Stop Counting Down
Living in the age of prolonged lockdowns
Since the Singapore government announced yesterday (21 April 2020) that the circuit breaker will be extended till 1 Jun, there has been a landslide of lamentation and folks here restarted the Circuit Breaker countdown.
There is a LinkedIn Influencer I follow. As a way of creating an outlet for himself and others who feel the same way, he launched a new LinkedIn conversation around “Feeling crushed about the ‘circuit breaker’ extension".
I checked it out of course, since he is someone I follow, but immediately with regrets. While reading his post, I realised I was actually feeling ok before I started reading. I felt suffocated going through his breakdown and desperate countdown, followed by even more lamentation at the commentary section.
I ejected myself from his space, fleeing away from the conversation as though I’ve just crossed path with the coronavirus.
7 years ago, I left my corporate job to strike out on my own. That decision transited me into the life of a bootstrap entrepreneur. As a new "Independent Consultant" trying to figure out where her new source of income could come from, I adopted a series of austerity measures - I started working from home; cut down all non essential expenses, and reduced most of my socialising as a means to contain my expenses and stay focused. This is a story is not unfamiliar to many bootstrap entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals out there.
As a result, I felt extremely lonely - my # 1 hardship really wasn't about the challenge of launching a business. If you are someone who enjoy being amongst people like me, this type of life style can be excruciating. My creative juice bubbles when I can interact with people, even if I do not know them personally. Now working from home, my metabolism drops and so did my morale and productivity. In addition, the self-enforced cut down on all non essentials also brings about a painful sense of isolation.
Years later, whenever opportunity calls for, I would happily pay to work from a co-working space. And I would so hate it whenever a Smart Alec, who has ever been in the same boat, would come by and tell me I’m so fortunate to be work from home because THEY so enjoy it.
Neuroscience has shown that isolation and loneliness bring about real pain, not unlike a physical ones. Since 2017, the World Economic Forum has been highlighting the issue around mental health issue suffered by entrepreneurs, for exactly the same reasons many of us are going through now – the sense of loneliness, isolation, stress and helplessness.
And therefore I can more or less empathise the need of many who are suddenly thrown into this kind of lifestyle. Of course they would feel the need to countdown in order to "see" the light at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately, based on what I have gone through, such anticipation often brings about more pain than relief. Because the truth is, you are just living in the good old memories of what it used to be, and hoping a quick reversion of the present situation to where we came from. You are neither living in the present, or contributing to the future. This, is a part of the grieving process, which denial is part of what we will experience.
As Marshall Goldsmith says, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There". The past is dead and we are in a stage of recreating the future. The longer we stay in the hope of countdown towards reversion, the longer we stay in grieve and hopelessness. Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 brings about a new world that is so unfamiliar to us. To move forward, we must accept and relentlessly metamorphose.
In my case, life eventually becomes less painful when I decided to stop reminiscing the good old days and start living in the present. Suddenly, not only life becomes bearable, it actually becomes ‘normal’ enough to enjoy, allowing me push towards a better tomorrow.
Of course, the pain still comes and goes because as human we are born with the need to socialise. The current COVID-19 situation is no less than those apocalyptic movies we have watched.
But until we lose it, we never cherish our freedom to connect, especially in person. We were so often hiding behind social media, mobile phones and virtual games. Maybe we should try to remember why working from home was so enjoyable and being overdosed on social media was pretty hip, rather than always thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side.
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