Jake Montoya East L.A. Graphic Artist

Pandemic Life is a series looking at how individuals are living their lives during the COVID-19 outbreak.

East Los Angeles -- Jake Montoya is part of the third generation who grew up in East L.A. in the same house his grandparents bought in the '40s. He lived in San Francisco for a time where became heavily involved in community organizing and decided bring that new passion to his hometown. Montoya currently works with the Los Angeles County Library as a youth director designing programs and workshops for kids. In his spare time, he volunteers for Latino Coalition of Los Angeles as the Board Director as well as other local organizations. He showcases his graphic art to fund-raise for Healing Urban Barrios, No Us Without You and In the Making. He shared a few of his graphic designs at the end of this article.

In a Q&A, Montoya describes what his life has been like during pandemic times.

How has your daily life changed since the pandemic started?

My daily life personally has changed to where I don't really have a personal life right now. It's just been very work heavy. 

COVID made us work from home right? So that kind of really blurs the lines of when is it work time and when is it not work time.

Before, I got off work from the library at 5 PM and my day was over. But now I wake up responding to emails and I go to sleep responding to emails.

It feels like it's a nonstop effort just because a lot of issues aren't going away anytime soon. I think it changed my day to day life in that it made me a lot more involved in community organizing.

What specific moment impacted you the most in the last 3-4 months?

I guess it was just a more immediate call to action. It just changed in the sense that it kind of threw me into the work. It's just been a very rapid response. As soon as the needs change of the community, whatever project we're working on has developed off of that.

An example would be through the Latino coalition. We're working with this charter school Academia Avance in Highland Park that is having some issues get their kids online.

They're in a low income area of Highland Park and they serve predominantly Latinx students. They're just having some issues getting them the technology that they need to participate in online learning. So right now, that's a campaign going on as well as seeking funding to get them at least 50 Chromebooks so that they can kind of help get online and get the education, even with the COVID in effect.

How have you adapted?

I had to develop more boundaries for myself in the sense that I changed my work schedule completely.

The nine to five formula doesn't really work for the age of COVID anymore. It's really hard to be at home and to be focused on just one thing for eight hours everyday how you would be if you're in an office, right?

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I've had to kind of break down my day into smaller chunks. This two hour period I can get this done. In that hour period I can get this done. So that I'm still working for the library from nine to five but there's all this other work that is going on in the background as well.

I've adapted by becoming more fluid in my work and making my mind quicker to switch over from one thing to the next.

With my family, it was a challenge at the beginning, but we have a really close relationship. So it hasn't been as rough as I thought it would be.

We've adapted all of our schedules around each other. I'm really productive in the morning. I get up early before all of them to get a lot of work done, so that when they get up there’s time for interaction. We don't distract each other. So it's been good, but it has its obstacles

What do you do to get through all of this?

As far as my life goes, probably one of the bigger moments was realizing that I wouldn't be able to have my workshops at the library with the kids anymore, which is actually a really big bummer.

I have a flyer on my desk... I would host an ongoing test club at the Anthony Quinn Library in East L.A. every Tuesday. I was having like 15 to 20 kids come and learn chess and play chess.

I remember the first Tuesday that I was at home, I saw the flyer and it just made me really sad. Like, dang, I don't know when I'm going to be able to have it.

Now, I use the flyer as motivation to keep coming up with ideas for the program. But it also just serves as a little bit of a sad reminder that I don't really know when, in person, workshops or programming are ever going to happen again.

What would be your advice to others?

My advice to others would be to be adaptable and be better about accepting what you can't change, so that you can focus on what you can change and work in that regard.

Right now there's a lot that's out of our hands. There's a lot that we have absolutely no control over, which is a very scary feeling sometimes.

It's not something that we can reject. You have to accept it. And once you're able to do it, I think it makes it a little easier to focus on everything that you can change to make the best of the situation.

How has your life changed during the pandemic? The Eastsider is accepting first-person stories (no more than 500 words) on the subject. You must live in our coverage area to participate. Please contact Melody@TheEastsiderLA.com for details. 

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