Coronavirus Q&A: Kendyl Mounce

About Coronavirus Q&A

When the COVID-19 crisis reached us in Gainesville, our instinct was to publish a leadership article about the pandemic. But the truth is, we’re in the same position as everybody else. We’re not medical professionals or global leaders. It’s not our place to tell you how to respond to lockdown measures or how to create a work-from-home routine. We’re a branding agency with clients and a team to protect. And right now, our team is understandably on edge. In just a few days, many of us have seen our partners and friends lose their jobs. Our streets are lined with restaurants and bars that are now closed. Given the enormity of these changes, we decided the most appropriate action was to give everyone at Parisleaf a voice, a creative outlet, an acknowledgment of their feelings, a safety valve for fear, and a record of our agency as we overcome our biggest challenge to date. This is the most honest action we knew how to take. During this eight-part series, you’ll hear from Parisleaf employees on how they’re coping with the ongoing pandemic, both at work and in life, and how they’re finding hope and gratitude during this time of unprecedented unknowns.

Kendyl Mounce – Senior Designer
Did this new reality gradually sink in or can you pinpoint a specific turning point? 

It’s been a blur. The moment it should’ve hit me was when we were sitting in our Parisleaf COVID-19 meeting discussing how we were going to try working from home the next Monday. Everything continued escalating from there, but I feel like I just woke up in it one day after we’d already been practicing social distancing for a week or two. 

At the beginning of this, I felt like if I could worry about everything for other people, that those people would have to worry less. I was taking in every piece of information that I could, good or bad. I didn’t realize how much it was impacting me until I noticed myself not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to do my work, not wanting to take care of myself at all. It never registered to me that it would be this bad, and I had to put a stop to what I was doing. 

I’ve always respected your healthy relationship with mental health. What things are you doing to take care of yourself right now?

I feel like my whole life has been preparing for this quarantine and I didn’t even know it. I’m quick to jump into self-care when it’s needed. I do group therapy every week and have kept up with that online, which has been interesting in a good way. Seeing where everyone lives and seeing their pets, which are things you don’t get to see because we’re always in an office, has been neat and has deepened our connections. 

I’m really working to give myself freedom. If something sounds fun or happy or like it could bring me joy, I’m trying to not analyze it or judge myself for feeling that way. I just say, Oh you want to sit on your phone and scroll through TikTok for two hours? Then you want to learn that dance? Okay, do it. You want to go buy two dozen frozen Olive Garden breadsticks and eat two of them a day for the foreseeable future? Do it. Just being kind to myself and letting myself be impulsive.

We’re in a spot where every single person on this planet is dealing with some of the same trauma. Every person has a heaviness on them, and I don’t think we’re able to show up for each other as much as we would normally be able to. We’ve all had to look inward for energy and strength and find ways to fill our own cups. I don’t know that it’s fair to depend on everyone else to do that for you at this point because there’s, understandably, not a ton of positive energy to give. So self-care is more important now than ever. 

My Memphis friends and I used to do Bad Movie Nights, but we hadn’t been able to participate since we left Memphis. We would watch horrible horror movies together, and now that everyone is quarantined they’ve had to figure out a way to do them online. So we’ve been able to participate in that again, which has been great. Our most recent views were Hurricane Heist and I’m in Love with a Church Girl. We’ve also been doing a Final Destination Horror Movie marathon with a few of our friends here in Gainesville using Netflix Party, which allows you to watch movies and chat with friends from the comfort and safety of your own homes. I love horror movies, especially very bad ones. 

We’ve been taking our dog, Burrito, on daily walks, sometimes multiple walks. Before this, he looked like a potato, but now he’s looking fit because we’ve been walking him so much. He’s living his best life. My cat, Jack, on the other hand, is not living his best life. He hates this. He’s not a fan and he makes sure we know it. He’s really missing his alone time. So, mixed emotions within our household. 

How are you coping with your family and many of your friends being in Memphis? 

I usually go home once every two months. The last time I was home was in January, so this is getting to be the longest time that I haven’t been home. Dealing with that has definitely been the biggest roller coaster for me. I was supposed to be home a couple of weekends ago and I spent most of that weekend crying. I was really sad about not being at home. I’m trying to tell myself it’s okay and it’s temporary. I’ve had a couple of family members get sick, and one tested positive for the virus. Not being there to be able to bring them groceries – not even being in the same mileage zone – is just weird. 

I’ve been FaceTiming with my family almost every day. My sister had twins in October and I’ve been watching all of their milestones through FaceTime, which is weird. I never thought that’s how it would be. At the same time, I’m just so thankful to still connect with them. 

This has all been a true lesson in control and in letting go of what you can’t control. A lot of my family live on the same street, so they spend all of their time together. My first thought when this started happening was that I needed to call and let them know they can not see each other and that they need to stay at home while all this is going on. I was on the phone yelling at my grandmother that she cannot go to TJ Maxx. I just had to learn that I can’t control them. This is how my anxious self is showing up, and all I can do is take care of myself and model what should be done. 

Food can help connect us to home and brings us comfort. How are you making sure to fill up your “food cup of joy”?

In the very beginning, I was really anxious worrying that all of the restaurants would close down. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to get my weekly Sonny’s rack of ribs, or wouldn’t be able to drive to Hillstone in Orlando for a prime rib sandwich. Luckily that hasn’t happened, but things are still weird. It’s weird to not be able to go sit in a restaurant, I really miss it. 

Food has really played a huge part in my self-care during this, though. One of my favorite restaurants is Hillstone and it’s a two-hour drive from my house. Every weekend since the quarantine has happened, I have driven to Orlando, picked up a prime rib sandwich, parked by a pretty lake, and listened to podcast while I eat (favorite podcasts include My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie, and Reply All). Then I turn around and drive home. I had the opportunity to listen to a political podcast the other day, FiveThirtyEight Politics, and it was really comforting because there was barely any mention of COVID-19. It was a reminder that there are still other things going on in the world, and those things feel normal. 

You mentioned something you call “Moments of Normal.” Will you explain what this means?

Whenever I’m in an unhealthy spot mentally, trying to “do gratitude” normally pisses me off. I just don’t try to lean into a bunch of gratitude if I’m in a bad spot. Feeling pressure to breeze past the negativity and focus on the positive ends up making me feel cynical and spins me into this spiral of anger. My version of gratitude is finding simple “moments of normal” in my day, things that would happen whether we were going through this pandemic or not. I keep a document in my Notes app where I write these things down as I realize they happen. For example, one of my favorite bands, Waxahatchee, put out a new album, “Saint Cloud,” in the middle of all of this. She wrote one of the songs in Memphis and spends a lot of time on the Memphis Bridge in the music video. I saw that and was immediately connected to home, and that was a moment of comfort and normalcy. My favorite artists are still doing their thing. 

Walking Burrito and waving at neighbors is normal. Funny conversations in group texts are normal. Being able to pick up BBQ is normal. Being in Target and feeling normal for 10 minutes, that’s a win too. 

I’m also finding ways to celebrate the weirdness. I’m part of a Duckpond Facebook group (it’s the neighborhood we live in), and someone posted that they saw a neighborhood in Denver where the people are all going outside at 8:00 p.m. every day to howl at the moon. They wanted to try it out in Duckpond. So we took Burrito on a walk that night and heard all of this howling, and we stood in the middle of the street and howled like wolves! We were all collectively acknowledging that it was weird while trying to connect in whatever ways we can. 

You occasionally worked from home while you worked with FedEx. How has the work from home experience been this time?

The transition to working from home has been sad because I’d rather be in the office with everyone. However, it’s also been a bit validating for me. When I was working from home for FedEx, I really struggled and didn’t know why. I took it as a personal failure and just figured I am not someone who is able to work from home. This time around, I’ve realized why it didn’t work the first time, and it’s because I was so disconnected from everyone. I wasn’t working as part of a team. Sometimes I would go a week or more without communicating with anyone. Right now, the Parisleaf team is connecting all day, whether it be through Slack or phone calls. It’s been so different in a good way. I’ve realized I can do this, even though I don’t want to. 

What’s something that’s surprised you during this pandemic?

Mine and my husband Gardner’s ability to find ways to pass the time. One of my favorite things we’ve been doing is writing songs together. We’d done this before but we’ve made a game out of it now. We call it “Garage Band Roulette.” We assign an instrument or household object to a number on a die, then roll to figure out what instrument is added to the song. We each have 5 minutes to play, figure it out, record it, and then we move on to the next turn. We’ve built some pretty funny stuff that way and it’s been a great way to pass the time. It’s nice that we’re able to create something during this chaos, even if it’s just for fun. 

I’ve also been watching a surprising amount of King of the Hill. It’s not a show that I watched a lot before, but it’s been so comforting. I think it’s because my dad is Hank Hill. The whole show just reminds me of my family and of Memphis. I didn’t enjoy it when I was younger, so I’m glad to have this new experience. I’ll always think of this time when I watch King of the Hill in the future.

What are three questions you don’t have the answers for?

When will I get to go home next? I have no idea. My brother is supposed to be getting married at the end of May, so there’s a big question mark there. 

Will Gardner and I come out with a quarantine album at the end of this? I hope the answer is yes. 

How will the world change after this? I think a lot of things will go back to normal but I know there are things that won’t. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever shake anyone’s hand again. It makes me uneasy now. I think there’s still so much we don’t know about the virus, and I don’t know how long it will take us to learn everything we need to know to feel safe again. I also think it will impact different populations differently. When will it truly be safe for my grandparents to leave their house? Will it be after it’s safe for me to leave my house? A lot of question marks around a lot of things and all the question marks give my anxious brain a lot to think about. 

Find more Coronavirus Q&As and other resources here.