The Quarantine Question

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

I’m writing this in August 2021. I’ve been working from home since March 2020. That’s seventeen months of sitting at an old desk in my guest room. That’s seventeen months of Zoom meetings. That’s seventeen months of exhaustion and a realization that no matter who you are, or what you do, we are all human beings, and we are all riding the tall, churning waves of uncertainty together.

I’m not sure I believe in the separation between professional and personal life. I think it’s a false dichotomy and another one of those dangerous binaries that we are asked to question. While I definitely believe in setting boundaries that allow me to step away from work, I no longer think that my “work self” or my “home self” are all that different. In some profound ways I have felt more present with my work and more attentive to the humanity of my colleagues and the community partners with whom I work. Almost every meeting now begins with personal check in. The perfunctory “how are you doing?” has been subtly replaced with “tell me how you are today.” If I had to define it, I’d say that there is a vulnerability, a presentness, and an honesty in my quarantine work life that gives me hope and makes me grateful to be working in the arts during this impossible and yet opportune time.

STEPHANIE PARRISH, director of learning and community partnerships, Portland Art Museum