About 2 months ago I made the decision to leave my dream job at a global health nonprofit in New York City and move back home to San Antonio, TX. Although I dreaded leaving my supportive coworkers and my community of friends I’d built up over the last 7 years living away from home, I knew that I needed to give myself a break from the crowds and breakneck pace of New York City. Leaving Brooklyn felt hauntingly similar to the heartache of a breakup from a tormented relationship; it’s not me, it’s the MTA.
I feel stronger for having found a place for myself amidst the chaos of Manhattan, though, after months (perhaps years) of anxiety and denial, I have found great peace in finally accepting that I simply am not the type of person who is willing to prioritize the New York lifestyle and career over my financial and mental wellbeing. While living in Brooklyn, I kept finding myself seeking out larger spaces, with closer access to parks and fewer crowds; so much so that I was willing to live paycheck to paycheck and build up a substantial credit card bill just to enjoy those privileges. At some point, I had to just accept that living in the photogenic Brooklyn apartment would require giving up financial security and access to wide-open spaces. I could either live in Brooklyn and dedicate my personal and professional time to surviving New York City, or I could move home, slow down, and dive into the great unknown; as a consummate impulsive Leo, I chose the latter.
Since I moved back home, the serendipities of my timing continue to give me hope in these strange and uncertain times. My flight from JFK back to San Antonio was on March 3rd, and only just missed the full arrival of Coronavirus to New York City. I found out weeks later that my roommate back in Brooklyn caught the virus just one day after I left. In so many ways, I feel like I’ve been just a moment ahead of its influence for the last several weeks now. While working in global health development and communications, the tumultuous timeline of the pandemic has disrupted all corners of my life — and I’m one of the incredibly lucky ones. We have yet to fully reckon with the full consequences of coronavirus, but one thing I know for sure is that it’s only the beginning.
I’ve been running away from the reality of this pandemic, and I think I’m not the only one. I have been denying to myself that it’s affecting my mental and physical wellbeing — I am one of the lucky ones, after all. When I decided to commit to working in community justice I never realized that the energy and enthusiasm required for managing the personal emotional toll of aid work would require just as much attention and care (often more) than what’s needed to effectively support my fundraising team in my professional life.
Since the news broke I’ve felt eerily calm, knowing that the full recognition of the scale of this pandemic yet to come. As I think is common for many political junkies like myself, I am often disturbed by my desensitization towards horrifying events in United States’ everyday politics and international presence. On the one hand, if I actively tried to process every single news story these days I would no doubt never recover from the resulting cynicism and outrage towards our world’s injustices. However, I also know that my discomfort is a small price to pay in order to advocate for stronger community justice where I can. It’s a delicate balance; I have accepted that I’m going to be making mistakes often. Since joining the nonprofit world, my peers and coworkers continue inspire me in their ability to create change and inspire hope wherever they go, and at whatever level they’re able. Being an activist and social justice advocate means committing yourself to a lifetime of humility and learning; of learning to use your mistakes to energize the motivate you forward, trusting that it’ll all come together eventually.
As an introvert, this quarantine offered a welcome opportunity (initially) to embrace my love of social distancing “for fun”. However, one can only be anti-social for so long before they forget what a normal volume of speaking sounds like. The giddy rush of freedom akin to an unexpected snowday or playing hooky has passed, and now I am left to search out new avenues for human connection and serotonin.
I simply am not handling this quarantine as I hoped I would. I’ve always had the hope for myself that, in case of crisis, I would be able to find the courage to stand up for my beliefs, courageously and without fear. Though nobody would ever wish a tornado or pandemic on their hometown, I’d like to think that if they ever did threaten me and my family that I’d be able to set aside my fear and do what’s needed. In reality, I am only human — a woman trying her best.
COVID-19 finally caught up with me, thought not in the way I had feared. I’m using this time as an opportunity to hone in on combatting the Corona Rut by forcing myself out of my comfort zones. I am focusing on the critical moment of right now where the health equity movement has an opening the make great strides in spite of our government leaders’ efforts to legislate profits over human rights justice.
One of the greatest lessons I will carry with me from working with Global Health Corps is the immense power of the collective will of a dedicated community inspired by thoughtful diverse leaders. Artists, mechanics, professors, lawyers, nurses, sanitation workers — all of our skill sets have power and a role to play. Contribute whatever and wherever you can. Make your activism work for you, but, most importantly, make it count in your community.