Michigan State Alum Finds Peace In Nature And Running During A Challenging Time
Michigan State journalism alumni Nick Blaskowski has been through a lot this year: losing his job because of COVID-19 cutbacks, and now finding a home in a cabin Up North.
BLACK MOUNTAIN, Mich. -- The unemployment rate in the United States has risen higher in three months during COVID-19 than it did in the first two years of the Great Depression. Former MSU Spartan Nicholas Blaskowski lost his job in the middle of this pandemic and it caused a complete change in lifestyle, as he moved into near isolation at a log cabin in northern Michigan.
“It’s really an anxious feeling to go from being a professional and having a job in broadcast to this,” Blaskowski said.
Blaskowski received his Bachelor's in Journalism from Central Michigan University, and a Master’s in Journalism from MSU. This led him to work in broadcast as a producer at FOX 19 in Grand Rapids and WILX in Lansing, but the 35-year-old turned to substitute teaching after he was laid off.
“I’ve been a substitute teacher for about five years now,” Blaskowski said, “but when the pandemic hit I realized I couldn’t be around over 500.”
His concern with safety in the schools caused him a lot of worry, and with schools in Grand Rapids shutting down for the rest of the 2019-20 year, Blaskowski was out of another job.
“The governor pretty much ordered the close as I was going to work on a Friday, and that was the end of it,” Blaskowski said.
With no substitute teaching available, Blaskowski packed his things in his apartment and moved Black Mountain to live in a log cabin while he waited to hear back for job interviews. The log cabin is owned by Anne Blaskowski, his 90-year-old grandmother, who was happy to assist him in this tough time.
“I was really anxious,” Blaskowski said. “My family suggested to get away from the urban areas where there might be the real transition of the virus. Just to lay low and see what happens and try to get back to things in the fall.”
Blaskowski’s brother and his two nephews live nearby,
“I was happy about Nick coming home,” she said. “I did think about what his exposure had been but wanting him to come home took precedent.”
Blaskowki says it’s been beneficial to live there rent free with no bills, but despite saving money, he feels he’s taking a step back in life.
“It’s been tough to tell you the truth,” Blaskowski said. “It's tough to be in my mid-30s and be out here with my grandma. Society says I shouldn't be here.”
The Black Mountain recreation area is one of the best sights to see in Northern Michigan. With over 30 miles of trails through majestic pine trees and a view of Black Lake, it is listed as one of the top trails in Michigan for hiking and skiing. However, being mostly alone during the pandemic has negatively affected his mental health and heightened his anxiety.
“The highlight here is going to the Dollar General,” Blaskowki said. “So I do a lot of running, and that was how I’ve dealt with that. When I run, I don't think of anything that’s bothering me.”
Blaskowski has been running since high school and often runs in 25k races multiple times a year near the Capitol. At Black Mountain, he runs 5-6 miles a day through the trails in the woods and along the lake. He describes this hobby as a cure for his anxiety.
“It’s kind of like medicine to be able to go out to the woods and do a lot of long-distance running,” Blaskowski said.
Since he has been running there, Andrea Blaskowski says it’s been helping his overall health.
“I think his running and outdoor activities keep his mind and body healthy,” she said.
Having been at Black Mountain since the beginning of the summer, he is ready to move back to an urban area and begin working his dream job in broadcast journalism that makes a difference.
“I got really into investigative reporting, Blaskowski said. “getting into journalism that makes change, especially with the social movements, political race, and the virus. Right now would be the ideal time to get back into things.”