Eleanor Baglas is 42 years old and lives in Massachusetts with her husband and cat. She’s a person who’s really committed to her work and the people around her. She’s the kind of person with whom you would be happy to be friends. Too bad she only lives 3,500 miles away.
It’s half past five in Belgium. Half past eleven in America. I’m sitting at my desk in my bedroom. Eleanor takes a seat in her dining room, at her makeshift desk where she spends most of her time nowadays, as there is also a lockdown in her city: Boston. It’s not as strict as in Belgium. All restaurants, theatres, museums … are still open, but her company decided to let his employees work from home fulltime. Eleanor is a research analyst at a financial services firm, Fidelity Investments. Because she wanted to move forward in her career, she decided to return to school and get a graduate degree. A Master in Business Administration.
Combining work and school isn’t the easiest thing to do. “You have to be really really organized”, Eleanor found out. “I maintain to do lists and calendars and everything has a do-date, whether it’s a work project or a school project. I put it in my calendar immediately and block out time to work on things as well.” This tactic helped her balance the overload of work. Some people will take two years off from work and go fulltime to school. That wasn’t an option for her. “When I did the cost-benefit analysis, I’ve found two years without a salary means borrowing more money and school can be so expensive in the US.”
She’s a busy bee, that’s for sure. Luckily, she sometimes also finds time to relax. The perfect thing to do that according to her? Knitting. “It’s hard for me to just sit and watch a couple of hours of tv or a movie. So I need a little project to work on while I’m doing that”, Eleanor tells me. “I have the feeling I always need to be doing something. That’s why the lockdown also resulted in a whole bunch of sweaters.”
When someone knits and has a cat, you almost know that she must be a convivial person. “I’m generally a very happy person”, she says. “I find a lot of happiness in making other people laugh. When I say something and everybody starts laughing, it’s like a little victory for me.”
She admits she can be really silly, even a little goofy. “When I was twenty years old, my friend had an apartment and his roommate was leaving. So my girlfriend and I had the idea to fill the empty room with jello (gelatin) and see if we can get our friends to wrestle in it”, says Eleanor. No sooner said than done. “We covered all the walls with plastics and so many friends showed up. They jumped in the jello and then jumped back out.” She laughs when she tells the story. “That’s probably the silliest thing I’ve ever done.”
I think people aren’t giving each other the benefit of understandingEleanor Baglas
Understanding each other
Besides being a happy, silly person, she can also be very empathetic to others. “Anyway, that’s what a lot of people tell me”, she adds. “I always try to meet people where they are and think about somebody else’s own life circumstances. I find that it helps with communication a lot and that far too few people do that.” That’s something she really wants to change in this world. She really would like people to be better at hearing each other.
She sees a lot of conflicts in the US where that problem comes up. “It feels like, nowadays with the elections, half of the country is battling the other half”, tells Eleanor. “I think people aren’t giving each other the benefit of understanding where they come from or why they think the way they think. If we could figure out how to meet people where they are, maybe there will be a way to convince people that they should care about climate change, equality and all those kinds of problems.”
“I cannot believe people voted for Trump”
She calls it a concerning thing that so many people believe Trump. “I don’t know how to deal with that and my hope is there’s a lot of smart people thinking through this problem. Not necessarily to convince people to be more liberal, but to help people think critically enough to see that Trump is lying to them. I cannot believe people voted for him”, she says. She’s very frank in her opinion. To get her point across, she tells a story about her father. He worked for Trump many years ago, when he was building a casino in New Jersey.
“My father saw, first-hand, what a terrible man he was. He put small businesses out of work because he refused to pay them. My father quit because Trump was such a bad person. I just could not understand how people couldn’t see that in him”, says Eleanor. These elections, there was definitely an emotional component to her. “I just thought he was so bad that it mattered so much to me that we replaced him, with somebody that the world would have more respect for and that I felt like I could have respect for.”