Rethinking work, life, and meaning in a digital age
We are waiting on a baby. Her expected arrival date is March 18—the day after tomorrow—but we never expected she’d keep us waiting so long. A couple years ago, her older brother arrived in a rush, three weeks early. I had just resigned from Wired, and I had to leave the hospital briefly to fetch my belongings. We’d moved apartments, and weren’t entirely out of boxes when we brought him home.
This time around, we’ve tried to prepare. Three week ago, I started telling my colleagues that I may need to leave abruptly at any moment. Last week, my mother-in-law arrived to help out upon the baby’s arrival. Sunday, my wife began eating pineapple and drinking raspberry tea. Texts arrive daily from friends: you’re still waiting?
We want to take the uncertainty out of this moment, but it’s all uncertainty. Our baby is on her own timeline, navigating her own path.
This liminal space inside our home is a perfect reflection of the liminal space just outside as we wait for the end of the pandemic. In Brooklyn, we’re edging up toward a vaccinated, government-approved new normal. This fresh, easier way of life is just up ahead, sometime between April 17 (when I have my first vaccine appointment) and next Christmas (an arbitrary date that I chose because it seems far away). President Biden says we’ll be close to normal by July 4. My office is still scheduled to open July 15 (what are the odds?). There are people inside my neighborhood restaurants again, and I am thinking about signing my son up for indoor swim lessons.
But wow, edging back to normal is complicated. The social mores we’d established through trial-and-error and a lot of guidance from Zeynup Tufekci (who wrote this one year ago) and the New York Times Coronavirus tracker and the World Health Organization are ready to be re-evaluated. There’s no dipping a toe in the water here. Children are going back to in-person schools. Small gatherings are okay.
And I’m a mess—in ways that harken back to how I felt a year ago. This is the anniversary of the week we lost our childcare and had to determine whether to hunker down in Brooklyn or go stay with relatives. Everybody talks about the sirens as the sounds that punctuate that time in New York, and they were everywhere, but I also remember the birds. How, in the complete absence of traffic on my corner, the birds settled in the spring leaves of the trees, chirping and screeching. I watched how quickly they took back their patch of my neighborhood from the traffic and tried to work through our options, to control a future I couldn’t understand, to stomach the uncertainty.
It felt like it was March forever, and now it is March again. This slow-fast herky-jerky year has changed me. I’m not ready to leave it, and not sure who I am supposed to be in its wake. I’ve gotten used to assuming a protective crouch in the face of uncertainty, and I’m not sure who I am without it: Do I hug friends now? Can we invite vaccinated people over? Where do I land on subway riding? The first time I go to a party, the kind of event where strangers jostle against each other, I expect I will come home and cry. This crying won’t have an identifiable cause. It’ll be all of the happy-sad-scared-anxiousness of change.
The uncertainty isn’t going to let up, but in the face of it, we will have new agency. Out in the world, we have access to vaccines. We can begin to redesign our lives with all that we have learned this year.
And here, inside our home, we will have a baby by the end of the week. If she doesn’t come on her own, our doctors will induce.
🎙Things I’ve made: We’ve published a lot of Hello Monday episodes since I last wrote. Check out the archives. A recent favorite is this episode with Clubhouse cofounder Paul Davison:
📚Things I’m reading:
Canadian writer Kathryn Jezer-Morton on her experience with universal daycare.
Also, her piece on what it was like growing up on a commune.
This is your brain on Peloton, writes Amanda Hess.
The great pandemic pod experiment, from Slate’s Christina Cauterucci.
How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation, by Karen Hao
Erin Griffith writes on investment manias, from crypto art to trading cards
🗳️ People I’m backing:
My friend Jasmine is running for Congress. She’s a gay minister running in North Carolina with a campaign video that’ll give you chills. Watch it.
For the first time in a year my son was on stage last week. The actors all wore giant oversized masks as they performed their absurdist play and were each given two tickets to invite their families. 50 of us sat scattered around an auditorium that seats 350. And I just cried. It felt so big to be back in an audience watching a live show again, something that was so ordinary and almost mundane a year ago. Big feelings all around.