In March of 2020, FUEL decided to close the office as COVID-19 began to creep across the nation. While many of my coworkers were nervous about working from home, I envisioned a new, improved shift in my work/life balance. I looked at the silver lining in this need to pivot the way “work” looked. Without a commute, I was gaining valuable time back in my day. I was finally going to infuse a healthier way of living into my routine and be more intentional with how I spent my time. 2020 was filled with a lot of uncertainty on numerous fronts, but I wanted to make sure that my time at home counted for something. For me, I needed to focus on that silver lining.
Time boundaries have always been an issue with me. I can’t turn the work switch off. I spent the first few weeks huddled over my kitchen island as I worked. However, in the evening, I felt like I was just living at work. My workspace had invaded my living space, and it was hard to disconnect. I was tempted to check “just one more thing” in the early (or late) hours. There was no retreat. One afternoon, I lugged all of my things up into a spare room. A folding table created a temporary working space, and it immediately felt like an upgrade. When my dogs got too excited, I had a door to close against the chaos. And at the end of the day, I could leave my workspace and enjoy my evenings without feeling that I was still at work. Now that being at home is turning into a more permanent solution in the COVID-19 world, I bought a big girl desk and a comfortable chair. It feels like a real work space that I can leave at the end of the day.
The first month we were at home, we were in the midst of a company-wide workout competition. It was exciting to have accountability. As I worked on my sit ups and planks, my dogs took it as an opportunity to “help” by using me as a jungle gym. Since these pups are 70+ lbs, that was not a fun experience. So, I decided to train my dogs to run with me. Approximately 15 steps into the very first run, one dog got spooked by a passing car and I tripped over the leash, grating my hands and knees on the pavement. Honestly, that seemed about right for 2020. I had to get creative. I placed free weights by my desk, bought a stretching band, and invested in a treadmill. While I do go back and forth between ignoring the equipment and using them, the bottom line is that no matter where you are, you still have to take the time to exercise and take care of yourself.
Each summer, I look forward to growing (and inevitably accidentally killing) my garden. With all of this time at home, I took the time to reimagine my yard layout. I could build raised beds and maybe even a greenhouse. However, by May, I had yet to start my garden, and I was way behind the growing season. I loaded up on a variety of herbs and lots of tomatoes and ordered some peonies to liven up my yard. By September, my peonies had died and my mint and oregano had taken over everything. The spot I had cleared out to become my greenhouse remained an ugly reminder that so many plans remained unfinished. However, the other day as I was tidying up the remains of last summer’s plants, I noticed new buds sprouting off of my “dead” peonies. I had a renewed sense of hope for next year’s plan. Life goes on.
As an introvert, I was content to stay at home in my dog fur-covered sweatpants sipping my favorite coffee. I am built for quarantine life. Still, as the months have passed, I find myself missing my friends and coworkers and grieving the loss of time spent with them, as well as canceled trips and events. While we may not be attending Dragon*Con together this year (nerd alert) or venturing to Scotland for a friend’s wedding, I have appreciated the precious in-person time spent chatting across the driveway, Zoom happy hours, and outdoor walks at six feet apart. I realized that when people are important to you, you find creative ways to communicate, even when communication isn’t your strong suit. Still, you have to take a step back and assess what you need and what feels right on the social front. Some people need communication and some people need distance, and it’s important to recognize that it’s okay to need or want both.
Now that the idea of “normalcy” is on the horizon, I’ve taken time to consider what pre-pandemic habits I want to keep and let go of. I spend quality time with people that matter most to me, and I have more time to take care of myself and focus on my personal growth. While perhaps these are not meeting the lofty goals I had set for myself, there are still a lot of reasons to be appreciative of all that I’ve accomplished during the quarantine. It’s my hope that I keep the parts that add value to my life and learn to stay focused on that silver lining…because there’s always a silver lining.