Meet Leska, our Staff Writer!

Meet Leska, our Staff Writer!

As the re-opening date of June 8th came closer and closer, my anxiety increased. What would something I had done for so many years now look like after an unprecedented pandemic? Prior to COVID, I had already felt a lack of enthusiasm for my job. And now, the thought of returning had my stomach in knots. I knew there had to be more people out there–reevaluating their lifestyle, choices, careers and perspective–either by choice or because the pandemic was demanding it.

One morning, on the couch with our coffee, I talked to my husband about my agitation. In his usual unflustered, matter-of-fact way, he said, “Don’t go back. Do something else.” Could it be that easy? I thought, Maybe it could. So after 30 years, I hung up my hat as a restaurant server, and embraced the identity of writer.

Which brings me here, pleased to introduce myself as the new dedicated staff writer at the Rogers Collection. So, ‘Hello, I’m Leska Tomash. Pleased to meet you.’ Now it’s official!

Previously, my freelance writing for Rogers had been more of a side-gig status with restaurant server filling the prime time slot, but I am so pleased that Carrie, the managing director of Rogers Collection and long-time friend, had a fulltime spot for me.

But I couldn’t stop thinking, Why am I making this move now? I mean, how many times had I contemplated leaving the restaurant biz. For the record, I view being a server a reputable and valued profession. It has carried me through my teenage years and an expensive shoe habit; then college tuition and books; then it paid for my wedding and a house and allowed me to easily take a lengthy maternity leave. I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the job. But because of the good money and the flexibility, it’s a hard gig to quit. My friend and former restaurant co-worker once called our lucrative serving job at a James Beard award-winning restaurant a “comfortable prison.” I think of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” lyric: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

But I did leave, and I don’t think I would have done it without the push of COVID.

It is first and foremost a devastating disease that has ravaged our globe–wreaking havoc on everything from human life to the global economy, highlighting social injustices and disparities. I would never say there is anything good about this tragedy; there are no “silver linings.” But maybe there has been–alongside the loss, grief and devastation–a collective shift in perspective about….everything. I have seen and heard of great acts of ingenuity, creativity, cooperation and community kindness that otherwise would not have happened. Personal leaps and life changes that needed a push. Perspectives jiggled and re-evaluated where complacency once stood.

Carrie says, “I keep asking our team [at Rogers] to pay attention to what we learned through all of this: how did we adapt to business in a new way…a better way, be it productivity, less pressure, more rewards, time to think and…finding ways to be part of the solutions. This happened a lot!” She added, “We work with amazing, passionate, smart, creative people and I don’t want ‘accepted’ practices to hold anyone back–let’s pave the new way.”

I’ve seen this all around me, a call to action to think freshly and creatively, and often very quickly. I think of the now-ubiquitous Zoom calls used to run a business or stay connected to family and friends. I think of restaurants transforming sit-down service into curbside pick-up. And teachers scrambling to get remote learning up and running with barely any preparation time. I think of people trying their best to support local businesses, hoping their favorite deli, pub or brewery will survive. I think of our beautiful planet we have watched start to regenerate during even this small amount of time where the wheels of production have ground to a halt. The smogless skies of Los Angeles and the fish and swans returning to the canals of Venice.

We, as humans, are built for adaptation. We also, as is natural, fall into routine and habits. It’s only when our way of doing things is challenged that we are called upon to find new, better, fresher, creative ways to work collaboratively. It is not until we push up against a challenge that we ask, How can I do things differently?
Surely during this pandemic many of us have reevaluated how we approach our concepts of productivity, family, gratitude–what is important to us, what do we value?

My pandemic push was to take that last toe out of the water, to leave something I had done for 30 years, something that had given me the flexibility (and cash) I needed, but now no longer served me (yes, pun intended!).

This is my personal story, but these experiences were happening around the globe during the pandemic. A momentum and a movement to work in solidarity, to protect our fellow humans’ health by quarantining, to fight to keep businesses afloat by supporting one another and remember we are a part of a global community.

Written by Leska Tomash