Women share advice for making life, career changes during pandemic

Countless Bay Area residents lost their jobs during the pandemic. Two Bay Area women decided to make the best of it.

When mom Michele Summa was laid off from her job in March of 2020 sadness set in.

"I was just kind of overwhelmed by a lot of everything that was going on I think as we all were," said Summa.

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She had just bought a travel trailer a couple of months prior.

"I thought, 'Oh gosh I made the biggest financial mistake ever,'" said Summa.

Rather than sell it, Summa had an idea.

She and her then 6-year-old daughter Augusta, who is now 7 and a half, set out for Texas.

As coronavirus raged and schools stayed closed, suddenly there was no reason to return. The pair was on an 8-month cross-country road trip with Augusta zooming into her SFUSD classes along the way.

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"A lot of the things that we did on our travels lined up with what they were doing in class," said Summa.

"They studied space and planets and we went to Kennedy space center they were studying the oceans and we went snorkeling in Key Biscayne Florida, that national park," she continued.

Summa isn't alone. Scores of people lost their jobs including Felicia Montenegro.

She worked for 18 years in the service industry. When the pandemic hit, restaurants closed.

"My first response was fear and how am I going to pay for all my bills," said Montenegro.

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She decided to pursue her artistic passion, both to fill time and possibly become a new career.

"Organic minimalist arts is nature inspired hand crafted goods," Montenegro explained.

She also does freelance graphic design and photography work.

"To have none of that money and realize that I could still find happiness without any of it, or half of it, or however much I make of it was really an amazing thing to realize," said Montenegro.

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Whereas Summa returned to the job she lost and her daughter to in-person learning.

"I was able to tell the EDD that I didn't need them anymore and that felt really good," said Summa.

Montenegro did not.

"I'm way happier," said Montenegro.

Their advice to anyone who lost their job -- "Try to think creatively about what you can turn that time into," said Summa.

"It sounds cliché but find a thing that you love and do it," said Montenegro.

An exit that opened new doors for both.



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