i hope this email finds you well in the global pandemic

i used to be good at email marketing

ID: a black-and-white 1918 photo of a woman wearing a protective face mask and typing on a typewriter. via National Archives

hello newsletter subscribers. i have been working on an issue of the newsletter for some time. it’s about young adult literature with chronically ill characters and it’s important to me and i love it.

but i’ve been holding off on publishing it because 1) i can’t seem to finish it in a way that i’m happy with, and 2) it feels irrelevant because of coronavirus.

i have health anxiety (a polite psychiatric term for hypochondria) so my fears around, you know, a global pandemic are more heightened than the average person’s. but i know this whole situation sucks for everyone in the chronic illness and disability community especially. from everyday fears about the virus, to healthy people diminishing the meaning of lives of people with preexisting conditions, to a broken healthcare system, to a lack of paid sick leave, to the president telling bald-faced lies, to xenophobia and racism, to price gouging of essential goods like disinfectant wipes, it’s not an easy time to be a chronically ill or disabled person. it’s not any easy time to be a person.

i just want to say that i’m here for you and i know this is really hard. i’m struggling to stay optimistic and not let my anxiety consume me, and it’s okay if you are, too.

i lost my job today. (i know, i buried the lede, right?) i was working as a copywriter at a luxury travel agency. i felt like i was the only one taking the coronavirus situation seriously. i continued to write blog posts about beach hotels in brazil and cruises on the peruvian amazon while monitoring the global situation in an incognito tab, feeling, well, like a overreacting hypochondriac. i’m far from the first person to make this comparison, but i felt like the protagonist in Ling Ma’s novel Severance, the millennial who dutifully attends to her manhattan office job while a fever (the fever itself a parody of the way capitalism makes people act) overtakes the city, the country, and society around her.

when i started noticing articles saying things like “the travel industry hasn’t taken this big of a hit since 9/11,” i knew i was probably going to be laid off. i just didn’t know when. i thought it would be the end of march, maybe, or april. it’s a tiny company. i was one of four people in the office.

i planned to talk to my coworkers about it, to see if they were worried. i don’t see the sales side of things, i just write blog posts. i can see right through the way they were trying to counter-market the virus. i was asked to upload posts with titles like “5 Reasons We Love to Travel,” “WAY-Off-the-Grid Travel Ideas,” and even offer discounts on cruises and flights.

on thursday, i asked my coworker what he thought. it was a few minutes before he was about to leave on a weekend backpacking trip. “i’m going to be real with you, i’m really worried,” i said. “my role here is so small.” he told me it would be okay. “the media is overblowing this whole thing,” he said. “it’s just like the flu. some old people will get sick and die, and it will all blow over.” then he pulled up the sales statistics. last january: around $300,000. last february: $250,000. this february: $41,000.

my boss is still in denial. when he emailed me (yes) this morning to tell me, in his british-english email etiquette, that he was “afraid we needed to hold off on having you do any more work,” he closed that sentence with “for the short term.” “with the downturn in the stock market and the coronavirus spread, we have significant financial uncertainty ahead,” he wrote, a jaunty little rhyming poem. he added, “i really hope we are over this hump quickly and that you can come back to help us very soon.”

i’m 22. i have never been laid off before. this is a stupid office job that pays twelve dollars an hour. but it’s my livelihood. it’s how i pay rent and buy food and go to concerts and buy stupid butterfly shirts from the junior’s section at ross dress for less. i stayed home sick anyway, canceled my therapy appointment; i have a cold, which is of course doing amazing things for my anxiety. no fever, i know because i’ve checked my temperature about five times today. i stared at my phone. i rolled over on my bed and cried. i know that’s dramatic, but what else am i supposed to do.

i’m feeling a lot better emotionally; i got some job leads from this tweet i made in a panicked frenzy, which got retweeted by kristin freakin’ chirico from buzzfeed, among many other lovely and generous people.

i emailed my boss back to tell him i was sorry and i understood. when i replied, he said, “we will be in touch when this blows over.” personally, i don’t know if it will.

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thank you for reading. i’ll see you soon with a normal newsletter.

love,

alex