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Short Stories: How COVID-19 Has Been Impacting Your Lives

Real stories from the cupcakes and cashmere community.
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Last week, we asked our Facebook Community to share how COVID-19 has impacted your lives personally, professionally, and otherwise and were overwhelmed by the number of thoughtful responses that came into our editorial inbox and DMs. You shared stories as nurses, caretakers, college students, and business owners, and together they offer a peek at just how widely this virus has impacted this community alone. The following are some of your stories:

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I found out I was pregnant with our first child at the beginning of February; my husband and I are thrilled and we ultimately just want a healthy baby. However, it is difficult to ignore some of the disappointment and fear around being pregnant during a pandemic. My husband was not allowed to come to my appointment to witness our first ever ultrasound (thankfully I did get to FaceTime him!). We could not tell our parents the happy news in person, despite living only a handful of miles from them. Each doctor appointment brings anxiety about contracting the virus while there. I am worried about losing my job and what that would mean for maternity leave and financially supporting the baby. And the future is still uncertain as to whether my husband will be allowed to be in the delivery room with me when the baby is born, and whether our families can visit the baby afterward. I understand we are lucky in many ways and people have it way worse than us. But there are lots of complex emotions involved in #pregnancyduringpandemic to say the least (as I’m sure many are facing with major life events happening right now)!

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The months leading up to this outbreak were some of the craziest of my life. I was sent on a 5-month stint to Sydney for work where I proceeded to fall in love with the place, the people, the lifestyle, and a boy. Somewhere down the line, I decided I wanted to quit my job and stay indefinitely. I embarked on the incredibly complicated “job + visa sponsorship” hunt. In short, it was two months of a LOT of anxiety. I started questioning things just because I was scared. I felt flat and boring when everyone was telling me to “use my free time wisely!” What does that even mean?! In mid-March, I finally landed a job (with a visa sponsorship!). I started on a Thursday, and by the Monday we were all working from home. Within a week, my boyfriend’s family asked me to move in with them for the time being so they could reduce the amount of people with whom they interacted. My anxiety rushed back. I was cooped up, not interacting with many people again. I didn’t really know what I was doing in my job. I was bored, but then I felt, again, guilty for being bored. I was mad at myself for not having more hobbies. I was confused about if I should have wanted to be back in America more than I did. I was mad that people weren’t taking it too seriously, but also got aggravated when people talked about it too much.

However, in my months of unemployment I made myself get really good at self-reflection. And not that kind of spiraling, psychoanalyzing, beat-your-self-up self-reflection. I saw the ocean and sky and headlands that would still be there with all their beauty when this thing was over. I saw excitement in people finding new hobbies, finding new ways to entertain themselves. I saw hope in people supporting local businesses, yearning for the social interaction we usually take for granted, missing the line at the coffee shop or for public transportation. I looked around and saw a family that took me in without a moment of hesitation, and I saw a boy that I knew I could handle anything with. I saw a place I felt I could call home. And while I can’t speak for anyone besides myself, and while I really don’t want to belittle the horror that is happening around the world, I hope everyone can find a little bit of joy in those little moments that make life so important to treasure. 

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I'm a nurse on the front lines and its pretty freaking scary. I know everyone is struggling right now and it's a pretty frustrating experience but as a healthcare worker I am voluntarily exposing myself to the virus. We currently have masks and proper protective equipment at my hospital but we are unsure how long it will last. I'm working longer hours and days than I normally do. I'm always freaked out about taking something contaminated home to my family—are leaving my clothes and shoes in the garage enough? My anxiety has never been higher.

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Our house flooded just before the lockdown. While we feel grateful that we can still live and cook in it and are covered by insurance, there are no workmen available to dry out the place or strip it down to start replacing it all. So for now, it is dry-ish but we have to deal with the mess and the smell for who knows how long. There’s only so much the heating system and leaving the windows open can do. We need the industrial dryers. But at least the weather has been good in England for a change so we can have the windows open and let some air in 🙂.

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COVID-19 has turned my life a bit upside down, as it has for many. My boyfriend and I both work in tech, for two different platforms in the hiring industry. When the Stay at Home regulations began across the country, my company was flooded with cancellations. We specialize in restaurants and hospitality, so it's understandable that as a hiring tool we'd be one of the first services cut as these companies try to stay afloat. My company is a very small startup, so this hit us hard from the get-go. We immediately cut salaries across the board and cancelled bonus plans, with our C-level execs forgoing paychecks entirely to keep us afloat. Our next 'phase' is moving to rolling 1-2 week mandatory unpaid "vacations," cycling through each employee as long as we can keep our finances in a place to avoid layoffs.

My boyfriend works for one of the largest hiring platforms in the world, and they have a number of different revenue channels, so we figured his job would be safe even if mine was not. After 7 years of working there, he was very unceremoniously laid off—along with more than half of the company—in an effort to manage costs amidst their drastic decline in sales. 

As long as our losses continue to stay steady, my company may actually avoid layoffs and the unpaid vacations entirely. With the flexibility of a small team and the government assistance programs being implemented, we're in a scary-but-decent position. I never thought my tiny tech startup would be the one to come out of this relatively ok! It's been interesting to see how companies with similar clients and offerings are managing this time so differently. We definitely are in a crazy point in history but will all get through it together.

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My dad is an 82-year-old widower living in NYC with emphysema and COPD and can’t use FaceTime, Skype, etc. I’m based in Philly and we (my husband, 3-year-old daughter and I) can’t visit him for fear of bringing illness to him. I haven’t seen him in a few months and I legit don’t know when I will see his face again. I talk to him every day and he has folks who look out for him but it just sucks.

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We were hit early, I think maybe we had the first cases after China did, and from the start we have had regular communication from our prime minister, updates from the Ministry of Health and different government bodies working together to take care of everyone. Still, as the weeks have gone by and measures to restrict movement, social distance and work from home become increasingly strict, I am personally feelings its effects. I’m supposed to be in the process of renouncing my Malaysian citizenship to become Singaporean. COVID-19 is making it so that I can’t do that because Malaysia has suspended its consular services in Singapore until further notice. While stuck in this limbo, I also can’t visit my parents and family in Malaysia because the Singaporean government has discouraged residents from traveling. In Malaysia, my brother is a doctor and my family have been watching with despair and worry as the number of those affected keep climbing there. I’m trying not to go crazy by running outside, which we can still do, and learning jiu-jitsu from my boyfriend who’s a black belt (the best!) and who can’t train anymore because it’s such a high contact sport. 

A silver lining is that I work in communications at a reputable medical school in Singapore where our scientists were among the first in the world who cultured the new coronavirus, and are working to better understand the virus and develop the vaccines. This means that I feel like I’m actually helping when I help get the word out and it also means that the work load of my team has increased exponentially since this all began. Not a bad situation to be in considering what the virus has meant for freelancers and so many other businesses. While I’m straight out working from home or work (we are still doing alternate weeks at home and work) I always make sure I dress up to motivate myself. This might mean a sundress or a cute top or something, all I know is that it’s key to have something to look forward to at this time.

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I am a case manager for a transitional housing facility that transitions women back to society after being in prison. I have been quarantined, and as a result, I have not been able to be with the ladies I work with. At first, I felt like I was not able to support them. However, with some ingenuity we are still meeting via Skype. I am awed by how well the ladies are handling the situation and I cannot wait to see them.

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On March 17th, I was furloughed from my job of nearly three and a half years. For most people—my furloughed colleagues included—this is devastating news. I have always been a very realistic person, so when asked by my coworkers, “Why are you taking this so well?” I responded that I knew this was temporary and that after all of this is over with, I have my job back. But what really allowed me to handle the news better than my colleagues, was the fact that I have been running a small greeting card business on Etsy for about four years. Though the circumstances are not ideal, this quarantine has given me the opportunity to really focus on building my business. Additionally, with people being told to practice social distancing, I have seen a small surge in sales that I wouldn’t normally have in between holidays. I'm happy that my cards are out there, brightening up someone's day in these uncertain times.

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When my college moved online, I didn’t get to say a single goodbye. Everyone rushed home—leaving behind our belongings, our plans, our jobs, and our friends. Desperate for some sense of normalcy, I tried to stay productive during my first two weeks in quarantine. Over the past few days though, I’ve settled into a slower rhythm. I am just so grateful to have food and shelter and my health. And I will see my friends again (eventually), and I will return to my campus (eventually), and I will find a job again (hopefully soon?), and I will feel light again (eventually). Until then, I’ll be distracting myself with C&C, the Swedish melodrama "The Restaurant" (binge it!!), and Connect Four game nights with my dad.

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One area I have noticed is covered very little in any online content is anything for people now out of work. I have been made "temporarily redundant" with no clear idea on when I will be returning to work, the demand even for grocery store/delivery workers is less than the supply. I imagine there are many people in a similar position to me, with no idea when they are going to be back to work- I am lucky that I live in Canada and we have a lot of state intervention to help.

On a plus side, this uncertainty has been a really interesting catalyst for conversation on the ‘why’ of work/productivity with friends and (former) colleagues of mine. I read this article today, which discussed the historical set up of why people feel they need to contribute to society with work. As I look at my days being less ‘productive’ than I would like, it has been an interesting time to attempt to unpack why I feel SO guilty to be doing 'nothing'. Why do we look to work to give our lives meaning, rather than community or even religion or politics? And why does everyone feel they have to create something out of their unemployment- is making it through a pandemic with your mental health in tact not an achievement in itself?!

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I’m based in Washington DC and own a boutique in the city. We are entering our second year of business and were really getting our stride when I suddenly had to shutter the store. As a business the relies primarily on foot traffic to make money, this was of course terrifying. On top of that, I have a team of 12 women whom I suddenly had to figure out how to keep paying, and carry 75+ independent brands who also rely on our sales to make their living. I know I am not unique in feeling the immense strain and stress that small businesses around the world are feeling. However, I’m trying to remind myself every day to look at the silver linings of this situation and am trying to get creative in how we’re communicating with our customers. 

We’re now hosting virtual trunk shows via Instagram stories (which have been so much fun), I am hand delivering packages in the immediate DC area and actually meeting customers face to face, and i’m sharing a much more candid and realistic look at how I run my business. I’ve done away with the polished emails, Instagram posts, and means of communication that we’ve typically defaulted to and am doing things in real time. Is it glamorous? Not at all. But I’m hustling more than ever, and feeling incredibly grateful for my community both in DC and across the country. I hope we can all come out of this with a little more empathy and compassion, a stronger appreciation of small businesses everywhere, and a greater appreciation of the little acts of kindness and support that happen daily. 

(P.S. Check out Mallory's amazing boutique online here!)

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I’m an American living in Hamburg, Germany. My German fiancé and I were scheduled to be married in Washington, D.C. After the European ban went into effect, we postponed our wedding—my fiancé and his family wouldn’t even have been able to enter the USA. As a two-time childhood cancer survivor, I’ve been in self-isolation for almost 3 weeks now (not immune-compromised but tend to get sick more easily and more aggressively than the average person). Unlike other places around the world, Germany has handled the crisis in a fantastic manner—high testing, low death rate, and calm leadership from Chancellor Merkel! Once this is all over, I’m looking forward to finally marrying my Prince Charming!

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I had been following the news related to Coronavirus since January and I would like to think I was ahead of the curve in that I knew it would be bad, but I didn’t expect my life to be completely thrown upside down. Less than one week into the shutdown I was let go, and I’ve been applying and interviewing for jobs, though the idea that I could be unemployed for a while is terrifying. My mom is a doctor here at Rush in Chicago, so I’m naturally horrified for her. My boyfriend and I had to cancel our first anniversary trip, which was a major bummer, but I will say the silver lining in all of this has been realizing what a wonderful partner I’ve chosen. Nothing shows you how compatible you are like a nice global pandemic! 

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To preface, I live in Canada and work in a mental health non-profit organization. Professionally, it's been really interesting to see how my employer is responding to the crisis, because it's mental healthcare. Like many organizations, we're having to adapt strategies to stay relevant and still help people. That said, I'm the least essential person on my team, so I worry every day about receiving "that email." I also fear bringing up any work-from-home issues I've been having because I don't want to give my employer any excuse to decide that I'm expendable.

Personally, I'm finding my lifelong experience with severe anxiety to be both an advantage and a disadvantage at this time. Since I experience anxiety daily (pandemic or not), I already know coping mechanisms, regularly meet with my psychiatrist (now via Skype), and take meds for it. In that way, I'm used to the anxiety that so many people are now experiencing. It's a disadvantage, though, because my usual anxiety is so much worse. Many of the ways that my anxiety manifests itself physiologically are similar to the flu, which you can imagine is disconcerting these days. 

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Less than three weeks ago my dad asked me what my back up plan was when all the restaurants inevitably shut down due to COVID-19. The idea had not even crossed my mind. And I definitely did not have a plan.

Three days later, MoMA Ps1 closed, and two days after that all New York restaurants closed for dine-in service. I suddenly found myself purposeless and applying for unemployment.

Although daunting, I’m finding solace in knowing that I am not alone. In food, and in most creative fields, we spend our time thinking about how to be unique or how to stand out. But right now we have no choice but to just be; to stay home and reflect.

Through this likeness, we are finding community in ways that we couldn’t before. Everyone is cooking at home, everyone is baking and Chefs from all over are taking it upon themselves to lead people in the kitchen through this time. They are openly sharing recipes, ideas and advice. All for free. I feel more grateful now more than ever to be part of an industry that values taking care of people above all else.

Without knowing how long we will be here, I’m still working on my plan. But I’m inspired by the movement around me and searching for ways to contribute. 

**Editor's note: Natasha is the head chef at Mina's, a new restaurant at the MoMA Ps1 space in Long Island City. Read about them here, here, and here (and check them out when they reopen!).**

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I’m in the Boston area, have a 2-year-old and have been working from home for three weeks now. I’m sad that I can’t see my parents and nervous for my dad who has to take immunosuppressant drugs for his kidney transplant. I feel guilty for saying this but on the other hand I love spending so much more time with my daughter, seeing her for more than just 2 to 3 hours per day like I would otherwise is really eye-opening and I feel lucky to have the opportunity.

Thank you for sharing your stories. x

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