What a Year This Month Has Been

…and what a life this year has been.

My last update was posted on the day that George Floyd’s life was taken by four officers of the Minneapolis Police Department. The week that followed his murder was filled with justifiable anger and protest, and subsequent retributional attacks on the minority-owned businesses all through our communities. Neighborhoods came together to help with clean-up efforts, and though the news coverage has dissipated once the violence has lessened, protesters continue to call for change every day here in the Twin Cities and nationwide.

I cringe looking back on that update, knowing how trivial it all is. I, too, cringe thinking about writing right now, knowing that I’m not yet doing enough myself to contribute back to the broader efforts to enact change in this country.

Change runs through all of us.

Before I switched to a career in software development, I’d worked for 3 1/2 years as a project coordinator at a small healthcare research company in St. Paul. My boss, Cori, was an epidemiologist by training, and her particular focus was on influenza vaccination and why nurses choose not to get them. My first week on that job started just as H1N1 was beginning to surface in Mexico, and I quickly went from knowing next to nothing about epidemiology to sitting on weekly media calls with the Centers for Disease Control (led by Anne Schuchat, even then!), listening to them answer questions and allay fears about the virus and giving practical advice for what we can all do to keep it from spreading.

Naturally, with the Coronavirus rampant in the U.S., I think about that job and all the time, and how those few short years directly affected the trajectory of my own life. Between learning about pandemic preparedness, regularly getting my flu shot (even before I worked there!), and subsequently switching to remote work for the last 4 1/2 years, I’d never felt more “ready” to tackle a situation like we’re all in right now.

I’m not ready, though. As I write this, the U.S. has reached 126,000 deaths caused by COVID-19, with millions more infected. We know next-to-nothing about this disease, and particularly its long-term effects, and so I’m surprised to see how cavalier some of us are about mask usage, calling for businesses to re-open and demanding haircuts as if somehow staying home longer would kill us, when the reality is that the reverse is true.

We don’t talk about fear much, and it’s perceived as an unbecoming quality to have. But I argue that it’s healthy to talk about, and that understanding the things we fear make us better equipped to tackle them. I’m already a homebody, and I fear contracting an illness with unknown long-term effects. I wear masks in public knowing that it does a far better job of protecting others from me than it does protecting me from them, and so I’m thankful to my neighbors who put in the effort, because it shows me they care, and that they’re scared, too. Our collective fear, in a way, is a strength, because it will help keep us safe in this particular instance.

This is a fairly long-winded way of saying that I’m thankful to the people who are out there protesting and continuing to fight for justice that is long overdue in this country. My partner and I attended a clean-up effort on Lake St. in Minneapolis, and it was heartening to see so many people who care about our neighbors in these cities. However, my anxiety ran high being out in public for the first time in months, so potentially exposed to my own undoing.

The week before our world change completely again for the umpteenth time this year, my first paycheck cleared from my new job, and I received my second one as well. It’s a popular saying in open-source that there are many ways to contribute – through time, effort, documentation, etc. At the end of the day, if you don’t want to or are unable to contribute in those ways, the last thing you can do is donate money. I want to play a part in affecting change in this country, and I also recognize that I am scared for my health. So, I opted to donate. It literally is the least someone can do, and I hope that if you’re reading this, and you feel like you want to help out, but you’re scared too, I hope you’ll consider researching BIPOC businesses and movements and making a financial contribution. In the meantime, I want to give you a head-start.

These are the organizations I donated to in May and June:

There are tons more organizations and people that you can give to. Donating (and volunteering, and shopping, etc.) is personal, and that’s why it’s important to do your own research. Here are a few more links that could be potentially helpful for you as you consider ways in which you can contribute to these efforts:

  • PB Resources – resources for activism, learning, and donation.
  • Amplify Black – an online directory of Black-owned businesses and organizations.
  • Black Lives Matter – information about petitions, current protests, resources, and places to donate.

If you choose to donate, recurring donations are always more helpful to organizations than one-time payments. It gives them a sense of their continuing monthly income, and allows for better long-term forecasting and planning.

Unfortunately, all of my donations in the last month-plus have been one-time, as I wasn’t sure yet what my own ongoing income situation would look like. In my last update, I announced that I’d started a new job; in this one, I’m announcing that I’ve left that job, as I came to understand that it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I’m in the process of applying and interviewing at a few different companies, and once I land somewhere new, I intend to set up several recurring monthly payments to some of the organizations above. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

We’re all in this together. If you’re reading this, stay safe, wear a mask, fight injustice, and hold me and one another accountable to do the right thing.