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Letters From Home: 'This Time Has Shown Me There Is Another Way'

From left to right: A photograph of Nicole Derifield-West's niece to the left, herself, and niece flying a kite.
Nicole Derifield-West
From left to right: A photograph of Nicole Derifield-West's niece to the left, herself, and niece flying a kite.

WOSU's Letters from Home collects stories about day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we heard from Ohioans who shared their experiences and stories.

Nicole Derifield-West from the South Side

My entire life I’ve had multiple jobs. I am now 37 and currently run two businesses and watch my 5-year-old niece three days a week. I have spent a lifetime moving at 100 mph.

The quarantine was a forced full stop, and for me it was a gift, an extraordinary gift of time. I am a full-time, self-employed hairstylist and was forced to shut down. Ten weeks without income was not fun by any means, but 10 weeks away from a career that has become increasingly stressful and detrimental to my health (I was recently diagnosed with asthma) was a welcome reprieve.

I’ve been paycheck-to-paycheck my whole life and I’ve never had the luxury to take this much time for myself. Being home gave me the opportunity to reflect, to slow down enough to hear my thoughts and reassess where I should be putting my energy.

I cried when the governor reopened our industry, because the bubble was burst, every cell in my body was resisting going back to the way things were. For me, and everyone, I believe a lesson that could be taken from all of this is to slow down.

We are all living at a frantic pace and missing so much. For me this time has showed me there is another way: I don’t have to continue to live like this. It’s like the universe gave me permission to change. I am forever in gratitude for this time. It has marked a pivotal point in my life.

Anonymous from a farm in rural Ohio

I got a tattoo today. Lots of hand sanitizer, face mask wearing, waiver signing. The tatt was “ruach.” Checked with the rabbi to make sure this expresses “breath of God.”

I want to remember the importance of breath during this time... the lost breath of a Black man, the struggle to breathe for COVID-19 sufferers, and especially that God is present through it all.

David Lewis from Columbus 

Four words: it's not over yet!

Anonymous from Olde Towne East

At first, I lived in fear. Every bone in my body and every thought I had resisted the truth of our very unfortunate situation. Just do this for two weeks. Two more weeks. No, all of April. All of May and June. No, do it forever. Cancel your events two weeks out. No, three. No, until October. In fact, make it until 2021. We ride rollercoasters made of our coping mechanisms, and those tools are being dismantled by the stark reality we presently inhabit.

Now, after well over three months of living in this fresh hellscape, I find myself more angry than sad, more frustrated than fearful, and more pragmatic than hopeful. Those seeking political power weaponize the idea that masks are injunctions on our freedom. That our economy is more important than the lives of those who it serves. That, if you're Black, gay, trans, liberal - in fact, if you're not me, then you are my enemy. That is their MO. That is their gun.

I've faced the full gambit. Barely skirted by job eliminations. Watched as my city writhed in pain over the loss of George Floyd and others. Watched my community get beat and pepper sprayed and shot with rubber bullets that are "less than lethal.” Watched as cops chased down and ripped the legs off a double amputee. I watched the knee take a life.

I've watched family members lose jobs. The people closest to me in the tides of deep pain. I wake up every morning and for a brief, blissful moment, I forget we are in a pandemic. I remember the reality every morning and relive it. I pull myself out of bed and some days I just can't. The weight of the dissonance is so heavy. I have it so good compared so others, but comparisons are just that.

I saw my partner for the first time in months. We don't know when it will be safe to see each other regularly.

The only way forward is through. Buck up, because we're not leaving this without some scars. Find your new coping mechanisms, because the ones you had no longer work. Leave your city-dweller hedonistic aspirations back in March, because until we have a vaccine, you're not going out to leisurely trips to the bars, the stores, the restaurants.

You're don't get to pretend like this doesn't affect you. Yes, for the first time in many of our lives, we have to put in the work. The hard work. In our in-fighting we have forgotten that this is a war against an invisible enemy who doesn't play by our rules.

It doesn't care if you're white. It doesn't care about your entitlement. Not your money. Not your achievements. Not how loudly you ask to speak to the manager. It wants you dead, and it isn't even alive itself.

Go back to your bubbles and tell them with vigor and indignation about the story you read here. Tell them about the crazy liberal that told a biased pandemic story. Minimize my pain and make my experience invalid. Perhaps consider that there are things to consider outside of that bubble, because if we don't come together to fight this war, we have already lost.

Protestors take a knee during a recent march in Columbus, Ohio during the Black Lives Matter protests.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU Public Media
WOSU Public Media
Protestors take a knee during a recent march in Columbus, Ohio during the Black Lives Matter protests.

This week, Letters From Home continues asking the question: What do you want to say about your pandemic experience?

Answer this question using the form below, and try to keep below 1,000 words. Your response may be edited for length and clarity.

WOSU brings you Letters from Home in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art.
WOSU brings you Letters from Home in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art.