Before the month of March, the words “coronavirus” and “pandemic” meant nothing to us, they were a distant problem with no real bearing on our lives. Now these words mean everything. We have quickly become consumed by social distancing, uncertainty, and one big question: when will this end? When can our lives resume some semblance of normalcy? While we have a lot of questions and even fewer answers, I have found myself pondering a different question; is it possible that quarantine, the great pause button of the world, could actually be a beautiful gift?
I’ve struggled with my emotions, as I know many people have. I’ve wavered between bouts of anxiety, of fear, of disappointment. I’ve had moments where I’ve cried and moments where I didn’t want to move from my couch. I’ve had times where I’ve looked at my fiancé as we’re entering a beautiful season of our life together, only to worry if that will ever come to be or what our world will look like in the after. As a business owner, the uncertainty adds a new dimension of worries and responsibilities. The concern for the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of your employees, as well as the fact that they are looking to you for guidance and decision-making in a time where nothing makes sense can be all too consuming. Through all of this though, I am choosing to focus on one truth; while there are so many uncomfortable things during this time, growth only comes from a place of discomfort. I can wax philosophical on all the areas of the world that are growing, but I’m choosing to talk from the lens of my own life and experience. Here are five areas that I’ve witnessed growth or an opportunity for growth during quarantine.
1) Connection: With the absence of regular date nights and time spent with friends, I’ve had to get creative and think outside of the box when it comes to staying connected with the people that matter most to me. This has included virtual happy hours, quarantine date nights at home, and video calls with family. I can’t wait until I can see my favorite humans in person again and wrap them up in a big bear hug. But what I’ve learned is that in having to be more intentional with the means, I’ve been more communicative and connected than I was pre-quarantine. It’s easy to take for granted that you’ll just see your friends at the next regularly scheduled hang out session or you can just go out to eat with your partner and call that a date. Having to spend all your free time with only one person has taught me that you have to intentionally set boundaries on “work time” and be diligent in creating special time together. Which brings me to my next point…
2) Overcommunication is Key: Adjusting to new working patterns, routines, and shared space has required new levels of communicating with my partner in order to navigate this new time. Kyle is working from home, which is an adjustment in and of itself, but we originally did not have a home office space for him in our apartment. This meant he was working from our couch, which is both uncomfortable and mentally draining. I have been working at my office, safely, but often the end of my workday and time normally spent by myself to unwind now overlaps with time that he is still in meetings and working. We are in each other’s space and we definitely have had some moments of frustration, but this has also taught me that overcommunicating your work schedule and personal needs for alone time can prevent unnecessary tension. As an introvert, I desperately need independent time to recharge. In the pre-corona days, we naturally had different work schedules and commutes, so alone time was built into my schedule and I never had to think about it. Now intentionality is required, but it has opened doors for me to learn to communicate my needs in new ways I’ve never had to before.
3) Productivity Can Mean Many Things: During my regularly scheduled programming, what I considered to be a “productive day” looked a lot different that it does right now. I would call it a week well spent if I accomplished everything I needed to during most of my work days and I was able to keep my apartment in a general state of order. But now, being productive also includes filtering out some of the content on social media and the news, investing time in self care, and yes, even sitting on the couch watching Netflix. The key concept of productivity to focus on in this season is “will this make me feel like the best version of me right now?” Don’t get me wrong, it has felt really great to finally reorganize my closet and clean out some clothes for donation. But if doing busy work just for the sake of doing it doesn’t feel like it’s filling my cup right now, then what’s the point? That’s not serving me and my mental health which is not in turn serving others who need me at my best. I also think there is a concept floating around that if you don’t have something grand and shiny to show for your time in quarantine then you were unproductive and I don’t think that’s true or fair. Because realistically, no one’s going to check to see if you actually cleaned out the closets and did the things. What does matter is if you come out of all of this happy, healthy, and feeling accomplished in a way that is meaningful to you and only you.
4) “Normal” is a Loose Definition: I’ve said it myself multiple times; “I just can’t wait to get back to normal.” This concept of normal is something worth analyzing. How many times in our lives have we experienced change and found a “new normal?” How many things have happened that have caused upheaval in such a way that there is no going back to normal? We encounter periods of our life where things change so drastically that they’ll never be the same again, yet in each of those moments, we persist. We flex our resiliency muscles. We adapt. Yes, we will come through this storm at some point. We can go back to seeing our friends and family and doing all the things we used to do. But what if this is a spring cleaning of sorts? What if this allows us to reorganize our priorities and to shed some things that have been holding us back? What relationships with people, food, alcohol, jobs, insert item here have we been giving our time to that is no longer worthy of that time? I recognize that this is an extremely challenging and drastic change from our daily lives. All of a sudden, everything feels like it’s been ripped away. But wow, what a gift to be able to take a mass inventory of myself and my life. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that all things from the before time are bad, but rather we now are able to gain the clarity we may not have otherwise had a chance to have.
5) Happiness Can Be Found in the Darkest of Times: Yes, I did just include a Harry Potter reference. If you know me, you know Harry Potter is my favorite series and I often revert to this quote because it is a simple, yet powerful reminder. I remember growing up, I would observe others and identify them as happy people. I thought this was an inherent quality of theirs, they were naturally gifted a happy personality. It took me until adulthood to understand that happiness is something that you can actively choose. You can work on your mindset, you can put deposits in your happiness bank, and you can contribute to this feeling daily. I’ve learned so much from personal growth work about how to generate happiness. I think corona has given us a unique lesson in choosing joy in a whole new set of circumstances. What I would have done 3 weeks ago may not apply right now, but if I can learn to be happy during this pandemic then I can learn to be happy in other difficult seasons too. With all the chaos and uncertainty and any and every other emotion we as humans are experiencing at this time, happiness can and should also be one of them. The darkness doesn’t have to settle in and stay there, because the sun always shines after the rain.