• Mary MacCarthy

How are you getting by?

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Dear Friends,

Welcome to my COVID-19 newsletter - an online version of an ongoing reporting project.

Over the past year, much of which I spent as an unemployed journalist, I’ve spent a lot of time asking random strangers what I think is the defining question of our time: “HOW ARE YOU GETTING BY?"

It’s a question inspired by living in Los Angeles. I love L.A. and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else - but it’s a place that incarnates so much of what’s wrong with life in the U.S. at this point of LATE STAGE CAPITALISM.

When I look around me, all I can think is: how are these people getting by? Rent. Groceries. Gas. Auto insurance. It quickly adds up to thousands upon thousands of dollars.

I started to wonder if everyone else is somehow making a fortune? Or maybe they inherited a fortune? Because even before losing my job - when I was earning a very respectable middle-class income - I WAS JUST BARELY GETTING BY.

When I started asking strangers how they’re getting by, I quickly learned that most of them are in the same boat as me: barely paying rent, unable to afford health insurance, and living paycheck-to-paycheck.

I was diligently compiling these answers for a forthcoming freelance article, when this week I suddenly realized that my reporting was out-of-date. IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, EVERYTHING HAD CHANGED.

We had been living in the pre-COVID-19 era. And now, suddenly, WE HAD ENTERED THE COVID-19 ERA. A time in which - it became immediately obvious - the question “How are you getting by?” takes on a frightening new urgency. So - I knew I would have to scrap the reporting I had done, and start afresh.

And I knew I wouldn’t have to look far to find new people to whom I could pose my question.

In my immediate circle of family and friends, I know EIGHT PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR JOBS THIS WEEK. Service and sales jobs that evaporated into thin air, overnight. I know dozens of others who are out of work for the next two months at least, and have no idea what will happen come summertime.

For those who were already unemployed (including myself), we are facing a frightening new reality: with Republicans admitting that UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE U.S. WILL LIKELY SPIKE TO AT LEAST 20%, any hopes we had of finding a decent job have been dashed to the ground.

So - how in God’s name is everyone going to get by?

Every day I’ll bring you stories about how Americans and others ARE getting by as we enter the unknown. The stories will be published here on Facebook as well as on my Instagram and Twitter - I’ll post all the information in the first edition tomorrow.

I have some great stories lined up - but IF YOU'D LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE, please feel free to send me 1-4 paragraphs in response to “How are you getting by?” and I will notify you before publishing. I look forward to hearing from you. If you’d rather tell me your story by phone or Skype, let me know and I’ll set up a time to chat.

Take care, stay healthy, and STAY HOME.


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