Our New Alternate Reality
Today is Friday, April 17th, 2020. I awoke at 9:45 am on my living room floor to no alarm. So far, that makes nine days and counting of being camped out on the floor in the tv room. It is just one of the many things we have changed in an attempt to keep ourselves entertained during this twenty-four-day isolation period. At 11:45 am I began to cook brunch. A chorizo egg bake that took me over 30 minutes to prepare. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing with that. It honestly has been such a long time since I have been able to enjoy real breakfast. I was beginning to think you could only partake in breakfast like this if someone brought it to your table alongside a mimosa. Did I mention it is also snowing outside? So, of course, that means it has been an especially slow-moving morning. Just one of the many during these past three weeks. Since the governor’s shut down of Michigan and being fired from my job, my world has become like a strange and foreign place to me.
Just Like That, Everything Changed
Coronavirus. COVID-19. Global pandemic. No matter what name that you prefer to call it, the severity of our current situation is pretty scary and incredibly hard to fathom. The effects of this virus have been devastating and continue to develop by the hour. The lives we all knew, loved, and held dear has suddenly become one big blank unknown. But if we’ve learned anything from this it’s that, in times like these, however scary it seems, there’s always a silver lining – if we just allow ourselves to see it. Before I go any further, I just want to clarify that I do realize the severity of this terrifying situation for millions of people around the world. Justifiably, there is fear, uncertainty, and stress surrounding many individuals, and I don’t want to underestimate these challenges by pretending it’s all sunshine and rainbows. This is, however, an attempt to find some positive aspects of what we’re experiencing.
With that said, as I said, I live in Michigan and we’ve just finished week three of our state being, for lack of better words, “closed to the public”. It hasn’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I am certain things will return to normal at some point. Although, after enduring 24 days of isolation (and counting), I’m realizing that there are some positives to our new alternate reality. I think I might be the minority here because I see a lot of friends posting about being lonely, bored, and sad. Hmmm, that is odd. Normally, those feelings come so naturally to me. So what changed? Why is it that during the one time I am excused from losing my shit, I am somehow wrapping it around me like a cozy blanket? I don’t really know exactly, but I do have a few ideas.
Leaving my Soul Sucking Job
In 35 years, this is the very first time that I have ever been fired from a job. But somehow as frustrating and defeating as the situation felt, I learned a valuable lesson throughout the endeavor. Which is to be more selective of the people I choose to invest in, or more importantly, the ones I allow to invest in me. People don’t just leave jobs, they leave owners, bosses, and managers. One of the key factors of a company’s success is the quality of leadership exhibited to the employees. A boss can be a leader but all of them are definitely not. I, unfortunately, invested myself in a company with a boss, not a leader.
Like many difficult situations, this one has brought me to a very clear realization. Which allowed me to learn a valuable lesson from my selfishly motivated boss. The tone starts at the top, and it is critical. Now I can say with certainty, I no longer want to work for a boss who chooses to control workers on what they do, and how they do it. This attitude undermines the productivity and growth of all employees. Instead, I want to become my own boss then transform into a future leader who relies on my staff to complete their job in their own way, yet always still be there to guide them. In the coming years, I want to become a strong leader who realizes that my words, actions, decisions, and methodologies help to create the company’s true values and culture.
So, that leads me back to today, smack dab in the middle of a remarkable crisis, with the Covid-19 coronavirus threatening to devastate our economy and health systems. Suddenly, it doesn’t take much to see how our businesses and bosses perform in real-time. So, the question now is, which are rising to the occasion and which are failing? Those, like the company I worked for, will be under the spotlight more than ever right now. Which gives me hope. Because these are companies with bosses that don’t need a strategy for conflict management because they only expect everyone to agree with them. So I ask, is that the type of leadership we are looking to going forward? I can only hope a stunned and needy world is watching closely as these types of businesses pretend to cope with this emergency. How this type of “leadership” chooses to conduct themselves should determine the future of whether they deserve to survive.
Having the Chance to Unplug and Slow Down
Like many, my life continues to be stored more and more in “the cloud”, because of this I find myself thinking back to before it was the “norm” to binge watch full television series through the screen of our phones. I catch myself missing the days before we became so interconnected and complicated. There is no end to this technologically advancing timeline. So really, all we can do is strive for balance.
In my heart, I know that our issue isn’t so much with runaway technology, but it’s really an issue of losing time. We are all sad that we may have stood there, still, and frozen deep in a virtual world, while our actual reality died on hills, buried under all the things that temporarily medicate, and feed our own egos. Each and every one of us are worried that we aren’t living fully enough in the moment. And you know what? We are probably right. One day we’ll look back, filled with regret for not holding on tighter . . . as though we actually possessed the ability to slow things down. In this world, convenience can be easily confused with freedom, when in reality this seemingly harmless handheld device is the very opposite of freedom. The thing we all love and cradle and study is actually our leash.
Memory Lane is not an actual, physical street. Yet, when I am away from my phone, computer, and television, I am transported back in time to my childhood. A time when my world was just a few streets wide and my main concern was running out of daylight before making it home for dinner. They were the times before I had to worry about other things running out like time, luck or money. These times weren’t crippled by mortgages, debt, and mental health conflicts. The “good old days” were a simpler time that allowed for a simpler life and, therefore, a simpler me. Because if you recall, before the days of anyone being able to reach you at any moment through a small mobile device ringing in your pocket, ear, wrist, or through the speakers of your car, there were busy signals and answering machines. So why have we forgotten that it is 100% acceptable to be unreachable sometimes? In some ways, I do believe we were probably happier back then, before the take over of technology. So, if this situation has done anything positive it’s that it unknowingly served as a path for us to unplug and return to that simpler time.
Exercise and Get Outside
Imagine a giant open-air fitness club with endless kick-ass courses and no parking issues. You may be surprised to learn that such a place exists, and it’s called, “nature.” Because of this outbreak and economic shut-down, we are being forced to do things differently, and that is kinda scary, it can also be a good thing.
With yoga studios, bike bars, and fitness clubs all shut down due to our governor’s orders, the spring weather has been driving people outside as I’ve never seen before. Streets, parks, and trail systems in and around our neighborhood are alive with adults and children walking, biking, and playing. Think about it – we have no choice but to go outside and breathe fresh air. No racing to the office. No juggling exercise, finding time to prepare healthy meals, and whatever other tasks we endlessly over-schedule ourselves with week after week. We really don’t have anywhere to be for once in our lives. We’d better enjoy this while we can. Another thing? I can’t be the only person noticing that everyone I see outside is happy and smiling. I am sure it is due to it being so refreshing to see so many people out enjoying themselves. Sometimes it takes shocks like this to get people out of our mindless routines. Since we’re not in as much of a rush right now, we’re all becoming more mindful to take care of our personal mental health, and others.
Although this global pandemic has brought entirely too many uncertainties into my life during these past few weeks, a few things remain the same. When I go outside, I see flowers in bloom, trees budding, and birds gathering nesting materials. All of nature’s creatures are going about their daily routines, completely oblivious and free of the panic and fear all around us. I have been allowing these images to serve as a reminder that this too shall pass. We have no idea exactly when, but we know it will. In the meantime, we can count on Mother Nature to provide us with the sights and sounds that will help us get through.
So, here we are. Maybe it’s only for a few weeks, but life is simple again. It has unexpectedly returned all of us to the basics. Walking away from dead-end jobs, taking our eyes off screens, and increasing interaction with the things that make us the happiest. In the coming weeks, even once life casually slides back into the hustle and bustle that we all secretly crave so much, let’s pledge to continue to remember these times. May we allow this terrible situation to somehow offer a new perspective of inspiration, newfound strength during challenges, and perhaps most important… a return to a simpler life.