When the COVID-19 pandemic hit your realm of reality, did you find yourself completely shaken?
After separating myself from most media years back in efforts to preserve my sanity, my introduction to the Coronavirus was hearing coworkers complain about the toilet-paper shortage. From that jumping point, I witnessed the seemingly ludicrous mass panic, shaking my head and telling myself these people would feel silly after such an overreaction. I still had my mom visit that weekend, used hand sanitizer a little more than normal, and we went to the local bar for corn fritters and beer.
Then only a couple of days later, I walked into work and could feel it in the air that something was different. Everyone was there…but they weren’t. On the surface, it was a business-as-usual, five back-to-back meetings kind of morning with the people I have known as my “work family” for years. But there was a growing sense of uncertainty behind our interactions, a level of tentativeness as murmurings that everything we’ve come so accustomed to might change in an instant. And it did.
Granted, our company handled it gracefully and methodically without triggering (or exacerbating) mass hysteria. Each team had different meetings to discuss our action plans, with the premise that we would reevaluate things in a couple of weeks. As I packed up my computer and monitor to take home, I was still convinced that I would see my work family back in a conference room after this 14 day hiatus.
We’re now on approximately day 156 of working from home, and I say that with mix of solemnity, shock, and oddly enough, acceptance. In that time, I’ve virtually experienced people joining the company, people leaving the company, work friends giving birth, and work friends dying. Though everything seemed to stop when our sense of normal was shattered, life kept on. And because of that, I’m immensely grateful that I have a career and an employer that has enabled me to continue working from the safety of my own home.
While some of us have fared more fortunate than others in the past few months, this time of witnessing what seems to be our world falling apart hasn’t been easy on anyone. I pressed “pause” on many aspects of my life, with the reasoning that I would go back to writing, running, exploring, and smiling when things just returned back to the way they used to be.
I read and listened to the scientists’ statements that there never would be a returning to normal, and my sinking heart fought it for months.
Not returning to normal seemed like the worst case scenario, as my mind flooded with fears of everyone becoming so separated from each other that compassion, kindness, and connection evaporated from existence.
All of the things I took for granted, like hugging my grandma or finishing my friend’s drink after she decided she really didn’t like that “stout that tastes like a pumpkin candle”, began to feel like such distant memories. My connection to faith grew stronger as I thanked our creator every day for my health and prayed for that of my family and the world; but it was also heavily challenged when that light at the end of the tunnel kept getting farther and farther away. I just wanted things to return to normal.
But the truth is: they can't, and they won't.
And even though that’s a sobering drink to swallow (admittedly, alcohol has been a closer cohort of mine during this time), especially for those who have lost loved ones and friends during this time, returning to normal isn’t the end goal. It isn’t the solution. If we were to go back to the way things were, we would encounter this problem again in the future. We’ve seen proof of this in the locales where people resisted leaving their precious normal or were too hasty in trying to recreate it after temporarily obliging to precautions.
So then, what is there left for us to do when we can’t return?
We evaluate our vulnerabilities that created the problem and reconstruct with more proven materials and methodology. We recognize our attributes that enabled us to weather the storm, and we strengthen them so that we’ll be even more resilient in the coming years.
Evolution is a mandatory privilege at both a societal and an individual level. When I accepted this, albeit begrudgingly, it became much easier to get out of bed in the morning and log-off of my work computer in the evening. No matter how strongly we grip it or how fiercely we fight it, the past is just that.
And when we stop looking back and open our eyes to the now with consideration of the future, we give ourselves the ability to recalibrate, refocus, and experience rebirth.
So, dear reader, if you’ve had the “pause” button engaged in certain aspects of your life, I recommend that rather than putting things off until things “return to normal,” explore the potential for building something new. Yes, we’ve got to have hope that at some point in time, we’ll be able to do some of the things we loved without the level of social distancing and separation. But in the meantime, we can’t squander this opportunity to evolve personally. For in doing so, we’re contributing to the collective transformation this world is begging for.
If you’re still feeling a little disheartened or defeated, just remember:
Desperation and frustration are common seeds of invention.
(I might not be an inventor, but I’m fairly certain Edison and Tesla would agree with me here)