It’s hard to believe yet here we are.
The last time I sat at my desk, picked up my desk phone or stepped up to the front counter of the Oakdale Leader office, we were just three months in to 2020. The year so many had greeted with Roaring Twenties New Year’s parties, the start of a new decade, it was all just so exciting.
The brakes began being pumped back in March and I believe it’s fair to say that by end of May the 2020 dream was over.
So here we are; the final month of the year which was anything other than what we expected and the nightmare continues.
But there’s enough out there to keep you entertained on facts, figures and predictions concerning the pandemic, that’s not my purpose in this space.
While it may have been late March when I last reported to my desk, remote working kept me plenty busy through the remainder of spring. By June of this year a busy medical regimen caused me to close my laptop, turn off my recorder and take some time off to rest and heal. A leave unlike any before that I had taken in my tenure. A beautiful baby would not be joining our family during my absence, a surgery hadn’t been scheduled. A disease just simply needed to be tended to and treated as the priority it has become.
Returning to the building for the first time Monday morning was a bit surreal. My absence after all was far from planned or expected. It’s also the longest period of time I’ve taken off in my tenure with the paper.
Oh sure, I continued to pen a piece every now and again while on leave. Writing brings me joy and it was fun to continue to connect on occasion with our readers.
Now as I re-enter the work place, I recognize it will be a bit of an adjustment. Like many I’ve been living in my own little bubble the past five months. A bubble supported by friends and family who have been sensitive to my battle with cancer. Truthfully most of my days looked just as they did before, minus the work. Down days however, were exactly that and thankfully my selfless tribe did little (if any complaining) as they supported me through the fight for my life.
As I type this, I’m about 55 percent through the battle. Chemotherapy is still part of my regimen and it will be followed by radiation treatment, yet I feel good (mostly). Thanks to the experience and encouragement of my Docs I was given the ‘A-Okay’ to return to work in a limited capacity.
Masks a necessity of course.
My surgeon was quick to remind me, while yes the world is abuzz with masks, it’s also cold and flu season and COVID or no COVID I have a compromised immune system. Well, most weeks I have no immune system, which is a totally different game changer.
I share this mostly not for empathy or sympathy, but more as explanation. As I return to essential work, it’s equally important for me to properly distance. Translation – phone interviews will be more commonplace, just as they were in the early spring. Returning from my bubble, it’s very possible this is how my colleagues have continued to do work all along. Yet, I’m a people person, so not meeting face to face is still a bit “off” for me personally. As humans we thrive on connection.
Yet as someone who has had limited connection for the past few months, it’s just nice to be back among the “living fully.”
Preparing for work Monday morning one would have thought I was starting a new job. Giddy as a kid anticipating the first day of school, my joy caught me off guard. While I’ve enjoyed the time with my family, I truly missed having some place to be. Living a life of purpose has always been a “thing” for me and while raising two (not so bad) kids is pretty purposeful, being on hand to share stories of this community truly fills my cup.
Simply put, if there was ever a doubt that this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, that’s been put to rest.
So here we go, back to pounding the pavement, making the phone calls and returning the e-mails. It’s “been a minute” as they say, but I am ready and more than happy to once again be seated in the saddle which the Cowboy Capital has entrusted me with. Yee-haw and hope to hear from you soon.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.