Winter Holidays | COVID Style

Winter holidays during COVID. Let’s be honest, way too many people (including the ones who are publicly shaming people for not wearing masks and going out too much) will be defying the CDC’s recommendations to stay home this holiday season.

I can tell you I’m tempted.

I’m someone who’s low risk. I can drive to my sister’s house where I spend every Christmas and only stop once for gas and a break. Low risk. I can easily quarantine before I go and get tested multiple times, but can’t quarantine when I get there. My sister and brother-in-law get tested regularly for work, so there’s some additional safety. 

Not only that, I honestly can’t remember the last time I got a virus. *knocks on wood* Not sure if it’s because I’m a relatively isolated person in general or if I just have a great immune system, but I’m not too worried that I’ll actually get COVID. I’m more worried about how I’ll do *if* I get it since I have other health issues that could complicate it. But I digress. Essentially, I feel okay about the chances I or someone around me will contract COVID.

But there are no guarantees. There’s always risk. My niece and nephew go to school (they’re 4 and 6 and have small class sizes) and even though they get tested, my sister and BIL as essential workers are still going to work (both technically in construction/maintenance fields) and face potential exposure. Mostly, I just don’t want to be that asshole who hears the guidelines and thinks, “Well, sure, but that doesn’t apply to me because I’m special. I’m taking precautions, so that makes me different.”

Here’s the thing—it’s not that hard to have a good holiday on your own. I’ve done it before. I chose to spend Thanksgiving alone last year and loved it. This Thanksgiving was great too. Use it as an excuse to treat yourself to a few nice things and spend a portion of the day on Zoom with your family. Order in a nice dinner or spend the time cooking for yourself. Drive around and look at Christmas lights. Put on some holiday music. Drink lots of hot chocolate.

But it’s not as simple as that this year. Because Congress still hasn’t passed a new relief bill. So many of us (myself included) can’t treat ourselves to something nice. So we get the double hit of not seeing our family and not really being able to celebrate on our own.

In a normal year, like so many other people in the richest country in the world, I’m already living paycheck to paycheck. Especially around this time. Spending $40 on gas to visit family is worth it because I’m fed for a week and I get the emotional boost from being around everyone.

Plus, as a perpetually single person, it’s nice to not have to do everything myself for once (calm down, I help around the house when I visit, but that’s different from having to do literally everything myself). Not to mention the cost of all the holiday festivities—Christmas tree, decorations, cookies, renting holiday movies, etc.

But this year what our government is asking us to do isn’t just to not see family. By not passing any sort of relief bill they’re also asking many of us to end this hellish year alone without properly celebrating. For anyone not already mentally suffering, this could be the final straw.

So in some ways, I don’t blame people for wanting to travel this holiday season. Our government hasn’t given us enough resources or enticement to stay home. They also haven’t given us a unified message about how to celebrate safely. Yes, I’m talking to you, multiple White House holiday parties with no social distancing guidelines and no mask mandates.

Look, I’ll probably be fine. Many of us will probably be fine. But to continue to ask constituents to sacrifice over and over again while not sacrificing on their end (going to parties at the French Laundry and holding tight to the pursestrings in Congress) is unacceptable. We pay taxes for exactly this kind of thing. For one supposedly unified institution to distribute funds for the betterment of our country.

I’ve barely left my house since March. I do contactless pick-up for my groceries and take-out (and occasionally go to the open air Farmers Market to support local vendors). I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen friends, and it’s all been socially distanced. I haven’t been in a retail store in 9 months. I’m doing all the things.

But I’m not gonna lie—seeing so many people buck these guidelines is demoralizing. I know what I’m doing is helping. I know there are both indirect and direct consequences if I don’t adhere to guidelines. But when I see people out and about, when I see the COVID numbers rising, it feels like being spit in the face (especially not cool during a pandemic).

And I’m not even an essential worker. I cannot imagine how they feel. It’s so disrespectful to their hard work and service. Literally the only thing you have to do to protect people is not do anything. It’s the easiest selfless act you’ll ever have to do.

A pandemic relief bill won’t solve everything, but if we pay people to stay home and if we give small businesses the funds to continue to operate under COVID restrictions and we make everything easier for everyone to adhere to the guidelines, it can make a big difference.

Apparently they’re close to getting a bill passed before the recess next Friday. If they do, great. Though looking at it, it’s not gonna be enough. We’ll have to do this all over again once Biden is inaugurated (in 46 days!) But at this point, we just need to get through the holidays.

My unemployment extension expires the day after Christmas, and so many others’ benefits will expire around the same time. After that, I won’t be living paycheck to paycheck or even UI payment to UI payment. There will be no money coming in at all and my savings will be completely depleted by the end of the year. Depending on the specifics of the bill, it might actually be too late to be any real help to me if there’s no additional extension involved.

I’ve been applying to jobs, both in and out of my field, but still have no bites. I have a couple of good leads, but even those wouldn’t be until mid-January, if they even pan out. So those first few weeks of the year are gonna be rough. 

And I have it better than most. I may not be close to my parents and they may not be in the best financial situation, but they have money to help if I absolutely need it. My sister’s door is always open should I find myself unable to pay rent anymore.

These are not ideal. I don’t want to give up my rent-controlled apartment. I don’t want to pack up my whole life and put it into storage. I don’t want to go take over my niece or nephew’s room for who knows how long. I definitely don’t want to move back to Arizona. And my parents don’t have an endless stream of money now that they’re both retired.

But at the end of the day I don’t have to worry about being homeless. I don’t have to worry about starving to death because I have people (both friends and family) who have been and will be there if things get dire. I’m lucky. In many ways I’m privileged. 

I’ve given so much money and time and energy to this election cycle and to supporting small businesses and those less fortunate than me. And the people in power? The people debating in Congress over a relief bill like it’s a political game? *cough*McConnell*cough* They’re the most lucky, the most privileged. What have they been doing? As long as they continue to not see their privilege for what it is and act to balance that privilege out, we’re all doomed. Also, just do your jobs. That’s literally all we’re asking.

Anyway, Happy Holidays! Make some cookies and listen to some holiday music and try to forget about this terrible year.

P.S. If you’re in a better financial situation this holiday season than I am, my Venmo and Cash app info is on my Contact page. I’m a proud and independent person, but 2020 has chipped away at that pretty effectively.

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