This post has a substantial amount of pessimism, and should not be read by the faint of heart.
Week Six! The current zeitgeist has been increasingly revolved around COVID-19, and I am no exception. My morale has taken a toll this week, and I have had to re-evaluate my foundational values in order to return to the rate of productivity I was at previously.
A global crisis such as this one, (particularly because you are stuck in social isolation) allows you to take a deep look at what actually matters. There is a great deal that I had thought to be important and meaningful that is no longer–whether because of current conditions, or because it actually wasn’t ever important in the first place.
Before I get into my personal systems and my new approach to work, I must take an aside to describe why exactly I am so concerned. Just a forewarning: I am a total layman that only has access to the information given to the general public, I do not have the capability to properly understand the epidemiology nor the virology that has been discussed in scientific papers. This is merely an aggregation of what I have been seeing from multiple journalistic sources. These are broad generalizations, and I hope I am incorrect about them in the pessimistic direction.
Alarmist Assumptions of COVID-19
- Some people with the virus are asymptomatic.
- Some people get very sick from the virus, particularly if they have concurrent illnesses or disease.
- There are multiple reports of reinfection occurring, meaning that the body might not develop an immunity after recovering.
These three observations have far-reaching consequences. It is possible that quarantine and self-isolation will be required to ensure the safety and health of vulnerable populations until a vaccine is developed, which would roughly be around September 2021 regardless of how quickly research and testing is done.
An alternative would be regional quarantine, where all infected populations recover and no outside population is allowed in. However, the possibility of re-infection could nullify such a protocol anyways.
This would not be such a big deal, were it not for the lack of precaution and initiative taken originally. A week ago, it was universally advised that the large majority of commercial activity would only cease for two weeks. I am unsure if this was due to lack of understanding, or as an attempt to slowly ease people into isolation by promising small amounts of time that get prolonged incrementally.
Gratitude: Taking Stock
In spite of my worries described above, I recognize that things locally are actually being handled extremely well. My province has been doing some of the most amount of testing per capita in North America, and a large amount of measures are being taken to ensure the safety, financial stability, and health of citizens. There are less than 200 cases in my province as of writing.
My family is doing well, and I have total ability to work remotely. I am an extremely introverted person, so I should not really have any problem with self-isolation. However, I had been going to numerous networking events the past few weeks and trying my best to be more social in-person, and not having the ability to do that anymore kinda bums me out.
But I have plenty to do otherwise at home–I had just finished building a bookshelf that is full, so I have plenty of reading material. I have also enjoyed spending time cooking, playing instruments, homemaking and interior decorating, playing with my cat, and practicing equipment-less workouts. I have everything I need.
One take away that has already become apparent is that people are fundamentally kind and good, I have only seen selfless compassion and sharing, in spite of much worry and confusion. There is a universal bond holding humanity together right now–we all share a common, microscopic enemy. We are all apart of what needs to be done.
The world will fundamentally change, and is starting to already. I believe the display of fragility of the economy demonstrates how people are becoming more cognizant of their inherent value, not just as workers, but as human beings.
The status quo has been effectively undermined, and we cannot comfortably sink back into it after things stabilize again. The momentum that has been started by something out of out control can be continued by our control.
There are three questions which I think are vital to meditate on and answer in order to reposition yourself properly:
- What is true? What can we agree is objective fact? What is significant enough to put faith into as being true?
- What is meaningful? How is this a story we can tell? How do we frame this truth as a narrative and map it out?
- What is useful? What do we need to function and prosper? How are these utilities related to our truth and meaning?
These are difficult and heavy questions, they require a lot of chewing time. But I believe any good action taken requires this initial framework. I have a particular set of skills, talents, and capabilities, but they are rather ineffective without understanding what is needed to help others right now.
More importantly, I find it difficult to go back and do the work and utilize my capabilities I was doing without this re-evaluation. My original intention and goals seem frivolous without a new framework. I know my values are in the right place, because this post I wrote a few months ago resonates with me far more powerfully now.
A Postcard Idea
I’m learning how to be a good software developer so I can help create and maintain tools and infrastructure that will benefit the public good, but that requires a lot of time, and every second counts during situations like this. I think that’s why I’m having such difficulty figuring things out for myself–I need to walk the walk.
How can I help my local vulnerable population and local businesses? Or maybe more importantly, how do I help others help them? This Neighborhood Postcard is a fantastic idea, and I’m trying to figure out a way to scale the idea and digitize some sort of (safe) public database/matching service for people who need help and people who are able to help. But for now, just sharing the idea itself is good.
- Be rigorous with a schedule. Isaac Newton had his most productive time during isolation, however if you are unused to working from home, it can be incredibly easy to only procrastinate. Nobody can keep you accountable except yourself.
- Go outside for an hour per day. Although going out to commercial places with others is discouraged, you can still go outside and take a walk perfectly fine (even if you have the virus!). It definitely helps with cabin fever and gives you a chance to really take a look at your neighborhood. The Wandering Precepts from Keri Smith’s book are a really good guide.
- Reach out to everyone. Everybody is somehow effected by this, don’t be afraid to take time each day to check-in with people, even those you don’t regularly talk to or haven’t talk to in awhile. We’re all in this together.
- Allocate time for deep work. Although it is good to keep in contact with people, it’s as equally important to make sure that you minimize distractions when you’re working and allocate time specifically for that as well. We aren’t really designed to multi-task, and a lot more can get done if you’re focusing on just a single thing, which is paramount if you’re doing important, meaningful work.
- Figure out self-care. Understand what actually helps you rejuvenate, versus what makes things merely comfortable/numb can be difficult to differentiate. Allocating time for play and rest is more important than allocation for work.