April 1, 2020 • Newsletter
It’s been quite a month, hasn’t it? On March 1st I was preparing for travel to Boston, New York, Atlanta, and Florida; I was grading papers; and I was having conversations about workshops I would lead this summer and fall. Now, all of my travel has been curtailed, student assignments have been modified, and my work has morphed from proactive conversations around financial wellness to survival conversations around prioritizing expenses.
But it’s not all bleak. I’ve watched reluctant colleagues embrace working-from-home flexibility and the beauty of Zoom. I’ve watched my daughter direct her own fourth-grade curriculum, prioritizing the tasks she wants to prioritize and enjoying learning in the process. And I’ve watched kindness emerge in neighbors and strangers alike.
These next few months certainly won’t be normal. But I do hope some of the new habits we witness continue.
Make Work. Or Don’t.
Last week, I started hearing more and more creative individuals struggle with motivation. Initially, some were eager to adapt their mediums to match the new opportunities that emerged. Some still are. But plenty are struggling to make work. Shows have been canceled, deadlines have been postponed, opportunities have vanished.
If you are still making work, please continue. After all, makers make. I see you, and I admire your perseverance, especially if your work changes over the next weeks or months. But if you’re not feeling up to it right now, that’s okay too. Take care of yourself so you’ll be able to make work again when this is all over.
Support Each Other.
Whether it is grocery shopping for neighbors, leaving messages of support for essential workers, or connecting with each other as humans (albeit from an appropriate social distance), the support we are providing for each other is tangible. And it matters.
Those who are often overlooked are filling essential roles and receiving gratitude and eye contact. Those who need help are receiving it. And there is a sense of camaraderie among strangers that I love to see. I hope it continues.
I’m pretty sure my dog has lost two pounds as a result of our social isolation. He doesn’t understand why he can’t greet other dogs as we walk, but that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for extra walks. They are longer than normal, and definitely more frequent.
There is more time for them since we have fewer activities competing for our time. And they feel especially refreshing when they represent the only time we leave home. I hope they continue.
Tasks that could “never” be done remotely are being done remotely. Crucial in-person activities that could “never” be replicated online are being replicated online. Moments lacking professionalism are being forgiven and overlooked as we all juggle parental responsibilities, household responsibilities, and professional responsibilities (and not always in that order).
Instead of feeling frustration when dogs bark or children cry or life happens, we are all embracing the glimpses into the personal lives of those we love. I am deepening relationships with students, colleagues, and clients simply by seeing or hearing snippets of their lives unfold during workshops, classes, or one-on-one sessions. I hope those snippets continue.
Do the Math.
And lastly, more and more people are paying close attention to their financial health, mostly out of necessity as we carefully count dollars and calculate how long our reserves may last. In this crisis there is opportunity for awareness.
There is a clear example of the importance of having an emergency reserve fund on hand, and perhaps a renewed interest in building it over time. There is renewed interest in examining our essential expenses, including our commuting costs, the shipping costs we happily pay for convenience, and the health care costs we invest as society. With increased clarity, I hope we will be comfortable reflecting on what is really necessary for ourselves. And I hope we’ll do it with a baseline of publicly available heath care and internet access for all.
At some point this will end and we’ll begin the post-COVID period of our lives. It won’t look like the pre-COVID period in many ways. But we do have an opportunity to retain the positive habits we’ve developed over the past couple of weeks. And I for one am okay with that.