The New Normal

Something must change because none of us can accept this as the new normal.
~~Sarah Price

For the past two and a half months, everyone in the country (actually, the world) basically went on lockdown, an unprecedented order from the government to stay-at-home. 

As we slowly begin reopening the country, the new phrase that we all keep hearing in “the new normal.” 

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What is the new normal? Is it waiting in line for entering stores? Seeing empty shelves when shopping? Wearing masks in public? Being categorized as either essential vs. unessential? Holding family gatherings via video conferencing? Shutting down whenever new strains of flu emerge? 

I don’t think I like this idea of a “new” normal.

For two and a half months, I have not worked. Not because I don’t want to and not necessarily because I’m not essential. My college moved all of their courses online, eliminating the need for campus professors. With priority for teaching going to their existing full-time faculty, most of the campus faculty were laid off.

During these past few months, I have not received unemployment OR stimulus. Florida’s Governor DeSantis blamed me for not getting my unemployment. Isn’t that just wonderful? It was MY fault…along with the millions of other Floridians who never received unemployment…for not filling out the application correctly. I reckon the fact that the system kept crashing, freezing, throwing applicants out, and shutting down had nothing to do with it? Instead of solving the problem, DeSantis shifted the blame to the applicants. That’s like salt on an already gaping wound.

Like many Americans, I contacted my bill payers, asking for help. My health insurance, Florida Blue, told me they’d hold off on billing me for two months. I guess they forgot because, for two months, they automatically took the $1000+ out of my bank account anyway–yes, I pay over $12,000 a year for individual health insurance.

My regular bank, Bank of America, told me they would not charge me interest on unpaid balances during this time; I was hit with a $137 finance charge anyway. My property taxes in New Jersey, the highest in the country, are $1000 a month. No break on that…even though many of the services paid for BY the taxes are not in service at the moment. 

The list goes on and on.

So, here I sit. Entering the three month mark with no income and $2000 out-going before we start calculating food, utilities, gas, car insurance, etc. 

It dawned on me that companies are making money off the fact that I, like most Americans, cannot pay my bills right now. While that’s nothing new–many Americans incur credit card debt with high interest rates–it’s new for me

My priority is, and will remain, on feeding the horses in our rescue and sanctuary. That means my debt will continue to increase. I cannot lose my health insurance nor can I refuse to pay my property taxes. So I’m left with dipping into my dwindling savings and hitting credit cards to pay for hay, grain, farrier, and all of my other bills. Despite promising me not to charge me interest, Bank of Ameria continues to do so. They love this “new normal” because they earn more interest from my ever increasing debt. It’s a vicious cycle that I don’t see ending anytime soon. Even when I, a lowly unessential doctorate-holding college professor, returns to the classroom, it will take me three times as long to repay my debt…if not longer. 

What has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic is that a precedent has been set that, in all liklihood, will linger far longer than the effects of this particular virus including my inability to repay my newly incurred debt. If nothing else, that is most likely to be our “new” normal. 

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