T-SQL Tuesday #132 - Coping With the Pandemic

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This week is a double-whammy of activity - T-SQL Tuesday and PASS Summit 2020. T-SQL Tuesday is a monthly blog party hosted by a different community blogger each month, and this month Taiob Ali (blog | twitter) asks us how we’re coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, 8 months in.

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2020 is a unique year for all of us. We are living through a worldwide crisis that most of us have not seen or experienced. It has touched almost all aspects of our life. Depending on your location, social interaction has been reduced to almost none for many of us. Our home has become an office, school, day-care center, playground. Many of us lost our family members due to this pandemic. PASS Summit 2020, SQL Saturday events, monthly user group meetings are happening virtually. Most of us who were working in an office building are working remotely. Travel has become a thing of the past. Every individual’s challenges are different. I want all of you to share your experience (with whatever you are comfortable with), how you are dealing with these new challenges, and tips you have for others going through the same.

Taiob offers a bunch more information to read in his invite and some additional prompts. Go check it out.

So, How Are You Doing?

In a word…meh. This situation is getting real old. It was exacerbated of course by the US Presidential Election that just wrapped up, but even without that added stressor I don’t think I’d be feeling great.


A lot has changed this year, and the impacts will be felt for a long time. As Taiob notes in the invite, travel is a thing of the past. My family typically goes on a cruise once every two years. 2020 was meant to be Alaska. We’d been looking forward to it for nearly two years. I was excited not just to see Alaska, but to show my spouse and our kids portions of Seattle that they’d only seen in photos and heard about in my stories from PASS Summit. With how uncertain things looked in April, we cancelled the trip out of an abundance of caution; little did we know then that cruising wouldn’t be returning until maybe 2021.

But we’ve retooled. We don’t plan to put everyone on a plane anytime soon, nor get packed onto a cruise ship. In 2019, we spent a week in a cabin at a KOA and loved it. Since then, we’ve done a couple more weekends at campgrounds and decided that we’re going to give up our sea legs and get a travel trailer this winter. See more of the US, and not from 35,000 feet. We might even work while on the road on occasion. We’ve started a spreadsheet of target destinations that’ll take us a good 4-5 years to complete with just what we’ve listed so far. And we can visit people safely this way - outdoors, properly distanced.

It’s something to look forward to, and we all need that.

I’m also living a bit vicariously through TV programs. Long Way Up was released on Apple TV+ and I’ve been watching that as each episode comes out weekly. I’ve also picked up the original Long Way Round, and when that’s done I’ll move on to Long Way Down.

Physical Health

Not going well. At first, I said to myself “by skipping 35 minutes of commute each morning, I can get out for a walk or run first thing in the morning.” I did that…for a little while. Even got back to running almost consistently for about 2 months. That fell apart in August because, to be frank, I got lazy. I’ve gained some weight as well as bad habits, like falling asleep on the sofa at 10:30 PM then waking up at 1 AM so I can go to bed.

Professional Growth

Has anyone else noticed that things at work have been accelerating? Once twice per week I find myself in more meetings than there are hours in a workday. Half-hour meetings, 15-minute standups, getting double-booked - heck, some days I’ll start in one meeting, duck out for another 30-minute meeting in the middle, then jump back to the original meeting.

When I took my previous job 3 1/2 years ago, I told myself if the next job wasn’t remote, the one after it would be. Little did I know then that my next job (the one I have now) would start out in the office, and then suddenly switch to remote. We had little warning, little preparation time to soften the blow.

I’ve proven to myself that by and large I can work as a remote employee, but there are definitely things I need to work on because things work different now than when we could all get around a whiteboard to hash something out.

I’ve been tasked with new challenges seemingly every week, which is great. But I haven’t finished the previous week’s challenges yet!

I’ll go ahead and throw SQL Server community events into this category since they’re about professional growth (or at least that’s how we pitch them to The Powers That Be). I was really looking forward to speaking in Raleigh in April. Canceled. SQL Saturday Albany moved to a virtual event and while I enjoyed it, it’s just not the same. I had been looking forward to SQL Saturday Boston but…yeah. And as mentioned above, this week is PASS Summit and while it was great talking to people tonight at the (virtual) Welcome Reception, the in-person connections (hugs) you make weren’t there. But I am looking forward to the remainder of the week.

Mental Health

The elephant in the room. I don’t think there’s anyone who isn’t struggling to some degree. Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve been very selective about when and where we go out amongst groups of people. Which means that we don’t get out as much as we used to. When I do get out and see people in 3D who I know but aren’t immediate family, I get really excited and just want to talk to them forever!

We chose to have our kids do school 100% online for the first half of this school year (possibly all year). It’s hard on everyone. The variety of software being used to assign, complete, and grade assignments is frustrating. Some days an hour or more has to be spent just figuring out what assignments are outstanding, when others are due, and how to complete them. When you see your kids’ grades suffer not because they don’t understand the material but rather because the assignments aren’t registering as being submitted, or the teacher doesn’t seem available for questions/additional help, it just gets that much harder.

We had a run of three months with consecutive appliance failures in the house. And not minor ones - water heater, refrigerator, washing machine. And the dryer earlier in the pandemic. You just start asking yourself “what’s next?”

Just to get a sense of accomplishment, I reorganized the garage this past weekend. I get it, total “suburban dad” thing to do. But it felt good - moving stuff, cleaning up, purging out a lot of junk we don’t need anymore.

With winter approaching, I’m getting concerned about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although the space that is my office has a south-facing window, I’m thinking about getting some full-spectrum lights to help all of us in the morning especially.

We have 8 more weeks of The Mandalorian Season 2 to look forward to; it’s a Friday evening ritual for my son and I. Ted Lasso is the optimistic, heartfelt TV character we all need to see and try to be right now - watch it or rewatch it, it’s a pick-me-up and well worth the $5 to subscribe for a month. It feels a bit silly to be lumping TV shows in with “mental health” but sometimes you need to escape reality for a bit.

But Most of All

I miss my friends & non-local family. Sure, we often go months not seeing each other between events. But we always knew there was that next holiday, SQL Saturday, PASS Summit, or in-person user group meeting. I feel very fortunate that I was able to reconnect with so many people at SQL Saturday Cleveland and then Rochester in February, right before everything collapsed into turmoil. We don’t know when we’ll be back together again.

But when that does happen, it’ll be an incredible reunion party.

My Question to You

With winter approaching in the northern hemisphere, we’ll need to find ways to keep ourselves occupied that might not involve the outdoors but will keep our minds working and off the state of the world. Got any projects planned, or even in the “early idea” phase?