The global pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt, and we all hid out in our homes like bears hibernating in the winter. With events and social activities removed from our lives, we now had time to slow down and reflect, set new routines, and realize what is necessary.
Over the last five months, I reflected on everything from how I spend my time to what I want to be when I grow up. I came to startling realizations early on, while others came to me gradually. I learned what is essential in my life, and what isn’t. I watched communities unite, and others divide. There will be more lessons learned the further we move through the pandemic, but these five will stick with me for a long time.
1. I do have time
“I don’t have time” was a common phrase I spoke throughout the last few years. Overwhelmed with a full-time job, a side business, and multiple other passions, I nearly always overbooked myself. Or so I thought.
Yet, I do have time. Or rather, I did. I chose to spend what extra time I did have on tasks, projects, or other things that just weren’t a priority or didn’t move me forward. I spent hours perusing the internet for articles on entrepreneurship, falling down rabbit holes of blogs, and online courses. And the introvert in me just wanted to sit and work on creative tasks.
Once I started spending every hour of every day in my small apartment, I became conscious of how I used it. I no longer had a commute, wasn’t going to the gym, or spending time making a Starbucks coffee run. The parts of my day that made me “busy” were gone, and what remained was productive time.
Now that I’m fully aware of my time and what I’m doing all day, I’m more accomplished, productive, and yes, even relaxed!
2. No, I don’t need that
I’m not an avid shopper, but I will venture out to stores to browse the aisles, picking up things I think I need or submitting to the pressure of an eager sales associate. Spending most of my tie out of my home gave me a distorted perception of what I need. Now that I live and work in the same place, I realize I bought items because they seemed useful, yet in actuality, they weren’t necessary.
Online shopping can be a problem for some, but it’s a godsend for me. As the world closed and everything moved online, I stopped purchasing all but the essentials. I don’t feel the pressure of a sales associate looking over my shoulder; I have time to decide and consider if I need the product. And I can easily click out of the browser if I feel an impulse buy coming on. I can’t remember the last time I bought something that wasn’t for my business, essential to living, or for entertainment.
3. I don’t need that fancy gym membership
Pre-pandemic, I had memberships to not one, but two gyms. One was a regular box gym, and the other was a boutique. California shut down gyms early in the pandemic, and I was without fitness options. I mildly panicked — without paying for something or having a trainer to push me, I’ll slack off on my fitness. I’ll have good intentions of training for a 5k or doing yoga every night, but give it a week, and I slip back into my non-workout routine.
Something had to change this time. I worked hard for over two years to reach my fitness goals, and I wasn’t going to let the pandemic cause me to lose all that hard work. My boutique gym started offering classes online, and I jumped on when my schedule allowed. I tried various apps and went through most of the My Peak Challenge 30-day social distancing challenge. I also picked up on horseback riding and found myself at the farm three days a week.
What worked best for me, given I work a 9–5 and a side hustle, is committing to a workout or walk each day, and utilizing on-demand fitness videos. ClassPass has a vast library of videos, and I’ll refer back to the My Peak Challenge videos when I need another boost. Besides the community aspect of a boutique gym, I realized I don’t need a membership to work out and stay in shape.
4. People are selfish
Let me start with this: there are countless good people out there who genuinely care about their communities, who respect everyone no matter who they are or what job they’re working, and who will go above and beyond for a stranger. Yet, it’s the ones that are selfish and rude who have me shaking my head at humanity, and honestly, are half the reason I decided to leave my job during the pandemic.
When California put mask mandates into place, I immediately complied. As much as it sucks, and as hard as it can be to breathe in them, I did it for my community. I watched in astonishment as many Americans defied mandates and fought with store employees over the rules (side note: private business refuse service if you don’t comply with their regulations. They’re private businesses).
How selfish and self-absorbed can you be to fight with a grocery store employee, probably being paid minimum wage, over your “first amendment rights?” What happened to “for the greater good,” protecting our communities, or even treating others with kindness and respect?
5. I don’t like my job
I started in an entry-level customer service position about five years ago. As a graduate student, it was the perfect job at the time. I grew to love the company, the mission, the office culture, and my co-workers. Two years ago, I received a promotion to department manager, and that’s when I felt the shift. I grew in leaps and bounds and was generally good at my role, but I felt disconnected from my professional goals and the job.
Less than a month into work from home and I realized I didn’t enjoy the role in the least. Work from home stripped away everything I loved about it, and the only piece remaining was the job at its core. I don’t enjoy dealing with entitled customers, cleaning up other people’s mistakes, or answering the same question ad nauseam. The pandemic was a wake-up call for my career trajectory and provided the time I needed to understand the work I truly enjoy.
We’re about five months into the pandemic, and there isn’t an end in sight. As hard as it is to watch my community suffer, I’m curious to see what else I’ll learn about myself, my community, and society. Will I find I don’t like spending my day writing and creating content? Will my community come together and show respect for one another? Will people continue to divide over something so silly as wearing a mask, or will we all unite to protect our community and the vulnerable? Time will tell.