Keeping Busy

For me and a lot of my friends the pandemic has been a struggle. I suspect this is because we enjoy traveling, seeing other people more often, or both. We’re struggling with the uncertainty about when or if that magic day will arrive “when things get back to normal.” Some distractions work, some don’t. Sometimes the ongoing disruptions create distractions and prevent us from doing something constructive. Today I’ll share what I’m trying to make the 2021 version of pandemic brain more bearable.

My primary activities this past year have been reading, walking, napping, and taking advantage of the “free” movies included with my Amazon Prime membership.

The reading has been a mix of impulse buys and books from my “to-read” list, which has been building and nagging at me since 2000. I read 70 books last year, and I’m on track to burn through another long list this year.

Walking is necessary just to get some exercise. In fact, it’s about the only exercise that I find enjoyable because I have a hate/loathe relationship with the gym most of the time.

Napping is usually my way of shutting down my brain and “clearing the hard drive.” Stress gives some people insomnia. In my case, stress causes my body and mind to shut down. There are worse reactions. Some folks are having bizarre or horrific dreams.

The Amazon Prime membership has allowed me to watch The Expanse as well as a bunch of movies and documentaries I haven’t seen before. Great for amusing the eyes and ears if my brain isn’t up for reading.

However, I’ve been restless in 2021. I rode out 2020 hoping for better things. Now that it looks like the under-65 folks won’t get a COVID-19 vaccination until spring or summer, I’m left with the painful realization that I’m in for almost another full year of going nowhere and doing nothing of value. Quite frankly I’m tired of it. I can only read so many books before I ask, as my friend Tim put it in a phone call recently, “Why bother?”

To overcome the lack-of-direction problem, I’ve made the decision to return to school this spring (May). I was a little late to start in the current term, but I can start in the summer term and give myself something positive to focus on for the near future. I’ll be studying space-related engineering and other topics via the Kepler Space Institute, which is soon to be Kepler Space University (and thus accredited). That might or might not give me the opportunity to do more diverse work in the space business, but at least it’s something constructive to do.

The coursework includes information I’ve wanted to know, in part because I don’t want to always be the least-informed person in the room among the engineers. Part of it, too, is to feed my lingering and languishing desire to write science fiction. One reason I haven’t attempted to publish anything in the SF genre is because I’ve lacked the confidence to write about technology with any sort of authority. Mind you, there are people who do that and manage to make a pretty good living at it, but I’ve wanted the actual education. I probably should have studied engineering when I was younger, but I’d convinced myself that I was bad at math.

Anyhow, what I’ll end up with after 7-9 years is a series of master’s-level certificates in various topics–space systems, space architecture, human factors, etc.–that I’ll acquire over the course of my 50s. It might not result in anything useful at all, but I will be learning things that interest me and finding a more beneficial way to spend money I usually use for vacations.  Then again, maybe I’ll be mayor of Luna City in 20 years. A guy can dream.

What are you doing to keep yourself focused and positive? Find something. It’s good for your soul.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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2 Responses to Keeping Busy

  1. To start I’d like to state the simple fact that you have been a source of inspiration for me in the few weeks I have been following your blog. It pains me to hear you struggle, as so many others are currently struggling, but I hope this community helps.
    I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Heroic Technical Writing, but I’d like to briefly mention how motivated I was (still am) by your article about an English student contributing to aerospace space projects (NASA and such). It felt like a permission note, something that said it was okay to follow after whatever your interests might be. For me it’s deep sea expedition, but I love how it could have easily been a million other things, and those realms are open to technical writers… we just have to pursue it.

    Sorry for the wall of text. It’s very exciting to read about your return to formal education. I can’t wait to hear more about this experience.

    • Bart Leahy says:

      Thanks for reading and for buying the book! Some days are easier than others, as I imagine it is for everyone. The new education plans keep me focused on something new. Classes start in May, so it’ll be a while yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

      Re: deep-sea stuff

      So like Jacques Cousteau sort of research? Sounds cool! Best of luck to you!



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