Interviewed June 1, 2020. Interview edited for clarity and length.
Brittney, 31, is the public relations manager for a firm that provides digital solutions for health care. She’s an active PRUMC member and volunteer.
What has your work process been like during the quarantine?
I’ve been really fortunate to be working from home. I had just moved into a new house four or five weeks before COVID took hold, so I still had a home office full of moving boxes! But I stood things up pretty quickly and have been working there since mid-March. My company, which is in the health care industry, has been working full out to meet the needs this crisis has brought about in Atlanta and Georgia, as well as for our national and global clients.
I have never worked harder in my life than I have during this time. It’s 11- or 12-hour days at peak times, with pinch hitting to do whatever’s needed. As an additional element, we launched a survey to understand how COVID is impacting people’s well-being, and not just from a physical and safety standpoint. How’s their mental well-being? Their financial well-being? We’ve been providing those insights to help other organizations and communities figure things out.
How has the non-work part of your life been affected?
There are a lot of COVID-related stress points for everybody right now. Pay cuts, fear for their jobs, worrying about vulnerable loved ones, having kids at home while trying to work. So that’s put things into perspective for me. Above all, my parents are well. I don’t have to worry about them in the hospital with me not able to visit, or health care workers trying to care for them and not having the equipment they need. I’m grateful that in isolation I have not felt lonely. I know that not everybody feels that way. I’m very introverted, and a similar friend and I joke that in some ways we were built for social distancing! But having a strong network of family and friends around me has helped me keep some sanity. God has given me the people in my life, the love and the connection that I need, to balance out my stressors.
Beyond the day-to-day, the pandemic has made me incredibly grateful for everything. A friend once put in my mind that people say “I have to” all the time. I have to go get groceries. I have to go to work. I have to pay bills. She helped me change my perspective. Now I think, “I get to go buy groceries, I get to work, I get to pay my bills.” I have so much appreciation. I know that everything I have is not because I deserve it but because God blesses and trusts me with it. Leslie Watkins did a summer series on living your life with purpose. It’s helped me reflect on what my call is. And in this quarantine it’s helping me reflect on what God’s given me in terms of resources, gifts and strengths. So I’ve been thinking: What is my call in this situation?
One of my favorite things to do is sew. It’s a gift that for a lot of people in modern times may not seem super-practical. I mean, by the time you make a dress you could go buy one much more quickly and probably spend less! But I enjoy it. And the shortage of PPE in hospitals made me think. A friend works at a clinic In Rome, Georgia, and he was telling me about a church congregation where cases spread rapidly and sort of took the town over. At one point he told me they were a few days away from running out of masks altogether. I knew some people were sewing masks, so I looked into it. Another friend – I call her the Pied Piper of Everybody who Sews in Atlanta – connected me to this organization that now provides masks for area hospitals, called SMAH. We’ve been fulfilling orders for CHOA, Grady and others, and we’ve delivered over 30,000 masks to area hospitals. Now we’re expanding our reach, and my most recent project was for MARTA as they’ve begun to bring more essential workers back. I know there’s a reason I was given this gift; maybe this situation was part of it.
In these days where I’ve been working so hard, the last thing you’d think I’d want to do on a weekend is put myself to work like that. But I felt called. How could I not contribute? The connection to God feels so much more real to me in acts like these. I already thought I was a pretty aware person of my blessings and gifts, but that has been heightened during COVID.
How have you stayed connected to family and friends?
I give my friends credit. They’re really creative. I do not mind staying at home and hunkering down for a weekend, especially when I’m tired. But I have a lot of friends who are the opposite. One of those extroverted friends had a birthday party where we did a virtual game night on a platform where you can play board games together. Another group of friends holds a virtual happy hour every Friday, even though half of us aren’t drinking anything. It’s definitely helped us all stay positive in support of one another, just to check in every week.
We’re all reaching a point where I can hear caution fatigue in voices. But a few of us have loved ones in the vulnerable population, and we feel especially responsible for staying careful. My parents came to visit me over Memorial Day, and I made masks for both of them. My mom didn’t get to hug me, which made her sad. I went to their house for Mother’s Day, and my dad set up chairs outside, distanced. It’s not what we all want. But that contact has been key to helping me maintain my sanity and remember I’m loved.
How do you find yourself changed by this?
Honestly, I think my biggest learning, which I wouldn’t have learned any other way, is about how we handle what we have to. When this situation began, it wasn’t a planned “this is the start date” kind of thing. It was almost like leaving a burning building. I came to work one day with fear and tension in the air over the spread of the virus, and I think we all knew staying in the office setting just wasn’t going to work anymore. I literally unhooked my computer, my monitor and my keyboard, grabbed my bag and just left with emergency work essentials. And for a while, I kept responding to everything in life as though it was an imminent emergency. I was missing a lot of sleep and working long, long hours without stopping often enough to eat or get groceries. And then when I did get groceries I was scared. I found myself reading Revelation for comfort – that’s how panicked I was! Sort of “whatever plague is coming, God’s in control”.
I had put myself in survival mode, and humans just are not meant to do that endlessly. I had to accept and adjust. This is my new reality. When I started to do that, it gave me more of an ability to care for myself, to give myself opportunities to rest and recharge. Was I in a great position to come into this heightened level of work and fear and the need to dramatically adjust my life? No, I wasn’t. But I’m gaining appreciation for the times when I can be.
Between reading the story of Jesus calming the storm and the things we’ve been doing in our Zoom Disciple 2 classes, I’ve found so much comfort in my relationship with God. These have been incredibly trying times. I can’t believe we’re halfway through this year. And I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through this time if I didn’t have that relationship. At work we studied wellbeing as it relates to community and to a sense of faith and purpose. All of those, I intend to lean into.