“I’m a strong believer in regression to the mean. Meaning everything won’t always be good or always bad, there’s a balance. And I believe the world will find that balance again.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruby Mendenhall and Robin Fretwell Wilson organized the Citizen Scientist Journaling project to better understand how Illinois residents managed socially, emotionally, and economically during the initial lockdown and beyond. The project asked 16 Illinois residents to journal once a week for six months about how they were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown and the strategies they used to cope with the stress and grief associated with the pandemic. These “citizen scientists” represented a diverse set of communities and experiences, and their journal entries offer a statewide impression of how COVID-19 changed all kinds of lives. The journals themselves provided lessons about community, faith, resilience, overcoming hardships and the sometimes-slow pace of progress—and even the real-time, on-the-ground efficacy of public policies put in place by a state government struggling to mitigate an unprecedented crisis on behalf of its people. Lawmakers and policymakers were abruptly cut off from part of their own communities, such as the least privileged constituents.