Intellectual and Developmental Disability Employment Specialist and Special Education Professor, Angel Key, South Bay Los Angeles, CA USA

“We’ve got a pandemic — and now a national stance on combatting racism, and I can’t wait to continue conquering the world together.”

Angel Key

Angel Key is an Intellectual and Developmental Disability Employment Specialist and a Special Education Professor in West Los Angeles. She loves her job and as a black professional during these chaotic times, Angel recognizes the importance of taking safety precautions for her students, clients, and the community she works to serve into consideration.

“It’s a pleasure and stressful time because while I am working with others, we have to remember to take care of ourselves as well. I am a proud alumnus from the [Cal Poly SLO] Class of 2017, graduating with my Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration concentration in Socioeconomics.

I’m so proud with the innovations and academic improvements from the College of Science and Mathematics. Cal Poly gave me such a push on my education and to enact the learn by doing method in my profession and for that, I’m so thankful.” 

Angel works as a mental health professional, and has been witnessing these challenging times while also being expected to actively provide assistance to others. She describes the challenges she’s been facing working from home and separated from her longtime boyfriend of five years, who is stranded in Tennessee, and the discussions that are happening on how racism is a systemic problem in the United States right now — as Angel and Andrew are an interracial couple, Angel acknowledges that this a teachable moment for people. 

“We’ve got a pandemic — and now a national stance on combatting racism, and I can’t wait to continue conquering the world together.” Angel declared. Read more about Angel’s COVID Chronicle, below:

Angel and Andrew

Where are you living, and who are you currently quarantining with?

“I am currently quarantining with my mom who has kept me company, because my better half, Andrew is residing in Tennessee for work and couldn’t come home soon enough… I couldn’t catch a flight [in time] with the airports shut down in the south.

I miss him very much and both of us are natives of Orange County, so our families are here too. We all miss him. I live in the South Bay because I work in West Los Angeles and fly back to Tennessee every 2-3 months for a minimum of two weeks at a time. Before the pandemic hit, Andrew and I were supposed to go to Boston and celebrate our half-year anniversary (We’ve been together for 5 years) and it’s a tradition to do something fun or travel but we couldn’t make it, because Boston at the time was an entire hot-spot for the pandemic.

I haven’t been home for six months at this point. I’m anxiously waiting to purchase my ticket and take a break from work, especially working in mental health during this time as a professional, I need a break.” 

What has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission? Is this how you think the situation is best handled?

“The South Bay has completely shut down, and there is [usually] a super long wait to get into stores, [either because the] food supply can be running out, [or] people are shown to overbuy items so stores have been putting limitations to reduce the runout.

In my community, we have a high senior citizen population which is great, and sad at the same time — because many of the passings have been in the senior care facilities — and it’s totally heartbreaking. I think that our community is doing the best that they can. At my corporation, the virus has been contracted by a few employees and clients within our home facilities with thankfully no deaths.

I really feel that people need to wear a mask, stand six feet apart, and be respectful of first responders and people in health care and mental health — because it’s a lot right now, more than ever — and people need to give us a little room to have grace during these times because everyone is stressed out, and we are all struggling together.”

What has been your daily routine so far during the pandemic? 

“I have had a really wacky schedule, especially when it comes to daily routines, because my schedule has been changing due to my job and the clients/students we serve. I’ve been trying to balance between a morning cycling class online (yay Les Mills! or SoulCycle), Barre Classes in my living room, and walking to the beach.

I work a full schedule, and I have to take breaks in-between because sitting in my living room, working out in the living room, and trying to just be “free” is exhausting — so I look forward to going back to my office desk.

They said the statistic was 50% of people who would like to continue working from home [editor’s note: at the time this was published on 6/5] and Andrew and I are just ready to go back. Thankfully, I have my own private space with a door and glass that peeks into our conference room at work.

After work, I love gardening — it’s a new hobby that I’ve picked up, and I have about nine plants so far — and they are growing! I’m learning the science of horticulture, watching videos on how to re-grow plants, and I’m trying to make a rose tree [at this moment].

Angel’s new love for gardening

Andrew and I also have amped up our Skype date nights by cooking, baking, [watching] movies, and discussions on how racism is a systemic problem in our country right now — and as an interracial couple, it’s a teachable moment for people too.”

Courtesy of Angel’s Instagram story on @okayangelxo

What’s the biggest challenge you think you’ve faced during this quarantine situation?

“The largest challenge is finding a balance between wanting to digitally be with Andrew all day, find my balance and support people with disabilities and their transition to a digital platform, and also giving myself some grace — because I know I’m struggling — and this is so not a normal time in our world.

I feel like there is a lack of self-care, and an expectation that we have to still give 100-percent while going through these obstacles — and that’s just not ok.”

Together forever and always

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“I’ve been trying my best to do activities, paint with Andrew,  I mean – we had a “Covid-Cation” Anniversary, [pictured below] and I’m trying to come up with creative ways to make our next adventure special.

I’m ready to come home. I’ve cried a lot, fought with my better half on petty things, and learned so much being apart from him so long, that it’s actually made me learn so much more about Andrew, — his quirks, and mine. I appreciate him so much more, and that has what keeps my spirits going is that I’m with my best friend, the love of my life, and we are battling this together through it all.

We’ve got a pandemic — and now a national stance on combatting racism, and I can’t wait to continue conquering the world together.”

Angel and Andrew’s “Covid-Cation”

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future? 

“The travel ban has most definitely impacted our travel — just the fact of coming home is a current struggle. Our city of LA has done such a great job (or the best that they can) when challenging this virus, and unfortunately, our airlines haven’t stepped up their part just yet.

My situation is super unique, [in the way that] Andrew is also stuck, and he could have been home here in California, because his corporation has been sending people to work from home since the end of February, while I have been working non-stop both digitally and out in the field.

I think that this experience has taught me that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ and to ‘not be your 100 percent.’ It’s our responsibility, and I’m learning that I need to make self-care just as important and equal to the amount of work and advice that I give, to the people I serve.

To those of you who are stuck with your better half more than ever: little arguments are good and healthy, but most importantly — they make your relationship stronger, which I’m thankful for. I’m super thankful for the bumps in this process and co-inhabiting in a digital world feels just the same for me as if he was next to me — and for Andrew, I’m so thankful. He’s my better half and I wouldn’t be surviving this without him, I feel it.”

Follow Angel on Instagram for important information on how to combat systematic racism, and for resources on how best to contributing toward and get educated about the historic Black Live Matter movement.

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