My Pandemic Divorce (from My First Job)

When Working from Home Doesn’t Work

Submitted by: Brianna Pettit (left and right), Suesan Pawlitski (center)

I’m going to tell you a secret. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been in a toxic relationship — with working remotely. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love working from home. The flexibility of waking up by my desk, rolling over to the computer, and clocking in made working so easy! All of my friends and colleagues at the Santa Barbara Independent understood that they weren’t going to see me very often, as I was investing my energy into this new partnership. Everyone gave me the time and space to adjust to this new relationship and wanted me to enjoy the honeymoon phase as long as possible.

But this didn’t last very long. I came to realize that working remotely is just as arduous as working in person. 

When I first started my role as the Web Content Manager at the Independent in June 2020, Zoom was the Holy Grail of remote working. Unfortunately, this came with its own challenges, like when I lost internet connection and the screen froze or when conversations were cut off after 40 minutes. 

Everyone says communication is one of the most important things to master in a relationship, but that was difficult too. I couldn’t just turn to my colleague and ask a question; I had to email them and wait to complete a task until they responded. 

Remote working took up so much of my energy that I was too tired to even practice self-care at the end of the day. And my sleep schedule? I didn’t realize how exhausting it was to work remotely under a weekly print deadline! It was the root of the mistakes I would make at work, like when I horrifyingly butchered a byline in the newsletters: Nick Welsh, a very nice person in real life, became Dick Welsh that morning. 

I soon started wondering how to break up with something I loved. I stuck it out until almost a year flew by. I eventually got the hang of the workflow, but I didn’t realize that staying at home in general was really hard on my mental health. I kept thinking about how my final year at UCSB was robbed and how disappointed I was that my early twenties were being stripped away from me. My productivity decreased, I wasn’t motivated, and my usual spunky personality defaulted to an irritated, sassy version of myself. 

Working remotely brought out the worst in me. And that’s when it hit me: I wanted to love working from home. But it certainly didn’t love me back. 

They say that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and that’s what I needed to do to save myself in this one-sided relationship. I put in so much effort to make this partnership work, but it just … didn’t. It wasn’t them; it was me. 

And when I least expected it, the universe answered my call. I recently took a new opportunity with the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, which requires me to work in person (with masks and social distancing rules in place). Although I’m definitely going to miss the comfort of being at home, I am ready to experience the real world again. 

So here I am, adjusting to a new normal. And hopefully the universe lets this honeymoon last longer.

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