“This is something we’re going through together, but we’re experiencing it individually. I think it’s important to let yourself feel every emotion you’re feeling without feeling guilty about it.”
Kayla Berenson is a rising female journalist, social media content creator, and podcast host. She’s originally from Los Angeles, California but currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. She majored in journalism in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and worked as a reporter at a local newspaper in Charlotte for seven months before she was laid off as a result of the pandemic and the effects it has had on the newspaper’s revenue.
Kayla has always been passionate about covering stories spotlighting underrepresented communities, and developed a newfound talent for social media storytelling as a reporter. She had planned on applying to a social media content creation job with a nonprofit by the end of 2020, but after getting laid off, she was offered a job curating social media at a content marketing agency that partners with a nonprofits and mission-driven organizations. Although things didn’t go according to the “original plan,” she says she feels very lucky to have found a new (and fulfilling) job so quickly.
Right before the first case was announced in Charlotte, Kayla and her best friend released the first episode of their new podcast, “Yas, Queen City,“ (Editor’s note: CHECK IT OUT!) on March 13. The podcast focuses on female empowerment– and aims to be a guide for girls in their 20’s who move to Charlotte, (because there are so many!). They created a ton of hype around it, and had guests lined up, a booked studio to record in, and were ready to take off on this exciting journey.
The pair ended up only recording one episode in the studio before things got crazy. They weren’t sure how to proceed, since they had just launched the project, but decided to keep everything moving forward via Zoom and so far, all but one of the episodes have been successfully recorded over Zoom.
“We’ve had our guests and we’re continuing to put out content during this crazy time. It’s been challenging because we want to talk over each other like we would in person, but we’ve made it work! We’re getting more and more creative with our episodes and our guests, and even tapped into the online dating scene a bit and recorded a Zoom date to put on the podcast (with permission of course)! The support we’ve received has been amazing and I’m just excited to be able to go back to recording in person as soon as it’s safe to do so!”
Where are you quarantining, and what has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission?
“I’m extremely fortunate to be quarantined with my family. I moved to Charlotte last summer with my mom and my sister, so I am quarantining with them. Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is) acted relatively quickly in placing restrictions and the state of North Carolina was on a stay at home order until May 8, which is when a phased reopening began. The county closed the tennis courts and parking lot gates at all of the public parks, making them available exclusively to those in walking distance. Face masks are slowly becoming a requirement in most grocery stores and pharmacies here.
I think the situation has been handled well as peak projections have moved from April to July and the hospitals hopefully will not be so overwhelmed by that time. However, I’m nervous about the phased reopening because from what I’ve read, the county isn’t in a place like Los Angeles, where anyone who wants to get tested is able to do so… So, I’m worried the second wave of cases is going to be even worse and I would feel way more comfortable if we got to a place where we could test significantly more people on a daily basis than we are doing right now.”
What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?
“Spending time outside has been a huge mood booster for me. I walk every day and sometimes, I’ll eat my breakfast or lunch outside to get some fresh air and just recharge. I also listen to at least two podcasts a day, usually ones that aren’t too heavily focused on the current state of the world. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s equally important to stay sane.
What’s the biggest challenge you think you’ve faced during this quarantine situation?
“The biggest challenge has been not being able to see my friends or my extended family in Charlotte. I’ve found such wonderful people here that I’ve really enjoyed going out with, and not being able to see them or go out with them has been really difficult. I also have a lot of extended family in Charlotte whom I’m very close with and saw on a nearly weekly basis before the pandemic, so not being able to spend time with them has been a challenge. I consider myself an extrovert and thrive in social environments, so staying inside and having little to no social interaction hasn’t been easy. I’ve had Zoom calls with my friends and family, but it just isn’t the same.”
What has been your daily routine so far during the pandemic?
“Having a routine has been the most important part of getting through this pandemic, especially when I wasn’t working. I wake up every morning at 8, put on a podcast, make breakfast and get ready for my work Zoom call at 9. After our team call, I work until about 11:30/noonish and then I will make lunch, and then get back to work until about 3 (it’s a part time job). Then, I go on a walk in my neighborhood and listen to music or another podcast, or call a friend. When I get back, I’ll usually work out and/or play a board game with my mom and my sister, and then we eat dinner together.
I find the weekends harder when I don’t have work to keep me occupied, but I try to come up with little projects for myself, working on my portfolio website, having Zoom/FaceTime happy hours and game nights, or baking/cooking with my family.”
Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?
“In addition to having family in Charlotte, I also have family in South Africa. My grandma, who lives in South Africa, was supposed to come visit this summer, but now we don’t know if that will happen.”
Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration for everyone going through this together?
“What I’ve learned is to not disqualify your emotions and feelings just because there are people who ‘have it worse.’ This is something we’re going through together, but we’re experiencing it individually. I think it’s important to let yourself feel every emotion you’re feeling without feeling guilty about it.
Also, even though you don’t see it on the news or on Twitter, there are plenty of people who are, in fact, taking social distancing seriously. That’s not to say that it’s enough to flatten the curve, but just that there is hope in humanity :)”
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