I woke up early this morning. Lots of things rolling through my mind. What does today hold? What do I need to be doing? Are we any closer to getting back to normal?
We've been introduced lately to words not in our usual vocabulary - pandemic, coronavirus, social distancing, quarantine, shelter-in-place, flatten the curve. These have resulted in working remotely, conference calls taken to a new level, empty grocery shelves, eating out has become take out or delivery, heightened fear of what the future looks like economically, questions of how will businesses be impacted, especially small businesses, when will this end?
For me, I have been working toward retiring from my full time job at UT Southwestern for a couple of years and trying to decide on a retirement date, which so far has been a moving target. i actually had a letter drafted to give to my boss for a date later this year, when this pandemic hit, and we were told we had 2 days to get everything in order to work remotely from home. In my case, that didn't just mean getting my own job ready, but I am responsible for a department full of people so working with other leaders in our organization, we had to make sure that everyone was prepared and had what they needed to begin working from home. This was a real test for our business continuity plan that so many times was a theoretical exercise in imagining what kind of disaster we might have to deal with and what we would need. We have learned that we were not fully prepared for the challenges but we have also found that some of our planning and preparations have been beneficial and we have quickly adapted and learned new technology along the way. I've thought several times over the past week and half that even 5 years ago, some of the technology that we are utilizing today would not have existed or would have been more limiting and we would not be able to be as connected and productive as we are today.
In my current reality, I awaken each day and try to keep a normal schedule. I double check my UT calendar for scheduled meetings that I must plan around and/or prepare for. Then I set about figuring out what work I need to be working on. This can be a challenge being outside my normal work environment and not having all my co-workers near by. Often, my work is defined by whatever need or challenge is directed to me. I'm still getting those via emails, phone calls, and conference calls, but being remote, I think they are a fewer, or at least it feels different. That leaves me to having time to think about the actual work that needs to be getting done. And when the "fires" do come, how I deal with them may be different.
Next comes the dilemma of my mind thinking,"Hey, I'm at home. I must be on vacation, let's do something fun." And then my mind turns to, "Wow, what a great time to work on my photography business as I scan my photography business emails and see all the posts from other photographers talking about how they are using this down time to get caught up on things and do some learning. "Yes" says my mind, "that sounds great. I'd love to use this time to get some things organized, caught up, and really focus on learning some new things and study for my certification." Then the reality of who is actually paying me right now rears its head and I am torn. I am a responsible and honest person and believe I owe a full days effort to UTSW. I am realizing sitting at the same computer all day doing one job during the day and the other job in the evening is a challenge for me. I did not realize that the drive from work to home, which so often is fraught with bumper to bumper traffic and rerouting to avoid wrecks and delays, actually served as a mental transition for me, a time to change gears.
When this is over, we will have learned some things about ourselves and our lives. Hopefully we will have a new appreciation for the people in our lives, and discover what is of real value to us. And I suspect however long we are compelled to isolate ourselves and push the pause button on many things, yet attempt to keep our jobs and businesses functioning as close to normal as possible, we will look back and the time will seem much shorter in retrospect than it does going through it. Hopefully, we will have gained a new perspective on what is really important in life and realize how quickly our lives can change and that we should recognize our blessings and not take them for granted. And just as surely as Spring has arrived - we too have a chance for renewal each day. Stay safe my friends!