or, with less success, the small and sad gym in my apartment building. I eventually found a nice gym in my neighborhood: it was new and small but had all the equipment I needed and the owner was extremely friendly. So, I stuck to it until I left Seattle in early 2022. Overall though, I am grateful we weren’t as acutely affected as many people were around the world.
Work never slowed down and, in fact, working from home was a lot more hectic. I suspect the primary reason was that the boundaries between work and personal life got blurred because there were no fixed events, such as commuting to and back from work, delineating the two. I was busy building a brand new AWS service called Lookout for Metrics from scratch and it was hectic. Many days, I would start working within half an hour of waking up and keep working without even a proper lunch break until 7 or 8 in the evening. I don’t regret putting in those hours though, because I was excited to build something new and learn new things along the way. But, as a colleague put it before he moved out of our team, I won’t choose to do it again.
One of the best events of my life happened at the height of the pandemic: our first kid. We obviously took all the precautions we could but were worried on the inside. The two of us were mostly alone: our family couldn’t travel to the US and our friends could only provide limited support. But, despite all odds, things turned out great. The delivery went smoothly and the kiddo was born healthy. We found a fantastic caretaker: she joined us the next day we got back from the hospital, took good care of the kid, cooked a meal for us on most days and gave comforting company to my spouse. An added advantage to the situation was that the kid was with us the whole time and so I could play with him whenever I had a moment to spare during work hours.
We used to go for long walks in our neighborhood. For example, 1st or 2nd Ave, Olympic Sculpture Park and Seattle Center. Our favorite was Elliott Bay Trail: in addition to walks with my family, I went there for a lot of runs with a friend, most of which are still recorded on my Strava profile. We even signed up for 3 half-marathons in 2021, one in each month from July-September, and completed all of them! In the last one, I (finally)
realized admitted to myself that I hate running and the only reason I put up with it was I didn’t have a better way to workout. I then decided to not push myself to run again.
We obviously didn’t travel because of lock downs except for 1-2 day trips from the city. Our first flight out of the city was to Chicago in July 2021 where we stayed for more than half a week. A close friend from college lived there and we spent quality time with him and his spouse.
We hadn’t traveled to India for over a year and my spouse was itching to meet her parents. However, we were in a limbo whether to travel and when. The problem was that my spouse was allowed to come back to the US but I wasn’t: my H1B visa had expired, the number of visa appointments in India had gone down (again, because of the pandemic) and competition was tough on the few appointments that came out every day. I remember we were hiking in Washington Park Arboretum one weekend and, while inwardly sad, she just said we need to get out of limbo and decide one way or the other. So, I decided right there that she and the kid should travel and I’ll travel later if and when I get an appointment. So, her first flight alone with the kiddo was when he was just a year old, that too in a 20 hour long international trip! I closely monitored a Telegram group, finally got an appointment, traveled to India for a month and brought back my parents who then stayed with us for six months - fortunately, no Covid mishaps for any of us through all of this.
I tell myself that, at least probability-wise, something like this can only happen once in a lifetime, but that may obviously prove wrong. It’s incredible how none of my close family got Covid positive (yet).