The past year has been filled with disruption, isolation, anxiety, and, for all too many of us, personal illness and loss of loved ones and friends due to COVID. And yet, so many YaleWomen have striven to transform this dark period into something more than a lost year—using it as an opportunity to try new things, revisit old interests, learn, experiment, and explore.
When we asked you to share what new things you’ve done in the year of the pandemic via a Facebook post, we were happily surprised by both the number of responses we received and the breadth of your answers. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been.
After all, to paraphrase (and update) Isaac Asimov, “The intelligent [wo]man is never bored.” Below, we report on how YaleWomen are not only staving off boredom—they’re also seizing new opportunities for growth and experiencing their mental, physical, spiritual, and social selves in new ways.
“Diana of Ephesus and her friends and saints march on"
Photocollage by Alexis Krasilovsky
© 2021 by Alexis Krasilovsky
Used with permission of the artist. All rights reserved.
1. You’ve expanded your knowledge.
From learning new languages to delving deep into history to auto mechanics and far beyond, YaleWomen used their hiatus to learn and explore. Marianna Steriadis ’72 most probably wins the “linguistic scholar” award; she’s learning Arabic, Mandarin, Korean, Finnish, Hebrew, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Dutch and is “refreshing languages I studied back at Yale and in graduate school: Russian, French, Biblical Greek, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Bulgarian.” Whew. Others of us may not be such polyglots, but Duolingo has really been getting a daily workout for months and months from Gillian Smith ’88, Wendy Hufford ’88, and myself (I’m at 311 consecutive days as of this writing).
Nora Staal MA ’06 has absorbed so many history documentaries and lectures that her husband “thinks she deserves an honorary degree.” (And with the birth of her baby, she’s also learning about parenting and child care!) Pry Sinha ’94 has been delving into the subject of women in ancient history. Rachel Margaret Glodo ’13 now knows how to maintain her motorcycle. Leah Cardullo ’00 learned how to teach high school English “under the weirdest circumstances of my 19-year career.” Ellen Ryan ’77 took a quant tack, learning SQL, Python, and cybersecurity. And speaking of quants, Alice Barden ’84 studied stock trading to the point where “maybe, I think, I’m actually getting somewhere.”
You also went in for online courses and other academic pursuits. Darcy Walker ’71 fed her head in all sorts of ways: reading all of Shakespeare’s plays with a FB group and taking multi-week Yale courses on Dante and Rousseau. (Along with her head, she also put her hands to work, Zoom-studying for 10 weeks with the Royal School of Needlework). Megan Crandall ’21 followed (and perhaps tippled) along with the Frick’s “Cocktails with a Curator.”
2. You’ve leaned into your artistic side.
Painting, music, filmmaking, photography, crafting… it’s been the right time for some right-brain time. Gina Ottoboni ’92 MA is finding that taking up painting again is “wonderfully expressive and cathartic,” while Celia Scher Wagner ’77 is making the pandemic her subject, including more than a dozen portraits of people in masks in the 50+ paintings she’s completed this year. Romina Da Costa ’07 is using a mobile app to learn to play the piano, while Cherie Hart ’79 took up the cello, saying, “whenever I’m bored in lockdown, I play it” and Sara Figal ’87 began remote harp lessons “with a magnificent teacher who never would’ve been available to me in former times.” Angela Cason ’83 has kept her hands busy by both learning some new pieces on the piano and completing four afghans and four needlepoints. Elizabeth Lane ’88 MMus has been performing concerts online with her Bach Aria Soloists (catch them at https://bachariasoloists.com/concerts). Kathryn Blume ’90 is doing “lots of songwriting.” Shari Hall ’86 has written her musical memoir and completed/produced her fourth album, “Hope.” Samantha Grant ’96 has finally fulfilled her lifetime dream of getting a family band together—with an album in the works! Omonike Akinyemi ’95 has been reimagining some of the student films focused on social issues that she made at Yale, “finding a lot of truth” in them. And Alexis Krasilovsky ’71 has been making gorgeous photocollages out of photos she’s taken of asphalt in deserted parking lots; see one of them above.
3. You’re connecting with yourself, spiritually and physically.
As you’ve sequestered from the world, you’ve had a chance to listen to your inner voice and to your body in new ways. Elizabeth Cawns ’98 M.Div ’98, S.T.M. ’99 is spending “more time in disciplined prayer, intercessory prayer, more journaling, more letter-writing by hand, and more time discerning my next steps in life.” Elizabeth Lynn ’92 writes that she is “realizing, finally, that my life is much broader than my accomplishments. Investing in my marriage, parenting my teen, and prioritizing my health. Cooking more, and better, food, and building my physical strength and stamina.” Maureen Labrum Webster ’95 has “learned how to listen more actively to my children, laugh more with my husband, and live each day at a time, reveling in down time and embracing boredom and gaps of unscheduled time.” Beth Fry ’90 explored and intensified her political ideas and was teargassed in her first-ever protest march.
On the physical side, you’re getting deeper into yoga, investing in home gyms (and actually using them!) and getting out and about. Remie Christ ’91 has dramatically increased the number of hikes she and her family are taking over southern NY state. Jessica Yang ’16 has taken up rollerblading (as well as bass guitar). Tara Welch Smith ’98 went from never running a step to long-distance running—she’s even considering a 50K this spring.
4. You’ve found new ways to connect with others.
You’ve built workarounds to make sure that the need for physical distancing doesn’t distance you from others. Martha Willette Lewis ’93 MFA projected a nightly poem/ aphorism/ thought about the day from her window onto the street, which you can see on Facebook at #quarantinecinegram. Susan Jonas ’87 MFA, ’90 DFA is carrying on French conversations on Skype with an Italian professor who lives in Venezuela! Debra Bernick ’72 has connected with classmates through Zoomba First Yale Women dance & chat session every 2 weeks. Annie Finch, ’79 first brought her poetry & women’s spirituality classes online, and then expanded into an entire online women’s community. Nancy Smith, ’81 JD, has bonded with women she’d never met through FaceBook groups and Zoom meetings, and participated in online jam sessions and music classes. Erin Cushing ’07 MPH is talking with her grandmother (and other family members) more than ever through Zoom.
You’ve also deepened your connections with those in your ‘bubble.’ Caroline Van ’79 and daughter Ali ’08 have learned the art of pampering a 93-year-old (mom, grandma, great-grandma) “from head to toe.” Ellen Rome ’84 has also found upside in the downtime: “I laughed more and loved each extra moment with my previously road warrior husband and two young adult kids.”
5. You’re starting new ventures and re-examining your paths.
The pause in everyday life has given some of you pause about your everyday life—so you’ve found something new to do. Nicole Billick ’04 left her job and learned how to publish children’s books and started a book/cooking-along-with-young-children blog. Clarissa Marzan ’14 decided to become a part-time Pure Barre instructor to balance her work in tech PR. After working as a pediatric nurse practioner for many years and seeing so many kids with depression and anxiety, Rhonda Heschel CN 2002, MSN 2003 became certified a pediatric mental health specialist this year. June Alexander ’19 “applied, interviewed, and got accepted into a PsyD program.” Vanessa Avery ’01, MA ’03, M.Phil ’05 says she “seems to have become a documentary filmmaker” using Zoom to create 8 films (and counting) that explore diverse religious congregations across the US and Canada. And Breen Sullivan Clark ’01 decided to go all in in turning her women-focused community for investors and founders, The Fourth Floor, into a fully scalable, tech-enabled platform.
These are just some of the responses you generously provided to a YaleWomen Facebook query; there were so many more. Indeed, the breadth and depth of what we as a group have taken on and accomplished during the past year is extraordinary—but in a way, not really surprising. In tough times, YaleWomen have generally found new ways and means to inject a little “light and truth” into the darkness—for ourselves, for our families and friends, and for society as a whole.
— Laura Teller, ’77