The Quarantine Question

How has the past year's quarantine affected your professional life?

Strangely, from the kitchen table and the living room floor, I felt that I traveled more than usual. A group of students were to spend the fall semester studying in Kyoto, and I was to visit them for ten days, but those plans were canceled. Instead, I was heartened to witness their resilience as each chose a different American city in which to stay, revising their studies for their new locations, and we conducted our meetings online. I also was invited to speak at more venues than I might otherwise have been, due to the relative ease with which those institutions and organizations could host virtual events. Better still, I attended events hosted by institutions around the world, and learned from a wide array of speakers on an astonishing variety of topics—people from whom I’d long wished to learn at campuses, museums, and libraries that I’d always hoped to visit. Those opportunities were wonderful, and I don’t want them to end. 

But the screens . . . the screens . . . over fifteen hours each day looking at a computer screen for one reason or another . . . teaching, meetings, writing, grading, course prep, research, volunteering, office hours, and even socializing. Too, too much, the screens. I felt my synapses misfiring.

More connected than ever yet feeling more disconnected than ever.

RACHEL LEIBOWITZ, cultural landscape historian and assistant professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry