Accepting The Pandemic
Two weeks into Texas's stay-at-home order, during a company-wide video chat, I told my co-workers that living in the time of coronovarius felt like the grieving process. At that point I was cycling through three of the five states of grief: denial, anger, and bargaining. Despite my best efforts, depression eventually came into the mix and I have no doubt my old friend will visit again, and probably much sooner than I would like. The journey hasn't been the smoothest, but after six weeks or so, I finally touched the acceptance stage of grief. It may sound long overdue, but I took three years to accept what I was feeling after losing my parents, so this timeframe is much better in comparison.
When my office first shut its doors, I hoped the disruption would last only a couple of weeks. Now, at least in regard to this pandemic, I've dropped out of the prediction business. Even the experts have seen their best guesses miss too many marks. All models are wrong, but some are useful, as they say. It's clear that no one has the answers.
When will this end?
The short-term answer—when will most businesses reopen and allow people to return to work—depends on where you call home, as governments are taking varied approaches. The long-term answer—when will the world at large return to normal—is complicated and layered. A better question is, what will our new normal look like? And how much of the old normal will carry over? The Economist expects 90% of the old economy to stay in tact, but that 10% change will have dramatic consequences. Something like this pandemic—something that touches and disrupts the lives of so many so fast—will not quickly be forgotten just because government officials give their blessings for the world to reopen all its doors again. Some people are already facing significant economic and professional challenges, as the unemployment figures show, and may continue to do so even after things open up again. Families may be reshaped as reports of domestic and child abuse are rising and divorces may rise just as they did in China. Some entire industries will be reshaped, their reward for survival.
Those of us able to work from home have the luxury of other considerations. What trivialities from our old lives do we miss more than we ever could have expected? I, for one, never realized that my daily commute brought some benefits (such as time to reflect or decompress between work and home) despite its annoyances. What old necessities do we now realize were wastes? Though I know the importance of networking, I now have very little desire to waste time at industry events with people I don't enjoy spending time with. I have had a few exercises in re-aligning priorities and I doubt I'm alone in that regard. I'm lucky in that I have had some moments of clarity during my time at home.
I don't know what's ahead, but at least I will admit it, unlike so many armchair experts on TV or online. I can't do much of anything to affect the outcome. But I have accepted where we are in this moment, and I will work to accept what awaits us—whatever the hell that is.