Michelle

Covid-History Item Type Metadata

Age

43

Date

02/14/2021

Location

Town of Saratoga

When did the impact of COVID-19 first occur to you? How did your reaction to COVID-19 change between then and the first case in your town?

I wasn't very concerned about COVID-19 until the day the schools closed. Up to that point it seemed like something vaguely serious that probably wouldn't affect us here in rural upstate NY. I'm a small business owner, and the Friday before I'd held a staff meeting to discuss new safety protocols and contingency plans for disaster that didn't feel very real yet. The day the schools closed I went for a walk in Hudson Crossing part with a friend, and we talked about how surreal this all felt. No one I knew expected the state to shut down for three months, or for the death toll to rise to rapidly. We felt very insulated back then. Covid happened slowly at first, then all at once. We all went to work on Monday and made plans for the coming week that didn't matter anymore by noon. We prepared as if it was going to be maybe a week or two before this sorted itself out. I remember working alone in the office for a week. I am the only one who lives just a few minutes away, and there was still a lot of loose ends to handle. I sent my staff home to work remotely because I wanted to protect them. It was very lonely. Eerie, coming to the empty building every day. My husband helped me bring home all the office plants. We emptied the kitchen so no food spoiled and we didn't attract mice. Our office is in the Town building and at that time it was maybe going to be staged as a FEMA field hospital, so we didn't know if we'd even be allowed back in the building depending on how bad things got. I'd always loved the Town building - the old school - and am often the first one in and last one out, so being alone there never bothered me. The lockdown, though, made everything feel like the opening scene of a horror film. For months afterwards I felt afraid to go back there alone (to my office of ten years - to the company I own!). I had a panic attack once when I had to go scan something, and my adult daughter went with me. When I went alone all I could do is sit in my office and cry. It felt like the world was ending.

How is your life different now than it was before the pandemic?

I haven't seen my parents in a year, or my aunts and uncles who live far away. I have a big family in Rhode Island and so far they're all safe but I miss them very much. I saw my sister a few times but mostly we just talk on Zoom. There are so many friends I can't see anymore. I attended my first Zoom funeral recently. I think the main difference is that I feel compelled to make everything matter. Like every day could be the last day, which was always true but now we're forced to think about it all the time. I'm closer with my immediate family who I live with and I miss everyone else.

How are you feeling? What are you doing to relieve stress?

It's exhausting, being on high alert for an entire year with no end in sight. The small stuff, like missing a vacation or not seeing my family for the holidays, isn't so bad. I can tell myself it's only for now. The bigger stuff, though, like will I did alone in an ICU or will I see my loved ones for the last time on an iPad, that sticks with me. I think we can acclimate to just about anything but this has been a long, long emergency. I started creating TikTok content about grief and being an End of Life Doula. That helps - even though it sounds morbid it's incredibly cathartic to make a difference in someone else's life. Before Covid I'd started hosting Death Cafes, and this is another way to continue that work. I think we need the Death Positive movement now more than ever. None of us know how to speak openly or comfortably about death, and it's a skill we all need right now.

What have you noticed has changed in your community since the outbreak? What has surprised you?

I truly appreciate being part of a small town. For the most part everyone came together to support each other. Byron's never ran out of food, and didn't allow hoarding so everyone had access to what they needed. I love how local businesses posted in the community page about what they had in stock or where to find things we all needed. People organized deliveries of food and medication to those who couldn't safely leave their homes. It was comforting to see a global crisis bring out the best in so many of our neighbors.

Are you a business owner who has had to close? If you are still open, how have you had to adjust how your business operates?

We never closed, but significantly limited our work for three months. We used to hold in-person training and now we either go to a hotel where there's better ventilation or hold classes online. Field work requires full PPE, which was really hard to find for awhile, so we had to stop half of our services for a long time. We are extremely lucky, though, because we got a disaster loan and had our PPP loan forgiven. Without those two programs I don't think we would have survived.

Are you an essential employee? What do you do? What precautions are being taken at your workplace? What precautions are implementing at home?

We were considered Phase 2, so we were able to go back to work in June. Luckily my staff and I were not essential workers, so we were all safe at home working remotely as best we could. My husband and son in law were essential workers though and I was afraid for them most of the time. At home we don't have anyone over now - or we sit outside when the weather is nice. My husband takes a shower and washes his clothes as soon as he comes home from work. We use Instacart most of the time instead of shopping ourselves, and we don't visit our extended families anymore.

Are you an employee who has been laid off or furloughed? Were you able to get unemployment? Were you able to retain your health insurance?

We had the incredible good luck to keep our health insurance and our jobs.

Are you working from home? What adjustments or challenges are you experiencing?

I worked from home for three months. It was difficult at first, learning a bunch of new skills all at once. Zoom feels like second nature now but at first it was awkward and terrible. It has been difficult for my kids to not see their friends. They got to be with other people for awhile in the summer and fall but now it's hard to socialize safely.

Do you have children at home? How’s it going?

We have a 16 year old and a 22 year old. They were both still in school, finishing 10th grade and senior year in college. The first week of lockdown we made schedules for ourselves and posted them on the wall. The schedules helped keep us all grounded during lockdown. There was walk time and chore time and TV time, all in manageable little blocks. It was nice to have some consistency and structure.

If you’re a student, was school canceled? Were you able to complete your studies online? Do you think you’ll be back on campus in the fall?

I'm in a graduate program but it was online anyway, through Empire State College, so for me nothing really changed. Our son decided to take homeschool classes at SUNY Geneseo rather than do hybrid high school. So far it's going well. He likes taking one class at a time and getting all the high school credits at once. When he finishes he'll get a real NYS diploma (not a GED) and will have 24 general education credits that are transferrable to any SUNY. It's a great program for high school kids who do well with self-direction and remote learning.

How are you using social media, the Internet, or digital platforms during the pandemic?

The internet is how we've kept in touch with so many of our people. I don't know what we'd do without it. My son only really gets to interact with other kids his age through video games and social media right now. Zoom how my work team and I stayed connected to each other and our clients. It allowed us to do something for a living when all the other things were impossible.

Did you have to postpone any major life events? (e.g. Graduation, wedding, major birthday) What did you do instead?

My daughter postponed her wedding twice and ended up getting married by the Mayor in the Village office with no guests. They're not as disappointed as they expected, and are using their wedding fund to put a down payment on a house. I was supposed to work in Germany last May and was very disappointed that it didn't happen. I'm glad to be home safe with my family, though, and grateful that I wasn't already there when Covid happened. I may have been stuck there this whole time. Family gatherings have turned into Zoom parties, and we try to reach out to people more with text and cards. My son and I started painting postcards for our friends and family. That was a fun way to stay connected and a bit of fun stress relief.

Do you have animals? Did you adopt a pet? How have they impacted your day?

We adopted two kittens in June. They are one of the most joyful things to come out of this time. Our dog is thrilled to have us all home so often. He used so spend 8 hours a day by himself and now there is someone home always.

What positive things did you contribute to or notice take place?

Under normal circumstances I never would have spent three straight months with my adult children and teenager. When work and school and social events stopped so abruptly, we only really had each other. So we did what we could to make the best of it - house projects, cooking, playing with the dog, family game nights. I am grateful for the parts that brought my family closer together.

Did you or someone you know contract COVID-19? What was it like?

We all had Covid in December. My daughter was contact traced from her work on December 8th and we were all quarantined until after Christmas. Not that we would have gone anywhere, but it was scary and sad to have it happen during the holidays. We all had mild cases, and I was sickest of all because I already have severe asthma. I had to buy a special pillow on Amazon so I could lay face down to sleep because that's the only position where I could breathe well. We all were extremely weak and exhausted all for a couple weeks, with high fevers and brain fog. We watched a lot of TV and our friends brought us food which was so kind. I know people who lost friends and family to Covid and realize how lucky we are to have had such mild cases.

If you lost someone during the pandemic, how did you celebrate their lives?

I lost a friend to a heroin overdose. We held a Zoom memorial and everyone contributed stories and photos of her. It was lovely and hopefully we can all get together in the summer when it's safer.

What do you wish you knew before the pandemic began?

I wish I had known that day in March was the last day. I would have taken more time to appreciate "normal" before normal became something else entirely. I would hug my parents and visit my sister who lives in another state that we can't visit right now. I would have a big dinner party with all our friends.

What would you want future generations to know about the 2020 pandemic? How would you recommend they prepare for it?

Build community. Hoarding food and toilet paper isn't going to help get you through a long crisis. Community connections - knowing and trusting our neighbors - are the best way to prepare for the unknown.

How do you think this pandemic will change how we behave going forward? What will the “new normal” look like?

I think remote work is the one good thing to come out of the pandemic. Lots of people were spending 10+ hours a week commuting to their jobs that we now know can be done 100% remotely, often with better results. So I hope that part stays. I also hope we maintain our sense of community resiliency. The way we all took care of each other was beautiful and I hope we can hold onto that.

Is there anything else you would like to add that hasn't already been asked above?

I think it's important to recognize that trauma looks different for each person. We are all traumatized in some way from this experience, but no one will express it exactly the same way. I think it's going to be very important, moving forward, to recognize that and be able to speak openly about our experiences.

Dublin Core

Title

Michelle

Subject

COVID-19 (Disease)

Publisher

Southern Adirondack Library System

Date

02/14/2021

Contributor

Southern Adirondack Library System

Rights

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Language

English

Type

Covid History

Identifier

12408625482

Coverage

Coronavirus Pandemic

Citation

“Michelle,” Leaving Our Fingerprints on History, accessed August 10, 2022, https://fingerprints.sals.edu/omeka/items/show/340.

Output Formats

Geolocation