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Out in the World: A COVID-19 Story

| This is the 561st story of Our Life Logs® |

Let’s start with an introduction. My name is Keion, I’m 21, and I was born in the desert of the West Coast. Most know it as Las Vegas, Nevada. I know it as the driest place known to man. I was the youngest of four kids. My mother and I were extremely close, but I dreamed of the day I could move out of my parents’ house and forge my own path. It was a rite of passage, a sign of adulthood. Plus, with how rigid my living conditions were, I was ready to go out on my own.

My parents gave me a strict curfew, an outrageous list of chores to complete, and eating restrictions. It was not done to make me miserable, no. They just wanted me to step up to adulthood, where I would be in control of myself and become a responsible adult, and trust me, I wanted that for myself too! Who wouldn’t want to come and go as they please? So, I worked hard to save up enough to move out as soon as I could.

My high school graduation came in the summer of 2019, and I began working at a casino in housekeeping. The pay and benefits were great, and I was on track to move out of my parents’ house by Christmas if I sacrificed enough and saved up my money. There were times I was tempted to travel and shop with my friends, but I decided to buckle down and make sure I was able to afford to move out into my own place on time instead. I could get the vision of my own stylish apartment out of my mind. I wanted it so badly. I was ready to cross fully into adulthood.

My mother was very supportive of my plans. She’d talk with me about areas where I wanted to live, and sometimes she went on tours of places with me. As the reality of my dream grew closer, I was buzzing with excitement. It felt like the world in front of me was shimmering with possibilities.

By the winter of 2019, I had found a place and put down the deposit with a toothy grin. My mother bought me a purple couch set, and my brother bought me a round glass dining room table. My sister gave me finishing touches like throw pillows, paintings, plants, and a gourmet cooking set that included utensils. My dad bought me the biggest bed set I had ever had. I had enough saved for the first three months of rent, and I was feeling like I was on top of the world. I felt like such an adult. The glamourous adult life I had dreamed of was right at my fingertips. As I organized my new place, I was ready to begin this new life.

I couldn’t wait to come home from work to a place of my own. I loved cooking my own meals, and you can’t hog the TV if you’re the only one watching! My favorite candle scent was Pitohui, and while my mother hated that scent, I burnt it down to the end of the wick. The freedom was worth the expense. For the first time, I had to buy myself toilet paper, trash bags water, food, hand soap, dish soap, and the list went on. Still, I was overseeing myself. For the first time, I felt things were going exactly how I planned. And I got a bitter taste of what adulthood is truly like. You can put all your ducks in a neat row, but sometimes it can take all you have to keep them that way.

In March of 2020, when I heard news of the coronavirus circulating, I honestly thought it was only in other places, that it wouldn’t be so bad in the US. Then reality hit, and the virus came to America in full swing. By the time people started catching it in Las Vegas, the casinos were already talking about shutting down. I could not imagine Las Vegas without the casinos. It all seemed so drastic. But as the death toll numbers kept rising, it only seemed logical to close the main thing that made people come here.

Some casinos stayed open, including the one I worked in. But with many other businesses closing down, the industry was overwhelmed by people looking for employment. It was slow at first. Then I went from working 40 hours a week to 20. They tried to break it to us easy when they started cutting hours and use the industry saturation as an excuse, but it made no sense to me why they would hire more people and cut hours between more people.

Then a couple weeks later, everybody was working part-time when the curfews were set. Nobody was enjoying coming to the casino with a mask on. People could not socialize, and the clubs were closed, and you could not smoke because you would have to wear a mask in between puffs. The entire Vegas Experience had been plagued by the plague.

After a month, I was laid off indefinitely. People just weren’t coming to the casinos anymore. I had been in my new apartment for a little over three months. When I first got laid off, I was not too concerned. In fact, I was a little relieved because I thought I’d be able to get the pandemic insurance of $600 a week. I applied in April, but I did not hear from anybody. When rent was due in May, I couldn’t afford it. So, I reapplied for the insurance, and this time I was approved.

June came, and I paid off the balance from May, but I couldn’t afford that month’s rent at all. In July, I paid more off, but I was right back in the hole, not really seeing a dime of the government assistance I was getting for food or other necessities. I often just sat at my living room table, opened up my bills, and cried. No one told me how hard adulthood can be when you’re in a funk.

It felt like I was given a heavy pile of rocks to carry but each time I got rid of some, more were piled on in their place. I didn’t want to have to see the look on their faces when I’d have to sell the furniture that they bought me or pay for a storage unit so I could return home. I couldn’t lose the apartment. I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to go back to living in my strict childhood house. I felt as though I hadn’t cracked the code to being a functional adult. I had messed up somewhere along the way. How could life be so against me right when I started living it?

So, I started looking for a new job. No matter what, I refused to give up.

I applied all over town. I had studied to work in the hospitality industry just as my entire family had done. I had even gotten both my tam and safety card to make it big in the industry. But as my former boss had said, the industry was saturated. I was just another number in line.

I was aggravated at my options, but I knew I was in danger of losing my apartment. I finally got a call from a beauty supply store that I’d off-handedly applied to one day. It had nothing to do with the hospitality industry, I know, but I was desperate for a job. I was now late for August’s rent and barely paid July. My family was going through their own struggles, and I didn’t want to ask for help. So, I took the job.

As it turned out, the job was more enjoyable than I expected. Really. This job gave me purpose again. The pandemic was in full effect, but women still wanted to stay beautiful amongst all the ugliness of the world. I sold eyelashes, nail supplies, curling irons, and perms. I even sold fake hair and wigs. As I watched people’s eyes light up as they were given our products, I started to become more interested in the industry and how it worked.

In September, enrolled in cosmetology school. Who saw that coming? As I learned how to give someone highlights and how to wax eyebrows, I felt more and more like I was meant to be on this path all along. Just because I’d hit a snag, it didn’t mean I’d failed as an adult. It just meant that I was finally getting a taste of what it’s like. And I was ready to take on the challenges.

After finishing school, I threw myself deeper into work, and before long, I was out of the financial hole and feeling great about life again. I became excited to go to work every day. I loved helping people feel good about themselves in a time when it’s easy to let negativity cloud you.

It’s strange to say, but COVID-19 wound up giving me a new passion in life and for life. I savor the small things now. I get a thrill out of selling a pair of earrings that will put a smile on someone’s face. I love recommending a hair color to a young mother who feels overwhelmed and looks as tired as she feels. I do make a difference. I see it every day.

I’ve realized that adulthood is like looking both ways before you cross the street and then getting hit by an airplane. You never know what life will throw at you, so you must be ready for it all. You must be willing to roll with it and go with God’s plan. God is not asking us to figure things out, he is asking us to trust that he already has. I never would have found my passion for cosmetology without first going through the hardships this pandemic has brought, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.

This is the story of Keion Powell

Keion was so excited to move out and get her own place. She’d only been in her own place for three months when the pandemic hit and almost threatened everything that she had worked so hard for. She was laid off and for a while, her dreams of living on her own seemed like they should have never happened. But then fate stepped in, and she was able to gain employment at a hair store. There, she developed a new passion, and she is now going to school for cosmetology. She spends her day selling products and studying how to make women and men feel their best. She is still living in her new place and thriving more than ever.

This story first touched our hearts on December 8, 2020

Writer: Melodie Harris | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker

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