By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Quarantine Chronicles: Jillian Zbleski

JILLIAN ZBLESKI is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and works as a server at The 5 Spot. When her restaurant switched to takeout only, she gave up shifts to help others who needed the hours more. She’s currently receiving unemployment and taking this time to be more positive and unleash her inner yogi.

This is her Quarantine Chronicle.

How are you?

I’m actually good, a lot better than I thought I would be. Just more positive for sure, which is new and exciting for me because I’m usually the skeptical, cynical, sarcastic, negative energy in the room. I almost don’t even recognize myself, but it’s kind of fun being positive.

How did you get there?

It’s been a long road. I’m doing things I never thought I would do, such as meditation and yoga and journaling and all those stereotypical, good-vibey stuff I have totally made fun of someone else for doing. I’m just one giant hypocrite living the dream right now, and I’m okay with that. It’s working for me.

I’m in a good place right now. Even if it wasn’t the most direct path to get here, or the path of most resistance, it’s something I totally did on my own for myself.

How are you doing with your family being in Milwaukee, being so far away?

It’s kind of interesting: I feel like where they are, they’re maybe a week to 10 days ahead of us with everything. They got shut down sooner, my mom is also a server and stopped working before I did. I think there are a lot more sick people there, honestly. It seems more serious.

Honestly, to me, the coronavirus itself, that’s something on the news. I haven’t seen that in my life at all. It’s gorgeous outside, so there’s nothing threatening to me about that, but I guess that’s not exactly the case in Milwaukee. And then of course they don’t have the weather situation that we’re lucky enough to have.

Honestly, my mom is calling me right now. She’s not used to not working. It’s hard not being there and having them worry, and then worrying about them and not being there. I’m used to not being around for holidays. On Easter my whole family did a Zoom call. Typically I’d be the one on the Zoom and then everyone else would be somewhere together, but in this case, we’re all on the Zoom and I’m like, now you guys can all see how much this sucks and how much I never want to do it.

Have you gotten unemployment?

Yes, and I would like to shout out The 5 Spot. I’m just so grateful and impressed by them and the communication they’ve had with us since day one. The way they handled the unemployment situation was personally, for me, unbelievable. They handled everything, I just got a letter in the mail and had to type in some numbers online and I was getting unemployment.

I do know that’s not the case for everyone. I don’t know where the issue is—obviously within the system somewhere. But the way they handled it was spot on, no pun intended. Everything they’ve been doing has made me really grateful and proud to work there. I’m excited because I’ve never really felt that way about a job before. I’ve always enjoyed my job and it’s been a decent place to work for me, but this is the first time I really felt such gratitude and appreciation of them.

Are you still working?

I am not. If there were people who needed the hours more, I wanted to give it to them. Honestly, I did have a little anxiety about working when it went down to just takeout, and not because I was scared of getting sick; that was like the last thing on my mind. I’m just invincible, it’s not going to happen to me. But I was worried about how the business would be for takeout, if it was going to be a steady thing or getting slammed or one doctor’s office ordering $200 worth of takeout. The uncertainty of it was too much for me, and it just wasn’t worth it for me.

I did feel bad about it, because I felt like I should be working. They have reduced hours obviously, and need less staff in general, but it’s the same few working all these shifts. I’m sure there are people who want to work just to get out of the house.

Are you worried about money at all?

Oh, yeah. That was my main concern when this all happened and I was like, “I’m going to be broke.” The reason I was so upset about the whole thing in the beginning was it was threatening my self-sufficiency. I don’t have investment hedge funds or assets or anything like that.

I’m a server because I love what I do. I enjoy the people I work with. It’s a job I can get anywhere. I travel and move, and I’ve always been able to support myself and the lifestyle I’m accustomed to. Without that steady source of income, which is still a little bit unreliable just being a server in general, it was threatening my independence and my self-sufficiency and my lifestyle, and I was not okay with that.

I wouldn’t want to borrow money, I don’t have family close by to help out or support me, and I don’t want to go into debt. I was good and happy and comfortable where I was, and that was my biggest fear: that I was going to see my bank account wiped out and have nothing left at the end of this.

With unemployment, I’m obviously not making what I’m used to, but I’m able to pay my bills and not end up in debt after this. I know everyone’s like, “You don’t have to pay your rent, no one’s going to get evicted during this time.” Well, I don’t want to owe two months’ rent when this is over.

I just hope this is really taken as an opportunity to take a look at what we’re doing and what we’re doing wrong and how to fix it. This has been a really big gift: time out, think about what you did wrong and do better, because we as a society really need to do better.

I hope people are taking the opportunity to make positive changes, because if not, then this was just the biggest waste of time ever.