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Staff reflections during a pandemic: Anna Leisher on adjusting to the new normal and being the change

By April 13, 2020Blog

As the world adjusts to a new way of living and working during the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked the Riverlife staff to reflect on how the new reality might impact our work to reclaim, restore and promote Pittsburgh’s riverfronts. Anna Withrow Leisher joined Riverlife this year as Planning and Project Manager.

I have heard that it takes about three weeks to start a new habit. So, most of us have established whatever ‘normal’ is until further notice.

I had hardly settled into my new routine as Planning and Project Manager at Riverlife. So much has changed since I joined the team in early February that it seems like a very long time ago. I had just spent the first part of the year converting my home office into a nursery for my then 3-month-old baby girl. Because I was moving to work in an out of home office downtown, the space would be more useful for her, or so I thought.

I had about four weeks to settle into my new routine- adjusting to time away from my daughter, learning the ins and outs of my new projects, and becoming familiar with all of the dynamic personalities that bring the ‘life’ to our work at Riverlife. It was all really great!

…and then EVERYTHING changed!

I will not make light of the very terrible aspects to what we are experiencing. It has uprooted everyone’s daily routines adding challenges that we were not prepared for, and has brought much about to the world as we know it and how our society will recover. Families, including my own, have lost loved ones without being able to able to come together to grieve.

Aside from the very serious aspects of a global pandemic, the opportunities that are a by-product may be a silver lining. In our former, fast-paced world, many folks aspired to slow down, smell the roses, and appreciate the simple things. Since the outside world seemingly shut down last month, I have enjoyed more time with my family and more home-cooked meals. I suddenly have more time to go for walks and plant a garden.

The requirement to socially isolate gives the opportunity to re-calibrate our daily routines, and set new patterns. It seems that the widespread emphasis on health has inspired individuals to establish healthier habits.

As someone who plans and promotes the use of public trails, it is exciting to see how the public is relying on our parks in a new way. While the increase in park use raises additional concerns about allowing space for safe social distancing, we can rethink outdoor spaces that we didn’t think of as parks for our personal mobility and enjoyment.

Many of us have added the uncertain phrase “when this all is over” to describe that unknown time in the future that we will see one another in real life. We all know by this point that the normal to follow our physical isolation will look different than the normal that we knew before COVID 19.

It is my hope that the widespread introspective adjustment that we are all going through now will lead to permanent positive changes “when this is all over”, and that the normal my daughter will know will be a really great one. I am finding purpose in being the change that I want to see.

Photo by Anna Leisher.