Working from Home: A Dream or a Nightmare
Throughout the pandemic, I've felt a certain since of privilege.
I work for the government, so I have been able to work from home since March.
Except my job was never intended to be one conducted from home. I work in a museum environment and was used to seeing and interacting with thousands of people a day; hearing their stories and answering their questions. When the pandemic first started, our agency told us we'd be home for two weeks while we "flattened the curve." At the time, I honestly believed that. I left a lot of personal items at my desk and went home one March afternoon, excited to try out working from home. As we came to realize that this "new normal" (a term that soon became annoying to my team) was going to last a while, a steep learning curve began. Now I spent 100% of my time in front a screen, whereas before I spent maybe 40%. Learning how to use Zoom, how to manage projects, how to connect with colleagues...it was a lot. As the pandemic continued, the expectation soon became to produce more and more content, to not drop the ball for a second. But how could I find the motivation? Close teammates and I discussed behind digital closed doors the anxieties we felt, the fears we shared, the lack of motivation we had. There were days where I would step away from my computer and cry. But even that felt selfish - weren't there thousands of people in the country who were struggling to make ends meet? Who were crying out in pain? Didn't their suffering matter more than my own? So I swallowed any anxiety I felt, any dread I felt when thinking about waking up and logging in for another day of work. I eventually had to learn to prioritize moments for myself; to make sure I was taking care of myself so that I could take care of others. I put time in work calendar to take walks, to look away from screens, to talk to a co-worker on the phone and check in.
My two roommates (did I mention sharing a small apartment with two people, while we're all working and stepping over each other?) offered moments of grace: theme days, "fancy" dinners, puzzle nights. I supported friends who went out to protest, I read constantly, I called my family. I did whatever it took to keep my head above water. A few weeks ago, I had to go back to my office to pick up some items. I put on my mask (once a bizarre concept, but now something I barely felt while wearing) and took the metro into the city.
The whole thing felt like a dream. I sat at my desk, I looked at the space that my co-workers and I shared. All of our calendars were still set to March. All of our plans were there: the presentations we scheduled, the conferences we hoped to attend. All of it, gone. But I was feeling more resilient than I had in weeks. My team continues to care, continues to create programs that bring moments of history and stories of hope to the public. So, we carry on and work. We cry and worry and panic, but underneath it all, I believe we also dream and fight and hope.