An anonymous narrator describes her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Safer at Home order. She discusses pursuing a degree virtually, and balancing school, a new job, childcare, and moving out of state in the midst of the pandemic.
Narrator Name: Anonymous
Interviewer Name: Andres Torres
Date of interview: 7/9/2020
[00:00:14] - Could you share your experiences from the last several months?
[00:02:40] - How are your school and work?
[00:03:54] - What was the degree that you just received?
[00:04:34] - You have moved, but your kids still attend Madison schools?
[00:05:57] - How do your early pandemic experiences contrast with the present?
[00:08:15] - Were you in school or working when Safer at Home began?
[00:11:09] - How did you cope with a new role at work and your family at home?
[00:12:32] - Were you involved with any recent BLM protests or other cultural events?
[00:13:45] - Is there any specific event from the last couple of months that stands out?
[00:17:51] - Are you getting settled after your move?
[00:18:42] - Thank you for sharing your experience.
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: Hello, my name is Andres Torres. I’m here with Stories from a Distance, which is part of the Living History Project. Today our narrator is joining us anonymously, so, without any further ado, could you please share some of your experiences and maybe talk a little bit about what life has been like for you the last several months?
Anonymous: It’s definitely been a different way of life the last few months. So, I have three children: two girls are school age and my son is an infant, so he was attending daycare. The biggest change has just been kind of our family dynamic. So the school age children were removed from the school because of COVID, and the baby was still going to daycare for awhile, and then, you know, they were making lots of changes, just stating that you had to be an essential worker to send the child. So, eventually, he was staying at home with us. So it’s just been a different way of life; the kids, the girls were doing online school through Madison schools, which was interesting. And it was a little hard to manage with— I typically work outside of the home, and so for work we moved to working at home. And so it was a little bit hard to manage: the girls doing school and needing to be present and help them with that, and then, you know, once we added the baby into the mix, him being home and needing care. I mean, he’s only eighteen months—yeah he’s only about eighteen months or so. It’s definitely been challenging (laughs) to say the least.
Interviewer: Yeah, I can definitely relate. I have a sixteen month old here at home as well, so.
Interviewer: But I only have one. So it’s a little different.
Anonymous: Yeah, and you know it’s nice because my oldest daughter, she’s in, well, she’s going to go into seventh grade this fall. So, you know, with her it’s a little easier because she’s a lot—she’s very self-sufficient. She can help with the other children. She can kind of do the online school requirements on her own. She doesn’t need much guidance, so that helps a lot, but I also try to not put too much pressure on her because, you know, she’s still a kid and she’s still going to school and learning things herself.
Interviewer: It is nice to have one that’s old enough to be somewhat independent.
Interviewer: How is it look for you as far as your school or work? Are you in school still?
Anonymous: So I actually graduated last December. I have hopes of going back in the fall. So I don’t—yeah, it’s been kind of challenging just with COVID. I mean, it’s changed so many things. I’ll be honest, I was probably going to attend online. I did a mixture the last few years. I was doing a mixture of in-person classes and online. Towards the end of my degree I had to take the classes in person; they just simply weren’t offered online. So that was a little tricky but I managed; still having work, and then I’d do night classes. So yeah, so I’m trying to do something that’s a little bit more flexible, where I don’t have to be at work all day and then in class all night for like three nights a week. Yeah, so for right now I’m just working. I’ve been sending out my transcripts, trying to figure out what I even want to pursue, what’s, to be honest, what’s going to take the shortest amount of time to finish up. That’s really important to me.
Interviewer: What was the degree that you just received?
Anonymous: So, I did an associate’s degree in IT system administration. I did that at Madison College, and they do have some partnership agreements with some universities, where certain universities will accept all of your credits. So I’ve been reaching out, I think I am working with someone at UW–Oshkosh to figure out, you know, if all my credits will transfer, what can that transfer into. I’d like to do something in, either in IT or business and IT, to kind of have that dual experience to be able to leverage in the workplace.
Interviewer: It sounds like you’re no longer in Madison, but that your kids are still attending school through the Madison school district?
Anonymous: So, we are no longer in Madison, that’s another thing that we had to deal with. So we were in the process of selling our house when all this COVID stuff started to really take effect. So that was kind of worrisome to be honest, because it’s like, to sell the house you have to let people come in and do showings, you can’t be there. You know, we had a lot of showings in a short amount of time, thank God it sold really fast. But then it was kind of like, once it was—once we’d already accepted the offer we kind of had to go through with it. So we moved at the end of May. So we’re down in Georgia now. And the kids actually stopped attending, like they attended right up until the end of May. Unfortunately they weren’t able to take their ChromeBooks down here with us, so I think there was maybe only like one week of school left though, by the time they finished up.
Interviewer: Yeah, that’s something else I can relate to you with, as far as selling a home. My partner and I just sold our home as well. And it was something that was—we had a lot of anxiety around it.
Anonymous: Yeah, for sure.
Interviewer: We also sold ours, so we’re happy that all that’s over.
Interviewer: I wanted to ask you a little bit about how things have changed since, maybe, the beginning of the Safer at Home order. I know when COVID kind of first came to the United States, before the numbers were alarming, a lot of the news was kind of about how it was a big problem in all of these other countries all over the world, and then, kind of, once it became a problem here, we stopped hearing about the rest of the world and all the news kind of centered around it being a problem here in America. And I just wanted to ask you what your experience was early on during the pandemic versus how you’re feeling right now.
Anonymous: Yeah, I kind of share those same sentiments. Like, at first it seemed like initially, I’d heard about it, it was a problem kind of over in Asia, in those areas, and then, you know, it started to spread. So I didn’t worry too much about it when it was over in that part of the world, but then once it started entering the US, again I, you know, it wasn’t in Wisconsin yet so, you know, there was just very few places that were being reported in the United States. So I think it was a kind of like an out-of sight, out of mind kind of thing. But then it felt like, it just like, really fast, it spiralled out of control. I had to stop reading the news for a while just because it, that’s all they talked about on the news. And it was really hard to understand how it spiralled out of control so fast. I guess I’m just not sure if information wasn’t provided as it should have been initially, or if people just didn’t take it seriously. But, I mean, I myself, I’m staying at home, I feel like I was doing my part as a citizen to— I really only went out to get groceries, and that was pretty much it. I wasn’t visiting with people. I wasn’t doing, like, things for fun. I was pretty much just trying to avoid contact with others as much as I could.
Interviewer: Were you still in school when the Safer at Home order came about?
Anonymous: I wasn’t. Yeah, so thank goodness I had finished up.
Interviewer: So you had already finished. But you were at work. Were you working at the time?
Anonymous: I was, and so it’s funny because I’d actually, recently, so right around like February, March I had applied for a different position in the company and accepted it. And so, I believe that my first day in that new department was like, Monday, March fifth, or something like that, or Monday, March second, I believe it was. And I recall that I had only worked in the office maybe like a week or two before things got really bad. And we actually had employees testing positive, because there’s three buildings on the campus and so, at that point, pretty much all of the buildings were closed, and it really wasn’t optional to work in the office unless, for some reason, you could not perform your job out of site of the office. I think they said out of like two or three thousand there was only like one hundred and fifty people who had to report. And so those were the people who were allowed into the office, and everybody else had to work at home. So that was kind of challenging, like, being in a new role, completely different from what I was doing before and trying to learn that new role; that was definitely interesting.
Interviewer: Yeah, I can imagine. Usually, you know, when you’re starting a new role you have a little bit of assistance, or kind of find somebody to hold your hand through all the details of the job.
Anonymous: So, that’s kind of how it started. So there is one other person who does the same role as me, and so she was actually on maternity leave. And so, I remember that she didn’t return until like two weeks after I’d started, and then maybe, I think we worked in the office together for like a week, and then, after that, things kind of just went south from there. But, you know, my manager, he was—he’s very helpful. He had a plan, a training plan laid out, things that I wanted to do and learn in the first week, the first month. It was kind of like an outline for the first ninety days of all the things that we would cover. And it was nice to kind of work through those things with him and to be able to ask questions. And I do feel, I do still feel like I can do that, it’s just a little different because it’s all virtual now, like I can’t go over to his desk or, you know, physically— Well, I guess I can share my screen if I needed to show him something that I was working on. So, it’s just a different way of doing it, but I do think that we’ve managed to still have really good communication. And I do feel that I’m learning the role really well.
Interviewer: How was dealing with all of that, your new role at work, but then also having to deal with the family at home at the same time?
Anonymous: It was kind of stressful, honestly. I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me to be good at my role, and show that I was capable of learning the new role and that I was a good fit. And then it was like also just trying to maintain the family life at home. And, you know, I’ll be honest, my employer has been really flexible, but I also sometimes feel bad accepting the flexibility. Just because it kind of makes me feel like, I don’t know, I guess it makes me feel like I shouldn’t need to, but, I mean, everybody else is in that same position too. So they remind me, you know, everybody’s dealing with this, with their children at home, and just everything’s different, so it’s like, just try to embrace it and make the best of it and just do the best you can.
Interviewer: Yeah, I think that’s one thing that, that’s positive about this is we’re all in the same boat. So I feel like people are maybe more understanding about some of that workplace stuff than they would be in different circumstances,
Anonymous: Yeah, I agree. Yeah.
Interviewer: So, aside from, you know, your homelife and school and work, have you been involved in any of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, or any kind of, of the other recent cultural things that have been happening in this country?
Anonymous: Ah—I haven’t. And, you know, the biggest, I would say the biggest deterrent is probably just, like, COVID. It’s still a thing. I don’t know that it’s safe to be in groups. I mean, I will say that [inaudible] do wear masks and gloves and, you know, I haven’t heard of a bunch of spreads that kind of originated from the protests. Just being with my kids all the time, as much as I want to sometimes go there, I’m just not really sure of what the situation’s going to be. I know, for the most part they’re peaceful, but I think that, sometimes that narrative can kind of go left, and I would really hate to be in a position like, with young kids and then there’s violence that erupts, or something like that. So that’s kind of been my only reason for not participating as much as I want to.
Interviewer: I can relate to that a lot as well. You know, not only do I have a child, but both of my parents are in their seventies, my in-laws are, you know, right around the same age, and they’re some of the few people that we do allow to visit us, and we visit them, so we’re still quarantining, still, you know, keeping ourselves as safe as possible. So, well, thank you for sharing these stories. I just wanted to ask you if there was any specific moment that stands out in the last couple months for you during this pandemic?
Anonymous: I think it’s been very challenging to be a person of color, not only dealing with the pandemic, but just the police brutality that’s also erupted. And yeah, it’s just hard trying to process all that’s happening and, you know, I’ve had to have talks with my children, especially my older daughter; she’ll be thirteen this year. So it’s kind of to the point where these conversations have to be had, unfortunately. And, yeah, I mean it’s not an easy conversation to have and sometimes I am sad that my white counterparts don’t necessarily have to have these conversations with their kids, just because they don’t feel like it affects them, because they’re not targeted. So, we were in, we moved near Atlanta, Georgia. And so, when we first got here, you know, it was kind of a tricky situation. I felt like we needed to be here to try to find, you know, where we were going to settle. So we kind of took a leap of faith, came down, and we were living at a hotel. And so we were living at a hotel near the city, and then that’s when Rayshard Brooks was murdered by a police officer, and like, things just went, you know, really nuts here. And so, just kind of being wrapped up in the middle of that and like, I didn’t realize that there was a curfew the first night that we got here, and we got pulled over trying to make it back to our hotel. And so, yeah, it was just like, it was a lot. The first day that I got here, actually, I had a friend from high school that wanted to just kind of have a brief meeting like, kind of give me some helpful information, and so that, you know, kind of went longer than anticipated, you know. We had dinner and I was just—it was a Friday I remember, and so I wasn’t in a rush, but then my phone did this weird thing and it told me there was a curfew in order and it was at nine o’clock but I didn’t get the notice until nine thirty. And so, (laughs) yeah, that was, the point was kind of moot with that. So then we were going to our hotel and, come to find out, that hotel that we was going to stay at, it accepted our reservation but they were closed because their employees were tested positive for COVID and we didn’t know that until we got there because they just had a sign on the door.
Interviewer: You were already checked in though?
Anonymous: Well, we hadn’t checked in. So, I’d made the reservation, and I knew that we were going to stay there. And then, when we got there, it was kind of like blocked off. You couldn’t park, and I thought that was weird, and then I saw the sign on the door. And then that’s actually when the police officers pulled up behind us with their lights on. And I was just like, you know, we just moved here, we weren’t aware of the curfew, we didn’t know that this hotel was closed because it still let us make a reservation. Then we kind of had to find something on the fly, and yeah, it was—it’s definitely been an experience since we’ve been here. But now it’s a little better because we’ve moved into our place, I think like two or three weeks ago.
Interviewer: So you’re kind of getting settled there?
Anonymous: Yeah, so, starting to get settled, you know. Thinking about, well, school down here starts on August third, which is really soon. And I feel, I was actually just talking to my boss today, and I was just like, You know, I feel like they haven’t really communicated a whole lot about what that’s going to look like. It kind of sounds like they’re leaning towards just like business as usual, which is kind of scary because I feel like it’s not going to be a matter, it’s only going to be a matter of time before kids are passing COVID back and forth, so. I’m still trying to figure out what school is going to look like for my kids. Like, what’s my safest option. I feel a little bit stuck. I feel like I don’t have a lot of options, and that kind of frustrates me.
Interviewer: I think you and a lot of other people are experiencing that same thing. I, my child, luckily, isn’t of school age, but I do have friends who, whose kids were supposed to, like, start kindergarten this year, and it’s become a difficult situation. I just wanted to thank you again for sharing all these experiences.
Anonymous: Yeah, thank you.
Interviewer: And just give you an opportunity, if there’s anything else that you would like to share with us.
Anonymous: I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I thank you for taking the time to take my experiences and put it into the story of so many others.
Interviewer: Well, I would just like to thank you one more time and wish you the best.
Anonymous: Thank you.
Interviewer: I hope you have a wonderful day.
Anonymous: Thanks, you too.
[END OF RECORDING]