Teleworking and Staying Grateful in a Crisis

Today is my 50th day at my parents’ house in South Carolina. It’s my 50th day away from my friends, classmates, professors, roommates, and coworkers; my fifth week of online classes and teleworking. What was once a drastic change of pace has become a new normal, but I still haven’t adjusted to my indoor, isolated, stressful lifestyle. Assignments are harder and harder to turn in on time. Work is slower, less inspiring. Reaching out to loved ones–more important to my mental health now than ever–is increasingly taxing. 

“I try to be grateful everyday.”

I am in an extremely privileged position, all things considered, and I try to be grateful every day. I have a comfortable place to live, loving family members to interact with, enough food, a job, and fulfilling classwork. I have a plethora of craft supplies to keep me busy and creative. If I have all of this, why can’t I work at my usual pace? Why am I so tired? Why, after weeks of practice, am I still so bad at InDesign? Nearly all of my undergrad friends are facing similar challenges, but that doesn’t make it any easier to come to terms with my failure to adapt to this situation. I want to be motivated, so why do I prioritize tending to my lavender plant over my assigned reading? 

Rigby at home with her dog

Like many of my undergraduate peers, I’ve been questioning society’s definitions of productivity, work, and fulfillment. I’ve always loved academics, especially history, English, and the arts. Reading and researching for my classes feels both fulfilling and productive. Working in SCUA feels the same. Baking sourdough and peach pie to share with my family feels fulfilling, but not “productive.” Interacting with my friends on social media– which really can be a mood-booster and fun way to socialize– feels actively unproductive. Those activities are productive, though. Taking care of myself and the people around me is profoundly important, and it helps me do my best work. I’m lucky I have the opportunity to enjoy leisure time at all.  

I try to think about the people across the world who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic. 

While I certainly feel disappointed and angry at my circumstances, I try to think about the people across the world who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic. In America and elsewhere, black communities are being hit much harder by COVID-19 than white communities (and Latinx Americans are more affected, too). This isn’t because the virus discriminates; it is because our society and healthcare systems do. 

In Louisiana, while African Americans only make up about 32% of the population, they account for 70% of the deaths in the state. This didn’t surprise American public health experts; thanks to systematic issues like environmental racism and poverty rates, black Americans show higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. These preexisting health issues put victims of COVID-19 more at risk. In New York City, the Latinx community was hit hardest– for similar reasons. 

Other marginalized groups are also being hit hard. For example, queer youth experience homelessness at a shockingly high rate– if they are not welcome to shelter-in-place with their families, where can they go without being put at risk? 

Reports of child abuse, often called in by teachers or social workers at school, have plummeted. Children, stuck at home with their abuser, are powerless. People across the world are stuck with their abusers; Mexico has seen a surge in domestic violence and femicides since lockdown began.

People with autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are suffering shortages of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug and immunosuppressant. Because of new experimental treatments (or because their pharmacists are overworked), trans people are facing shortages of hormones and hormone blockers, which can bring unwelcome changes to both body and mind. 

Many of the world’s working-class face one of two realities: they are required to work at their high-risk, essential job, or to be unemployed, unable to file or still waiting for unemployment, with only $1200 (so far) to cover their rent, bills, and expenses. 

Across the world, people are facing unprecedented food shortages; neighbors found a Kenyan mother cooking rocks in her home so she could try to convince her children they would eat soon, even though she had nothing to feed them. 

What can we do to help if we cannot physically volunteer without putting ourselves at risk?

There are a few ways to do our part.

Post by Rigby Philips
 Junior history major with a focus on women’s history and the history of sexuality

2 thoughts on “Teleworking and Staying Grateful in a Crisis

  1. I compile the newsletter for The Baltimore Bibliophiles. I would like to offer our members the opportunity to receive the UMD Special Collections newsletter/emails, as I do. How do I let our members know how to do that? Looking forward to hearing from you. Binnie Syril

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