Like many of you, I’ve been in some form of modified quarantine for the past 6 months. I took a break from blogging and posting because I simply didn’t have the headspace for it. Like many of you, I was juggling work from home, virtual learning, the endless menu planning and feeding cycles and the stress and weight of all that was going on around us. It just didn’t seem right to add content related to this passion project of mine amid COVID, #blacklivesmatter, and the economic fallout around us. It’s not over, but like everything else, we learn how to adapt. For my first blog back, I decided to focus on some personal reflections and lessons I have taken out of COVID and I encourage you to share your own, privately or publicly.
Before I start, remember where I was when COVID hit. I had just left a company where I had thrived for 19 years and decided to venture out of my comfort space and start a new job at a different organization. I started in December, so I was still learning the ropes when we were struck by this global pandemic. My days quickly went from learning the business and getting to know the people and processes to managing a crisis. For Latin America, a pandemic of this scale brings unimaginable social and financial strain on our already fragile economies. Those of us in this geography for years know that Latin America is no stranger to crisis, but it’s usually 1 country in crisis at a time not all at the same time. Of course, my travels came to an abrupt halt at the end of February and so did my ability to get to know my team members face to face. The switch to virtual that all of us had to deal with was upon me with a new team, in a new company with many colleagues and customers I had never had the benefit of meeting face to face.
Which brings me to my first COVID lesson: You don’t need to be a road warrior to get the job done.
My entire professional life, I’ve been traveling for work and in the past few years as often as 3 out of 4 weeks a month. I told myself it was the only way to be effective and get the job done, I needed to be present with my team, with customers, etc. I plowed through the physical and mental toll that being away from your family and home for 3-4 days a week takes on you. I endured, persevered and did it until I suddenly couldn’t anymore. This quarantine is the longest I’ve spent in my 20-year professional career without getting on a plane except for my 2 maternity leaves. Stop and think about that. I had never paused this long from travel except when I had to physically for the wellbeing of my children. Now that I have taken that pause, I don’t think I will ever go back to the same travel schedule I had before. We simply don’t need to. We have proven to ourselves, our employers, our employees, our customers that we can be productive virtually and that virtual meetings can feel real if you turn the camera on and get a glimpse into the other person’s real life. My first takeaway from these past few months is that I need to push back and travel when travel is necessary and will be impactful, not just travel because it’s what we always did.
Lesson #2: It’s amazing and startling how quickly new habits can form and old ones can die.
Think about it, did you start or lose a workout routine, cooking routine, self-care routine? Think about how quickly that change happened. I personally started a workout at home routine that I’m proud of thanks to some help from a friend. Working out at home is not something I ever did or enjoyed before. I loved that 1 hour of total disconnection from all else focusing on myself at the gym but COVID made me learn to workout from home. Now, I can honestly say it’s a habit, part of my routine. Habits are created in 21 days but they can be broken just as quickly. Something I’m not as proud of? Losing the habit of getting dressed up and doing my hair daily. That is now reserved for “special” video calls and that’s just me being brutally honest. If my video is not turned on, I’m probably working with a messy bun and no makeup. So, I created a habit I’m proud of and lost one I wish I had kept during COVID, it could be worse.
Lesson #3: COVID reminded me about the importance of mindset
COVID reminded me how important it is to be in the right mindset and to manage the triggers that can either elevate or demote your mindset. I quickly learned that I had to stop being glued to the news to stay in the right mindset. I had to focus on what I could control rather than things that were out of my control. I could control how I responded to this crisis but not how everyone else did. And so that’s what I did, focused on staying healthy, productive and grateful. I completed house projects that we had put off for years and invested our vacation money back into the house. I tried to stay mentally and physically fit because I could take precautions to avoid contact with the virus but even more important was ensuring my body and mind were as healthy as they could be in case I did contract the virus.
Lesson #4: COVID reinforced what is truly important – family
I have had more breakfasts, lunches and dinners with my children during COVID than ever before in their lives. It made me realize just how much I missed out, the little daily routines that we either rushed through or weren’t present for before. Don’t get me wrong, the weight of trying to get everything done perfectly during this quarantine is overwhelming for perfectionists like me. It can drive you to the edge if you let it, but I tried to be grateful for having the opportunity to be present much more than before and ride that wave while I could. These past few months made me remember that above all, family comes first, and that we can prioritize family without compromising our responsibility to our community.
Lesson #5: Don’t forget to show compassion for others without judgement
The final and perhaps most important lesson was that we all need to try to be more compassionate and less judgmental of each other. During this crisis, it seems that we have all been so quick to judge people in our community for the incredibly personal and important decisions we’ve had to make – full quarantine or socially distant gatherings? Mask or no mask? Virtual or in person school? Sports or No Sports? Allow kids to play video games or not? Eat out or strictly at home? None of these decisions are easy and there is no one size fits all solution regardless of your political affiliation or demographics. One of my favorite quotes is “the world is full of nice people, if you can’t find one, be one”. The world would be a much kinder place if we all focused on being one.
These are the 5 top lessons I’m taking from my ronalife so far. I will keep reflecting and trying my best to stay positive through all of this, practicing gratitude and trying to be a better person for my family and my community.