At 39, I lost my job, my income, my career prospects and my chance to publicly receive my long-awaited undergraduate degree. Still, I’m grateful for the things I have.

 

When I look back at this time of coronavirus and quarantine decades from now, I will surely remember it as one of significant loss. Many people lost many things, and I am just one of them. People lost their jobs, their businesses, and their savings. They lost their graduations, weddings, birthdays, vacations, gym memberships and the freedom to gather with friends and family. Most people lost their daily lifestyles – and some people lost their lives. The virus is something we don’t understand yet. The loss is something we all know well.       

Some 36 million people are unemployed in America. The unemployment rate of 14.7% is the highest it’s been since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started recording the data in 1948. Hundreds of thousands of families have been affected by the pandemic.  

I can only talk about what I’ve lost, though, because that is what I know. 

When things got crazy here in New Jersey – then a coronavirus epicenter — the first thing I lost was my job. I am one of roughly eight million restaurant workers out of work. I worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 20 years, as a waiter and a bartender. Honestly, I didn’t love it. But it always paid the bills, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. The nature of the restaurant industry made it one of the first to shut. It’s an ugly situation. 

Roughly 30,000 restaurants had closed their doors by spring 2020.  As restaurants re-open, they will have to adhere to strict social distancing measures that will inevitably affect the bottom line. I guess I got out of the business just in time. Cut my losses. 

Next, I lost my income. As of this writing, I haven’t received any. I filed for unemployment right away, but the system is overwhelmed, and I have yet to receive any funds. This is stressful. I am 39 years old, and I have never been unemployed in my life.  

Then, I lost my Rutgers University graduation. I lost the honor of walking across that stage, along with 18,966 other 2020 graduates. I went back to school to finish my degree at 35, because it’s never too late. But it was disappointing to find out about the cancellation of all the in-person graduation ceremonies, especially after all of these years.  

The last and most painful thing I lost was sports, and my near-term prospects for jumping into a career in sports betting. For me, this was the crushing blow. I went back to school to get my journalism degree so I could pursue a career in the fast-growing sports betting media space. I am now a free agent, and hitting an incredibly tight job market, because there are no sports to watch, to cover, or to bet on. The NBA was the first league to cancel; after that, every other sport followed. That’s the right course. It’s an obvious health hazard to play sports, and safety should always come first.

Somehow, I’m still both optimistic and grateful. I am grateful for my family and friends, for the roof over my head, for the food on my table, for my dog Rita, and, most importantly, for my health. I’m thankful that, so far, I haven’t fallen ill. And I’m optimistic because I have company: though I now know a lot more about loss, it’s also a comfort to know that I’m not the only one losing.