A Stroll Down Memory Lane

This blog is a bit over six years old. I started it in February of 2014, and I can’t even remember why. I actually had to go back and look up what my first post was: My first post was about signing up for a sprint triathlon, something I had always wanted to do. I didn’t post again until June, where I managed five posts about a random assortment of topics: me finishing the triathlon, getting in via the lottery to the NYC Marathon, a post about recovering from training runs, and a post about corporate America and why it can suck.

To date, that post about corporate reviews is my most viewed post ever, with a whopping 279 views.

Over the years, things have ebbed and flowed. 2014 was definitely my most productive year of blogging (productive meaning volume of posts). I was pretty consistent in providing updates about my training for the NYC Marathon, and I even grabbed some consistent followers who would provide interactions in the comments. I haven’t received a comment since 2017. Before that: 2015. I don’t blame them. I became very inconsistent on providing any sort of content to anyone. In 2014 I made 55 posts. In 2015, it was 31. 2016: One. One single post (about financial goals I most certainly did not accomplish) in January, and then not another until January 2017 (a year I managed a minor resurgence, pushing out 21 posts).

Needless to say, consistency has not been my strongest characteristic with this thing.

I’ve covered a lot of topics. The majority of the content has been around running: my training journals, random topics, race recaps, etc. Next up is probably personal finance and business/corporate stuff. The rest is a mixture of posts about how long it’s been since I’ve written a post, my goals for the year, or other random thoughts – politics, COVID-19, etc. There’s not really a focus area you could point out, other than maybe running. It’s all just whatever I was thinking about whenever I managed to write something down.

Why am I talking about this stuff? Am I shutting down the blog? Absolutely not. I got a renewal notice on my domain name and realized I had had it for a long time, and so I was curious. I knew I went long periods without posting anything, but some of the gaps were truly mind opening. It’s hard to have a blog if you don’t, you know, blog. What’s funny is that even when I wasn’t writing, people still found the content. My two most productive years, 2014 and 2015, saw 973 and 1,034 views, respectively. Obviously small potatoes compared to other blogs, but still. In 2016, I wrote one post, and I still have close to 500 visitors. Even with very little new content, people would still (somehow) find my blog. That’s fascinating to me.

I know people start blogs for a variety of reasons. Some to document a topic of interest to them. Others to document their day-to-day lives. Some even have a plan to monetize it right away. Me, I just wanted to talk about my different journeys, from running marathons to paying off debt, with some random observations in the middle.

That’s still the plan moving forward. I’ve got some ideas on other stuff I can write about to keep me engaged (and by extension, you). I like having this space to communicate into the void and I don’t intend to stop.

Nothingness

This time has been tough.

It started off scary in those first few days, as the NBA and NHL shut down their seasons, Walt Disney World and other theme parks shut their gates, and businesses closed shop. There was a palpable sense of paranoia going around like a (don’t say virus….don’t say virus….don’t say virus…) storm, whipping people into a frenzy of cleaning, distancing and panicking.

Then, sometime in those first few weeks, it turned into something novel. People found so much time on their hands, to better think about things, accomplish things, etc. Social media was flooded with photos and videos and stories of people painting rooms, building furniture, planting gardens, doing all manner of stuff. Cooking! I’ve never seen so many people begin baking their own bread as in those first few weeks. I imagine the overall percentage of people baking bread increased at the greatest rate in human history since the first person to bake bread taught the second.

Then, after a month or so, it settled into a version of normalcy. You worked, you maybe got some exercise, you maybe did a Zoom call with friends, you binge watched Netflix, you ordered delivery of just about everything. As the weeks dragged into months, you started to wonder when things would go back to what they were before. You started dreaming of where you’d go, what you’d eat, have visions of what your life used to be like and how you’d jump at the chance to do it again.

Then, reopening began. Slowly at first, restaurants at 25% capacity, stores at 25% capacity, people being allowed to return to their offices. Then more; 50% capacity, gyms reopening, hair and nail salons and barbershops. More people returning to the office. But does it actually feel normal?

To me, it feels like nothingness. I used to love going to the grocery store, getting inspiration for that night’s dinner by what I found (and cursing myself when I’d get home missing a key ingredient). One of my favorite things is to sit at the bar with friends and family, have a cocktail or a beer, solve all the problems in the world. But with things reopening, I feel a sense of nothing about those. Almost a fear. Would I get sick going to get my hair cut? Would that beer cost me my life, or the life of a loved one or a stranger? Would it ever feel normal again?

The truth is, these are unprecedented times. I wonder if people in 1918 were wondering the same thing; would they feel normal going to the haberdashery to pick up a hat, or get some filets at the butcher? Maybe meet the boys for a sasparilla? No one knows what’s right, what’ll happen next, where we should be in our thoughts. We’re all kind of swimming through this, together, but also apart.

Running In The Time of Quarantine

At the beginning of all of this, before the world went to shit, my running was actually improving. While February wasn’t a great month, I did much better in March, both in terms of distance and consistency. I started working from home on March 12th, and I managed to keep at it the rest of the month. I was pretty proud of myself. Of course, that was early in the pandemic, things didn’t seem so serious, and I had no idea how crazy things would get.

April wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. As the weeks in isolation continued, motivation started to wane. Even when I would make it out, it was hard to enjoy it. First, every cough or difficult run made you start to worry that you have the ‘rona. You think well shit, this is it, this is the end of me. I’ll surely develop a fever and have difficulty breathing soon, go to the ER, end up on a ventilator and die alone in some room in a hospital.

Second, the problem is the other people. Everyone is a bit on edge, which is a given. But every time you come across someone else walking or running, you feel paranoid. You try to give a very wide birth, at least six feet. Sometimes that’s not possible, and you have to get closer. You imagine a wake of deadly particles behind you as you run, or that you’re running through a fog of virus when you pass someone. It gets to the point where you just want to be home.

The world has turned to at-home workouts, given gyms and studios are closed. Thankfully, we have an old exercise bike, a balance ball, and a mat. Unfortunately, you can’t find any other equipment as everyone has bought up all the inventory. Very limited selections of dumbells to be found. Other equipment is on backorder for weeks; the soonest delivery window for a Peloton bike is in mid to late June.

So, we’ve been trying to do our best. A few rides, a few runs, some classes on apps to get you moving. That’s about all we can do right now. And once the world opens back up again, I won’t be rushing to go back to my gym. I’ll just let me one year membership expire and cancel, and just shift to at-home stuff on a more permanent basis. It is what it is, but it’s what I’m comfortable with. Just the thought of sharing a bench with someone else’s sweat and nastiness…no thanks.

Finances In The Time of Quarantine

I’ve been staying home for five weeks now – well, a few days over five weeks. If you had told me a year ago, heck even in early March, that I would barely leave my house for five straight weeks, I’d have said you were nuts. But here we are. Stay at home, avoid getting sick, try to maintain sanity.

Sure, I’ve left the house a few times, though dramatically less lately. In the first eight days, I left the house and went to stores three times. Since then, twice: once to run into a store to see if they had toilet paper (they did not), once to pick up some to-go food. That’s it. My wife has left four times in the past 30 days, and one of those she didn’t leave the car. Everything else has been via delivery services. And that adds up.

First, the good news. I’m saving a shitload of money in certain budget categories. I haven’t needed to get gas in over a month. I’m not paying the $200/month in tolls I would be if I was going into the office every day. No work lunches out. No trips to the bars or restaurants, no Disney Springs for cocktails, no happy hours at Bosphorous. Even insurance companies are starting to drop their rates because no one is driving.

Now the bad. Delivery is expensive. There’s service fees, delivery fees, tips (and you gotta tip a lot, these people are risking their health to get you groceries and stuff), ancillary fees. A $100 trip could balloon up to $130 or $140 or more. So our grocery shopping is happening less frequently, but much more expensive. Normally I spend around $300 in a month; in March, it was $600. We don’t normally keep a ton in our pantry, but not knowing how this would all shake out, we bought a lot of staples. It forced me to reorganize the pantry and fridge!

Then there’s “entertainment.” Instead of spending $50 here, $100 there, going out to various bars and stuff, I’m spending just as much with Instacart deliveries. $100 for sushi, $200 at the liquor store to stock up, etc. Shit adds up!

I’m not even getting into non-food purchases; that’s for a later post.

Restless Energy in the Time of COVID-19

Most mornings, I get up, shower, eat breakfast, and head upstairs to my office. From 9AM to around 4:30PM, that’s where I sit, other than trips downstairs for water and lunch. It can be a bit lonely, communicating only via Slack or Google Hangouts. I mean, I’m incredibly thankful that my wife is here and I can always talk to her, but you get my point.

Running and going for walks is truly a godsend. 3-4 mornings a week, I go for a run before starting the rest of my day. Most days, after we eat lunch, we go for a short walk around the neighborhood. That time outside really helps keep me level, and prevents me from going crazy. And based on the amount of people we see out, lots of others have the same idea.

Is it the safest thing to do right now? Probably not. While the CDC and others say going outside is fine, provided you maintain social distancing guidelines and wear a mask, that doesn’t work out as well for running. We do a good job when walking to maintain a lot of distance between us and others (including sometimes crossing the street just to avoid others). When running, I try and keep away from others as well, but it’s a bit harder. And no one is sure if the six foot rule is as applicable when moving. And running in a mask? No thanks.

Without running, I’d be going crazy. Even with it, I find I have energy that is just sitting there. I feel like I should be doing something, I just don’t know what. I’ve seen the meme talking about learning a new skill, a new language, something like that. I’m sure my wife would LOVE it if I learned some Spanish, so that’s an option. I’d love to start a business, though I struggle for ideas on what that business would be. I’m more of a COO than a CEO, which makes getting started tough.

But I’ll keep thinking of it. I thought about setting a rule where I have to come up with X number of ideas in a week, then spend some time evaluating them. That seems like a good start. If nothing else, it puts some of my energy into searching for problems and possible solutions, which is a key skill for entrepreneurship. A start is a start, no?

For now, it’s running and working and trying to keep sane in this strange time.