I am a place association person. What I mean by that is, I associate my home with comfort. The desk in my house is for creative writing or crafts. The reading nook is for fun and relaxing reading. AndI associate the location of my job with work. The location is a place of focus and productivity. My desk is for writing finding aids, attending webinars, and answering emails. The archive is for research and processing collections.
Working under social distancing and stay at home orders for all non-essential employees has forced the two distinct places to collide. My home serves the purpose of both comfort and productivity with the only dividing line being time. Monday through Friday, from 9am to 5 pm I am productive (or as much as one can be with two cats and plenty of places for naps). After 5pm and on weekends, I can try to relax. I’m writing this post now on my home desk which now serves as a creative and productive place. And it’s such a writer’s block!
Work at Home
Last week was my first week at the new job. It was full of the usual first day butterflies, the worry that I wasn’t working hard enough, and the constant questioning of “why did they hire me?” All while at home with my partner and two cats. Needless to say, it was weird.
With the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths still rising in New York and across the country, it was nice to finally have a distraction of real hard work (and all the annoying feelings that come with it). Like most first weeks of the new job, it was full of meetings, setting my office up, and meeting my new co-workers. Except, unlike most first weeks of the new job, all of the meetings were on Zoom, I had to create a makeshift office and archives in my house, and I met all my co-workers (and their animals) again on Zoom.
I cannot tell you how tired I am of Zoom. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great platform with a lot of flexibility for discussions, quizzes, chats, or whatever. But holy shit, I did not expect to use it at least 7 times last week!
A friend and I were chatting (via text because social distancing is still important) about the amount of pressure we put on ourselves at work. It’s only my first week and I am already annoyed with myself for not having a full grasp of the archives or library- what the hell?!
Under Pressure from Both Sides
Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves? As I met my co-workers, one of which started a month ago, I felt so behind on my own work and understanding of the library and university. It was funny, everyone opened our meeting with “this must be so weird starting your first day at home” or “I’m sorry we can’t meet in person and I can’t give you a tour”. I would try to be nice and mention how this gave me the opportunity to figure things out without being distracted or with less anxiety from being in a new place.
The more polite I was, the more reality set in. This is fucking weird! Starting a new job at home is hard and awkward. I may not meet my co-workers face to face for another month. I may not step foot into the library for another month. I have to figure out the sea of documents describing the state of the archives without actually stepping foot in the room. All while my cats bother me for attention and the couch beckons me to nap.
Not only has my place association gone out the window, the separation from personal stress and global stress has also collided. My own stress of starting a new job has been compounded with the general anxiety of COVID-19. Not only do I want to do a good job (whatever that means), I also want me and my family to stay safe. Every conversation or webinar (and I really mean every single one) always starts with acknowledging the coronavirus situation. More personal accounts of losing loved ones and friends to COVID-19 are being shared online and by our own friends and family.
It was already difficult balancing work and home but now it seems impossible. We cannot escape our personal worry of COVID-19 even when “at work”.