Earlier this year, I was looking at my calendar because like a good little Type A, I REALLY get off on being organised. I zeroed in on April and, to be honest, I was stoked with how it looked.
Alanis Morrisette concert, cousin’s kitchen tea, trip to the family farm, cousin’s wedding, visiting our friends in Melbourne, heaps of visitors coming to stay with us. I couldn’t bloody wait.
Then… well we all know what happened then. The Global Pandemic That Must Not Be Named swept the world, rendering most of us homebound hermits for the foreseeable future. Yoga pants are the daily norm. Hair washing is optional. Ditto bras. We initially panicked about laser hair removal/getting our roots done/fake tanning, but by now we’ve given up. We’re not seeing anyone anyway so who cares? I have two wee beasties where my eyebrows used to be, but our courier can’t see them from the top of the driveway where he leaves our parcels at a safe distance so what does it matter? I haven’t seen anyone outside my immediate family for longer than 5 minutes since the end of March.
It’s an extrovert’s nightmare.
Restrictions are gently being lifted around the world, and a lot of people are low-key freaking out about it. Not about the virus, about returning to our normal ‘frantic’ lives. It seems we’re all loving non-existent commutes. Leisurely breakfasts with our kids instead of flapping around trying to find two matching shoes for a squawking three-year-old. Weekends spent doing sweet fuck all, instead of shivering on the sidelines of a frosty soccer field. Being secretly thrilled that you don’t have to go to the 40th birthday of that colleague you kind of hate. All ‘obligatory’ social gatherings have become totally not obligatory. Illegal, in fact. And it seems quite a few of us are loving it. Especially the working from home part.
Those of us who have been working from home for a while are watching this wide-spread realisation and thinking ‘Well, der! Working from home is awesome’. We’re like the long-term residents of a lovely coastal town that hasn’t been ruined by tourists or tree-changers. I’ve known for a REALLY long time how much I wanted to work from home, and I spent the better half of my youth focussed on being a work from home freelancer. (For those of you playing at home, I’ve been a work from home freelancer for about 6 years now. It’s ace.)
Many moons ago, I used to be a special needs teacher. I loved the teaching part, all the admin and bureaucracy is what made me leave the profession. The paperwork was utter nonsense. Anyway, years ago, I was teaching two classes in the same week. On Thursdays, I taught at the main campus, which was a 35-minute drive away from my flat. The drive was awful. Really slow and the roads were packed with people who had no business holding valid driver’s licenses. I once a saw a man watching The Office on his iPad propped up against the windscreen. No shit. On Fridays, I worked in a satellite classroom, which means you have a room and your own students at another school, but you’re not really a part of that school. The campus was a ten-minute walk from my flat. Both of my classes were utterly gorgeous, but the Friday Satellite class was a little bit harder work. The Thursday Main School class made me feel like I shouldn’t even be paid to teach them, they were so fun and engaged. It would be fair to assume I’d prefer Thursday’s angels to Friday’s spirited bunch right? Wrong. As the term went on, I found myself dreading Thursday and breathing a sigh of relief when Friday rolled around.
I couldn’t put my finger on it – my Thursday class was so lovely. My Friday class was also lovely, just a little unpredictable, which makes teaching even more exhausting. By the end of the term, I had it figured it out. Regardless of the work I did between the hours of 9 to 3, here’s the difference between the two days.
- Wake up at 7, so I could leave by 7.30 and arrive by 8.15 when the first kids got off the bus
- 35 for 45 minute very stressful commute each way
- 8.30 am start time
- Meetings before and/or after school
- Located at the central school so I’d see all staff members (this was good and bad – great for socialising, bad for time-wasting)
- 4 pm finish time followed by a peak hour 45 min to an hour drive home
- Arrive home at 5 pm
- Collapse in a heap and barely have the energy to move
- Total hours out of my own house for work purposes – 9.5
- Wake up at 8 am, leave at 8.30, arrive by 8.45 when the first kids got off the bus
- A lovely leisurely walk to work via a cafe with excellent coffee
- 9.15 am start time
- 3 pm finish time followed by a pleasant 10 min walk home via the local markets to buy yummy produce for dinner
- Time to go to the gym after work, cook a lovely dinner and hang out with my housemate
- Total hours out of the house for work purposes – 6.5
Basically, the difference between Thursdays and Fridays was 3.5 hours of bullshit. Time spent in the car, useless meetings, exposure to time wasters. It was the EXACT SAME JOB, and I was paid the EXACT SAME AMOUNT for each day, but one of the days destroyed me, and the other left me feeling pretty dang satisfied with life.
It was a very eye-opening experience. And look, I understand that not everyone has the option to switch careers or jobs because they don’t like spending an hour and a half in the car every day. Ditto telling your boss that three team meetings a week is excessive, boring and a major waste of company resources. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s just as important to look at what you DON’T like spending your time doing as what you DO like spending your time doing.
I love having a full schedule, so I’m not loving lockdown at all and I’m certainly not freaking out about the easing of restrictions. I’ve used this lockdown as an opportunity to look at what I want to change about my life, and I’m pleased to say, I’m really very cool with my life right now. I’d like it back, please. I’ll even complain less about my early morning gym classes. Dear Lord, I miss my early morning gym classes. And hugs.
Everyone’s journey is going to be different and everyone will have learned unique things about themselves during this pandemic.
So here are a few questions to ask yourself about returning to your ‘normal’ life.
- What do you like about your job?
- What do you not like about your job?
- What do you want to spend more time doing?
- What do you want to spend less time doing?
- What changes can you make without changing careers?
- What options do you have if you want to change careers?
- Are you able to work less?
- Are you able to work from home?
- Do you like commuting?
- Do you hate commuting?
- Were you able to work productively from home or does an office environment suit you better?
- Did you miss being a part of a workplace and seeing colleagues every day?
- What part of your lockdown routine do you really want to keep?
- What part of your lockdown routine will you be keen to see the back of?
The thing is, post lockdown life is going to look different for everyone. Some people will have thrived working from home, and others will be standing outside their office on the first day back, banging on the doors, desperate for some human contact. Some people may have enjoyed having extra time at home with their kids and might try to re-jig their work-life to include more time spent at home. Other’s will realise how much they enjoy working and will relish the opportunity to get stuck back into it.
It’s a bit of a gift this lockdown. It’s been a way to experience a different way of life, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to look at what really matters to you.
If your goal is to figure out what you want from life, here’s what you have to do.
1. Spend some time figuring out what you love
This should be pretty easy. It’s generally a list of all the things you miss doing OR the things you’re loving doing during lockdown.
Here’s my list.
- Playing/laughing/giggling with my daughter
- Spending time with my extended family
- Going to the movies
- Spending time with my partner without our daughter around (I obviously love her, I just really enjoy having conversations where her finger isn’t planted firmly in my nose)
- Cooking for friends and family
- Going to the gym
- Having dinners out with girlfriends
- Spending time in the garden with my little family
- Shopping in malls (this one surprised me but I’m really craving a wander around a shopping centre)
- Going to bed early
- Watching true crime documentaries
- Weekends away
2. Say no to everything that doesn’t support what you listed above
Within reason obviously. We need to work, we need to pay our bills and put money on the table. I’ve worked HEAPS of jobs that destroyed my soul because I needed the money and it’s likely I will do it again at some point.
Just think carefully about what’s important to you. If you don’t mind commuting, but you’d like some extra money, take that job that’s a little further away. If you want to be home for your kids in the holidays, try to get a job with some flexibility if you can. If you love to travel, take that job that requires several interstate trips a month. If you love spending time with your family on special occasions, be wary of accepting a position where you might have to work on public holidays.
Also if you have the space to even think about this stuff, you are so very, very lucky. This is coming from someone who has spent at least every second day of lockdown experiencing severe anxiety and feeling the lowest I have ever have in my life. My feelings are valid – this whole thing is epically shithouse – but at the end of the day if your family is safe and healthy you’re doing good.