21 March 2020

Out of Office

I started telecommuting on Wednesday, much to my relief. Only two in my office (out of eight people) made this choice. To me, this is all the more reason not to be there. Comments I've heard include statements like "I won't live in fear." and "The flu kills more people." feel both shortsighted and selfish. I heard people this week bragging about how the parking lot at Home Depot was full with everyone who wanted to get a jump on yard work while the weather was nice, as well as the full aisles at Costco and Walmart. I have tried to physically (let alone socially) distance myself from them as much as I can. I understand that they don't care if they get sick. I can't understand that they don't care if others do by their actions.

https://twitter.com/science_goddess/status/711915528307126273

To be sure, I am not out on a very long holiday (like the statement in the tweet from this date)...and I am checking email regularly during work hours. I haven't added an out-of-office message. I figure that most people aren't expecting me to be sitting at my desk when for the most part, no one is sitting at theirs for now.

I am keeping busy...for now. The reality is that if school is out until the end of April, I can probably string things along. I am just moving all my summer work up into this time slot. But, if school ends up being canceled for the year (which I suspect is a strong possibility), then I do not have enough to keep me going for six months. And maybe that's okay.

My mind keeps returning to two major themes.

First of all, on a work-related level, this is an opportunity to make something new. I don't know when there will be enough energy for that, however. Right now, nearly every conversation I am hearing is about how to maintain the status quo during a situation in which is going to have long-lasting impacts across all areas of life. It's not tenable to say we're just going to carry on like usual. But the PTB have to get to that place in their minds, too. I don't know when that will happen. When it does and we start to move in that direction, it's possible that my job and how I earn my paycheck will look very different than during these few weeks. I might not like what is on the other side of this, but being in this mindset at least lets me look for opportunity vs. letting something just happen to me.

And, second of all, on a personal and social level, everything is going to experience a hard reset. Families are going to learn to be together in ways they haven't had to be. Neighbours and businesses will interact differently. When kids come back to our buildings some day, parents may have some very different expectations for us. Maybe after experiencing distance learning, unschooling, or whatever happens in the next six months (or year), they will not be content with kids experiencing school in the same way parents did at those ages.

I was telling someone recently that the biggest lesson I've learned in this life is that instead of spending energy on trying to hold everything together, sometimes you just have to let it all fall apart. Because then it is revealed which things were worth holding onto in the first place. And you can take those pieces and create a new future with them.

If others haven't learned that lesson, they soon will in the coming weeks and months. I also wonder how many out of office messages I will be seeing in the coming year that seem as out of date as the one I saw four years ago. How many will be set before people become sick, are laid off, or even pass on? The bottom line is that we're not out of office...we're journeying to a very different world.

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