#WFH Diaries: Melissa Gautier of Sidewalk Sherpas
As confinement continues in most parts of the world, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Melissa Gautier, creator of the walking tour app Sidewalk Sherpas.
Give us a one-sentence bio of yourself.
Human woman wandering planet Earth.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
Currently hunkered down in sunny Santa Barbara, California, with one big brown dog, one cuddly white cat, and one millennial niece (when she's not with her boyfriend).
What's your work situation like at the moment?
Projects, so was working from home before the world caught fire anyway. Most days it's me with my laptop on the patio, under a massive umbrella.
Describe your socializing strategy.
Skype sessions, bringing back the occasional ancient phone call, or visiting friends in their yards (a luxury of non-city life.) As a dog owner I'm forced out of the house, whether I want to or not, a few times every day and inevitably end up chatting with a neighbor. I feel lucky to have a good amount of actual human connection in addition to my virtual lifelines.
How are you dealing with childcare, if applicable?
Never been more thankful to not have children! Hearing everyone's horror stories has made me appreciate that spending my time however I want is a rare privilege.
What are you reading?
No news. Ever. The really important stuff seeps through, and I prefer to avoid the terror-inducing headlines unless absolutely necessary. I've always been a massive reader though, and I'm one of those people who always has 5-7 books going at any time.
Currently rotating: The Pali Cannon, The Complete Short Novels by Anton Chekhov, Lapham's Quarterly - Animals, and Homo Deus. I'm also rereading one of my favorite fiction books ever, The Library at Mount Char, and planning future adventures with Lonely Planet's The Travel Atlas.
What are you watching?
Black Monday on Showtime. I feel like I don't hear anyone talking about this show when it's the best thing on television right now, in my opinion. Other than that, Ozark, Watchmen, and My Brilliant Friend.
What are you listening to?
LCD Soundsystem radio station on Spotify during the day to keep the house vibe happy, and Neil Gaiman audible books at bedtime to keep the brain from overworking.
How are you staying fit?
Stretch/meditation as soon as I wake up. Jogs (or long walks when it's too hot) and free weight/yoga sessions on the patio at some point in the day.
Have you taken up a hobby?
I started a few new projects, but I've definitely been less productive than I thought I would through this thing. I mean, it seems like the perfect time to get stuff done, right? But, the emotional impact of the state of the world right now feels really heavy. Just getting through the day, maintaining a positive perspective and a few genuine human connections, sometimes feels like an undertaking.
I've been trying to listen to what I need that particular day, and being forgiving if it's not necessarily productive. It feels like self-care is more of a priority right now.
Any tips for getting necessities?
Subscribe and Save on Amazon has been my lifeline for years now. All the important stuff is automatically in queue already, so I haven't really had to think about it, fortunately.
An awkward moment since all this started.
Adjusting to that 6-feet distance thing can be awkward. Two strangers trying to navigate that together can get weird for sure.
Best work email you got since all this started.
I created a walking tour app of NYC neighborhoods when I lived there, and my weekly stats email showed that downloads have soared in the last week or so. People need to get out of their apartment but don't have many options with everything closed down. It makes me happy that New Yorkers are using this time to learn about their neighborhood. There is such amazing history there, but people are usually too busy to learn it.
An aha! moment since all this started.
I move a lot, like every year or so. After this experience, I realized that for future moves I should consider whether this would be a place where I'd be happy if I had to be in quarantine for any period of time. Not because I'm worried this will happen again, but because I think that answer translates into whether or not I'm happy in my immediate surroundings.
I feel lucky to have been in Santa Barbara when everything went down. I'm usually a city person, so it was more likely that I'd be in some crowded foreign city than in a beautiful beachside neighborhood with 24/7 sunshine and the happiest people on the planet. Every day I can walk to the beach or just around my neighborhood, looking at beautiful gardens and chatting with friendly neighbors.
Normally I'd consider things like proximity to subway stops or distance to airports, retail, or restaurants when picking a place to live. I see now that by prioritizing convenience and entertainment, I've been sacrificing my everyday environment.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
I don't have much hope for any big changes or revelations coming out of this, unfortunately. I think things will go back to normal, and each person will take away something different based on how they're spending their time right now. Mostly I hope that all those people who temporarily fostered dogs fall in love and keep them as forever pets. That would be a great unexpected benefit of all this madness.