It was the year 2020, March 7th. I was landing in Cluj, my hometown in Romania, after a business trip to Dallas and New York. Colleagues at work were already starting to be uneasy about the virus, so I chose not to go into the office that Monday. After only a few days, though, everything changed, and the business requested all 1000+ colleagues in the building to pick up their stuff from the office and work from home until further notice. In a matter of days, the reality we knew and took for granted changed in a way nobody could foresee.
We’re now starting the new year; it’s January 2021. We’re still working from home, we’re still not traveling much outside the country, and we just spent the first Christmas during the pandemic, with its restrictions and newness. It’s not all bad; it could have been much worse. I am lucky I didn’t lose my job, nor had any family die from the virus. While I won’t dwell on that, this article is my take on how I perceived the challenges and the benefits of the unprecedented year we have lived, 2020.
Working from home
After two weeks in the US, I won’t deny that the idea to self-isolate and spend two weeks at home with my dog was just what I needed. I always felt working from home helped me balance everything and have the flexibility we all long for.
But it’s nice to have the option to work from home. Not for it to be mandatory, and on top of that to have restrictions on going out, seeing friends, going shopping, traveling, and adding new behaviors like disinfecting all your shopping’s, wearing a mask all times and so on.
It was good in the beginning, but the challenges didn’t wait too long to face. Being at home with no other activity than my job led to spending more time in front of the computer. Work was all day as we had to deal with the crisis, and soon we could feel the work fatigue. Being in the same living room while working and relaxing didn’t feel like you separate the two. And when the autumn started, and winter brought night at 16:30, everything went crazy. My mind had a super-hard time dealing with the fact that I am at home, with my cozy lights on as it gets dark, and I still have meetings and discussions at work to deal with. It was madness.
And to add to it all for the context’s sake, things weren’t great when you think about the lack of a proper holiday, not taking a full break, and not being able to see colleagues in person. Many changes were happening at work that weren’t made in person. You couldn’t see or guess much around those. I felt the disconnect with colleagues and friends just the same.
Lockdown and social life
During the lockdown, I was single and moved with my parents for a period to another city. They have a garden, and everything was so much easier. I felt lucky. The best thing was that it offered us a connection we couldn’t have hoped for in normal circumstances. I am grateful I had this chance and loved the times I spent with my dad walking the dogs twice every day.
But yes, being single during a period where the social part is prohibited makes everything hard. I now have a partner, and I can say I can face these times better, and it’s healthier, mentally, to have someone to hold and talk to regardless of the topic.
Probably above the social aspect, I missed traveling the most. Before the lockdown, I went to London and the US, while we only traveled inside the country afterward. We had a chance to discover beautiful places here that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
I can’t wait to fly again to new faraway places, but at the same time, I can’t say I didn’t take advantage of the situation and turned things to my advantage. I focused on the necessary precautions, went with friends I trusted, and protected the vulnerable. With these in mind, I took the roads in Romania and explored our mountains, the Delta, and the Danube river. We had some beautiful weekends resting the mind.
My biggest challenge was weight control. I was at my parents’, the food was great, and plenty! The gyms were closed, and I got lazy with sports. Too much work didn’t help either. I got a bit fat, and the first hikes after the lockdown were extremely difficult. My pulse was way too high, and it felt like I was a beginner all over again.
Luckily that changed once we were allowed to travel in the country, the gyms opened, and we started hiking regularly. Also, health-wise, all my family members that got the virus are ok – I didn’t have it, or at least I didn’t have any symptoms.
I felt burnout and mental fatigue, accelerated by winter and darkness, but I have learned how to manage that better. After all, in a few months, we’ll celebrate one year of this madness, and humans are brilliant at adapting to pretty much all circumstances. Our grand-grandparents had wars. We only had to stay indoors. In the end, we are the lucky ones again, and it helps seeing things through this perspective.
It was easy to lose track and dwell in work, especially in the beginning, when we were figuring out how to adapt to the pandemic and changing realities. But balancing work with living and taking a break at the end of the day and a holiday here and there are mandatory to keep healthy and sane.
This article was a bit personal, but I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know if you felt in any way the same or if you want to share your experience. We’re still in this together, and maybe talking more about it can make a huge difference. Happy to hear your thoughts; leave a comment or send me a private message. Hugs!