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  • Gillette Vaira

Life under Lockdown

As a fourth-generation Montanan, I often feel that the national and worldwide news doesn't apply to us in the Big Sky State. I thought COVID-19 was just another sensationalized story. I didn't think that it would affect my neighbors, my family, or me. It was just another pandemic that was impacting people on the other side of the world. Boy, was I wrong.


Now, I have joined thousands of other Montanans, as we find a new normal with COVID-19. It has impacted how we work and how we live. And the longer we're under these changing conditions, I wonder how much we'll be permanently impacted - for better or for worse.


Changing Work Conditions

This week was the end of my first month of working from home as the director of alumni relations at Montana State University Billings. The first day of real change at work was on March 16. Our team started the morning with our first version of social distancing - sitting a chair away from each other during the team meeting. Then, we went back to work as usual. However, within a matter of hours, the conditions changed again and we were sent home for the afternoon.


The working-from-home directive turned into a full week. Toward the end of the first week at home, I suddenly had to return to campus to clean out our entire alumni office building and move everything into storage, as the campus needed the space for students to live. It took two of us eight hours to put away 93 years' worth of campus and alumni memories. Talk about a new normal!


Life at Home

Before COVID-19, my husband and I would regularly go to the movies and out to eat - or we'd have friends over to our house for games. We'd go to an escape room or take a weekend excursion to visit family. All of that has abruptly stopped. COVID-19 is now in control.


A birthday party was undone. A family funeral was the most unusual - with the restrictions on public gatherings. And a family trip was cancelled. However, it's not all bad. We're cooking more. My husband and I have more time together without the evening errands and commute time. My dog and I still go for walks - and I'm getting more quality time with our cats. I have also noticed that we're doing a better job of checking in with our family through calls and texts. And we're keeping a better eye on some folks in our lives who need extra care - to make sure they have enough groceries and even enough conversations during this uncertain time. It has been an opportunity to reflect on what's important and make time for what really matters.


Looking Ahead

Despite living in a shelter-in-place state, life has remained relatively ordinary. Zoom and WebEx meetings have become a part of my daily routine. I've spent more time on the phone talking to people in the last month than I have probably in the entire year. People want voice-to-voice and screen-to-screen interactions. I suppose that should be refreshing. Maybe we're taking ourselves back to a more personal approach to interactions.


No matter what the next days, weeks, and months hold - I look forward to seeing our society progress and make positive changes from the effects of this situation. Perhaps working conditions will take a more technological approach in the future. Maybe we'll make better decisions about cleanliness and how we interact with others. Hopefully we'll be more appreciative of the relationships in our lives. Whatever the results - I'm looking forward to being a part of the positive change that we'd all like to see in the society that remains after COVID-19.

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