Into the unknown

What happens next?

Vicki Boykis

Art: A Walk at Sunset, Victor Borisov Musatov, 1903

For the past three months, I’ve been doing a lot of walking. Usually, me and the two kids will take a morning walk while my husband works, and then, we’ll go for another walk in the afternoon all together, if it’s not too hot.

We’ve been through our neighborhood countless times, and, when we got tired of that, we went to local parks that weren’t crowded. We’ve walked on gravel pathways, through streams, and alongisde gullies filled with ferns. We’ve walked in the heat, in the early morning, the late afternoon, and, once, through a summer rainstorm.

During these walks, I’ve told my daughter hundreds of stories. Some of them are real stories - Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matilda. Some are made-up stories about a girl called Ilana who doesn’t want to do anything and who usually learns a lesson.

We must have done over 50 miles over these past 3 months.

But you wouldn’t notice this from my pedometer app, because my pedometer app is on my iPhone, and the iPhone’s gyroscope, accelerometer, and GPS don’t track steps when you put it in a stroller. This isn’t the only device that’s had problems tracking stroller steps: so has FitBit and the Apple Watch. The main problem here is the same as I’ve written about before,

It’s typically women who have always been the world’s invisible architects, supporting the infrastructure to care for small humans so the rest of the world’s work can get done, standing in the background, doing the day-to-day work of feeding them, washing their clothes, and wiping the last of the organic avocado-pear off their chins while the men built skyscrapers and got all the praise.  And it’s always women who are expected to step back by society

The infrastructure is there, but it’s always invisible to the outside world.

And so it is with my steps: the hours I spend walking with the children, talking to them, guiding them to play in the creek, packing their creek shoes and then unpacking them again, preparing lunches, and doing the gruntwork of parenting are all glaringly absent from anything that tracks and analyzes activity.

I couldn’t track all of this activity on my phone, but I did notice something interesting outside of my screen during our neighborhood walks. The first month, we walked in empty streets. We would, on occasion, come upon either another family, also dragging two kids, a scooter, and a kite, or a lone person walking their dog. The streets of our town were empty. The shops were shuttered up, people would walk by, skittish, keeping their distance, passing us like ships in the night.

Over the past few weeks, since Pennsylvania went from “red” to “yellow” (essential businesses open, restaurants for outdoor dining), people have started emerging. At first, it was lone pedestrians in face masks. Then, families. Now, it looks like groups of friends. The restaurants are wide open. In my daily walk the past couple days, I’ve seen several social distancing picnicks in backyards and on front lawns, and neighborhood kids running together. Our local brunch place’s outdoor tables are packed.

We are, whether we like it or not, returning to “normal” life.

And our small family, our insular pear, is emerging, too.

Our daycare opened last week, and since my daughter is already exhibiting the signs of stress that most kids under lockdown are, we’ve with great hesitation, reluctance, fear, and not a small amount of relief, decided to send her.

Once our daughter is in daycare, it means our nanny returns which means our nanny comes back to be with the baby, and our circle, which, for the past three months, was just the four of us, is now infinitely larger, infinitely scarier, and almost impossible to control.

And another thing: I’m starting a new job tomorrow (more on that later!) which makes all of this even scarier as I try to figure out the rhythm of my work - remote, distributed, and asychronous, but still - with the new rhythm of life under COVID.

For example, what happens if our daughter has the sniffles? Do we keep her at home for a week? More? What happens if someone in our nanny’s family is sick? Does ordering groceries online matter anymore in this case? Can we still see people outside?

I’m still the CEO, but I still don’t know anything, except that, like my pedometer, all of the metrics of the normal world have failed me under Covid and I’m flying a little blind, but the unkown is here, so into it I go.

What I’m reading lately:

  1. What happens to all the unhugged hugs?

  2. What’s less expensive purchase that’s made your life better?

  3. That feeling when there’s a lot of ML infra tools

  4. The cell phone is probably the worst thing that’s happened to us, but also the best

  5. Private equity in medicine

  6. IT’S TIME TO READ THIS TWEET


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The Author:
I’m a data scientist. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and a baby, reading, and writing bad tweets. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.