Quelling the Quarantine Blues

As of writing this post, we are about two months in our global lock-down due to the infamous coronavirus. With several businesses having to reduce or halt their operations altogether, many people have been laid off from their jobs and are ordered to stay home by the state in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

It sucks, I know.

You want to go out with your friends and do an escape room together, have a sit down dinner with your family at a restaurant, or even spend some alone time sipping a java while reading a book at a cafe–but you can’t. We are all stuck at home, literally left to our own devices. The usage of smart phones and computers must be on a rise with how many more people need a little bit of escapism through watching things on YouTube and Netflix.

Then of course there’s the go getters who always need to be on the go and do something productive to feel at ease with themselves. After all, keeping busy does help keep us stable by providing value to others and reaping the rewards of being responsible. Some people get the option to work at home, while others don’t.

Whether this global lock-down has altered your life in any significant way, one thing this strange time in history is inspiring–or forcing, depending on how you think about it–several people to start considering is slowing down the gears and taking the time to pause and reflect.


Rustling the Hustle and Bustle

For about a year now, I have been working at an accounting office doing something completely out of my element, and trying my hardest to adapt. After all I am more of a wordsmith and math was never my greatest subject in school. This has come with it its own set of stress and problems I had never faced in my life before, and while it has been trying at times, I am incredibly proud of how I have survived thus far. And just when I thought I was hitting my stride at doing this job somewhat perfectly, I get laid off due to the decrease in business.

Maybe in a future post I’ll write more about my experiences there, but for now I’ll sum up the year I’ve spent there in one sentence:

I came to this job as an awkward novice who knew literally nothing, and eventually became a dependable team member who teaches new things even to veterans of the office.

This was my first full time job and it made me realize just how busy all my friends and family have been back when I was in my part time job Heaven. And yes, I do mean to be dramatic in saying that being a part timer is Heaven because you really start to feel the difference between working four days a week vs five.

Now it made sense why so many plans with friends and family sometimes had to fall through, adult life is quite difficult when it comes to juggling a job, relationships, and responsibilities at home. To stack on top of that, and what I really want to talk about in this post, is something not many people put much value on, though they should if they want the previously mentioned aspects of life to truly flourish.

What I’m talking about of course leisure and recreation.

It’s weird, right?

How dare I mention having fun and saying that it’s important?

That’s because it is important. They are just as important as the job you need to excel at, the relationships you need to maintain, and the home you need to keep in order. Leisure and creation, especially of the meaningful kind, are the jobs, relationships, and home you need to keep in order within yourself.

We live in a culture that puts so much emphasis on the hustle and bustle, and we often make the mistake of deriving our sense of identity out of it that we lose sight of why we work so hard to make a living. Is it not to be able to afford to enjoy ourselves with the things we buy with the money we earn, as well as serve as a reward and contrast for putting our best feet forward on a daily basis?


Presence Over Productivity

So I’ve been keeping up with some friends and family, and not while all of them are down and out about this lock-down, for the ones that are, this post is for you. If you’re feeling guilty about having this state enforced home time or even feel anxious about it, I invite you to take a moment to breathe, put your hands to your chests, and reconnect with yourself.

You feel that? You still have your breath and your heartbeat which means much more than whatever sense of self you derived from being busy. Again, not bashing how important it is to making a living as it is required for us to thrive and survive as human beings–but basing our identities and sense of self esteem over them is a deadly trap.

This global quarantine is a strange opportunity to take the time to pause and reflect. It may seem scary if you don’t intentionally do any self-work, but trust me it’s worth it, no matter how painful it is. It may be agonizing to start having all your anxieties fill your head faster than when you were busy, but the sooner you confront them, the sooner they become your friend.

Especially if you’re the type of person who just needs to be productive all the time, in which case I suggest taking up new hobbies in this time and/or learn to be okay with doing nothing.

I, for one, am just continuing to do the things I’ve always enjoyed outside of work which is to do some creative writing, self-knowledge work, and studying Korean. When that’s all said and done, I like to strap into a video game and lose myself to these inventive and interactive worlds.

But if you know me already, these passion projects don’t come easy. I know how much my own mind likes to turn on itself and give me resistance toward doing the things I know I love to do, and for quite a long time I let my resistance win. Hence I haven’t posted much here for quite a while until recently.

The point, of course, is to start taking up new hobbies or reviving old ones more for the sake of the presence it gives you than for the sake of being “productive.”

This was something I wrestled with for the first month of being laid off from my job. When I was given the news I was driven to plan my entire days around writing, self-knowledge, and studying, but what ended up happening was that I just laid around the house a lot feeling lazy, tired, and bored despite of all the wonderful video essays I’ve consumed on YouTube.


Giving Yourself a Hall Pass

The real reason why I talk about this dangerous trap of deriving your sense of self around how busy you are, if you haven’t noticed yet, is because it’s what I started to do having my first full time job. While I don’t think a little pride in one’s efforts is a bad thing, I did start to define myself by how busy I was at work and the value I was providing to the team with my refined skills. Especially after spending most of the year sucking absolute ass at the job, I was bound to overcompensate by focusing so much on the growth I’ve gone through during my time there.

Now while I don’t want to make light of this pandemic and treat this order to stay home as a vacation, it actually could not have come at a better time. For all of April, lying around the way I did, it made me realize just how burnt out I’ve actually become. For a whole year I’ve been firing at all cylinders to get a grasp at this job and even though I did spend my time off gaming and watching Netflix, my mind was always fixated on how I will do at work the next day. I couldn’t truly enjoy myself.

For a while I used my passion projects in writing, self-knowledge, and Korean to keep me upright as something to do in the morning before going to work, but due to the fatigue I developed, I had been staying up later than I should and losing a lot of sleep causing me to drag my feet throughout the day at work and then either half ass my passion projects, or completely ignore them.

So come April with being laid off, it made sense I couldn’t do much for an entire month except for muster maybe one or two “productive” days a week before lying around and doing a whole lot of nothing for the rest of the week. I was tired because I hadn’t given myself the hall pass to just laze about with no direction required.

This doesn’t mean stop giving a crap about life and start neglecting your grooming needs or anything like that, but it is very important to consider how much our minds and bodies take a toll amidst our hustle and bustle. And now that we have this strange opportunity, I think it’s important to be a bit kinder to ourselves and use this silver lining to inspire us rather than string us up with the help of our own anxieties.

Whether you’ve lost your job or not, and whether you’re an extrovert or not, I’m just here to remind you that it is important to give yourself the time and permission to rest. You don’t always have to be going to get to where you want. Perhaps pausing to rest can get you to your intended destination much quicker because it is in pausing and reflecting we refuel the gas tank.

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