Millions of people have been unemployed since March, struggling to make ends meet and fearful for the day their benefits run out. Government response with assistance has been underwhelming, to put it mildly. A one time $1200 payout, $600 a week that ran out quickly, and unemployment benefits, which have a cap. I was out of work for three months, and my unemployment didn’t even cover my child support payments. But I was only out for three months, and lucky enough to go back to work. Millions don’t have that option.
There’s a huge separation between those who are in dire financial circumstances and those who are getting by alright during this madness. Or at least it appears that way. If you’re doing alright, you don’t realize there are lines around the block at food banks. You don’t see the increasing volume of homeless. And you probably don’t realize that most of us are on the brink of catastrophe.
So why would I choose to stop working now, when there’s no assistance on the horizon? The truth is, I’m scared. I’m afraid of contracting COVID-19. My history of asthma and childhood bronchitis, coupled with my butter and sugar filled torso, put me in the at risk group. If I contract it, there’s a good chance my case won’t be light. Not to mention my wife and kids. The last thing I need is to bring home this sickness and pass it to my family. Contrary to popular belief, young, healthy people with no underlying conditions still die from COVID-19.
I’ve made the decision to finish the appointments I have on my calendar and put a halt to all scheduling. With the explosion in cases and hospitalizations, I don’t feel it’s in anyone’s best interest for me to continue. I would never impose this on my employees unless there was another shutdown, but I know it’s the right decision for me. Removing myself and my clients from the equation also reduces risk of exposure to anyone at Art Machine. If I can make them safer, I will, and this is the only way to get safer than we already are.
My decision comes from a place of privilege, and I recognize that. For some people, not working spells immediate ruin. For myself, I still make art, I still sell vintage goods, my wife still does resin casting and flower preservation. There’s some money coming in. It’s not tattoo money, but it’s something, and the careful juggling act of robbing Peter to pay Paul should keep us safe for some time. And in the spirit of that privilege, I can always go back to work if necessary. I’m very aware of how good of a position I’m blessed to be in.
Being in that position is exactly why I’m stopping work, and why it’s the right thing to do. Just as we all need to do our part by wearing masks and social distancing, I’m going to do my part by staying home. For as long as I’m able, I’ll avoid contact with others. We’re entering an incredibly challenging time for our country, our communities, and ourselves as individuals. Every mitigation effort is needed.
I hope this all subsides and we can get back to some semblance of normal, but there’s no telling when that could happen. As of now, no such thing is on the horizon. Until then, I’ll continue to work on my side projects and do my best to be responsible. Be safe, everyone.