Thoughts on COVID-19

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I haven’t posted anything on my blog for a long time, and the last two weeks have given me a lot of time to stop and think. Looking back through my lifetime (I’m 38), I cannot think of a singular event that has been as impactful as this. As I sit and write this post, it’s hard to believe that it’s been two weeks that this has affected me (and most other people) in earnest. However, one can certainly argue that the warning signs were visible much earlier. All that aside, what I want to do here and now is recap how the last two weeks have affected me (and others), as well as share the thoughts that I have so that one day we may all look back and have a first-hand account.

Leading up to the shutdowns

Going into these shutdowns, I had a very busy travel schedule in February. I was making bi-weekly trips to Northwest Arkansas to visit my customer (I’m a Solution Architect for AWS). The flights were regularly full—we’re talking 50-ish people on a regional jet. At this point, most of the impact was in China and the immediate impact on the US was on supply-chain interruptions. One night in the hotel in Arkansas, we had an interesting conversation with a Wal-Mart vendor who obviously had too much to drink, and they shared how real the fears were about shelves going empty (especially in electronics) due to component shortages coming out of China. At this point, my thought was that these shortages would be a minor inconvenience and that consumers would either just defer purchases or pay higher prices because of shortages. We were talking about flat-screen TVs and washing machines, not anything critically important to life and safety.

I had a business trip planned to San Francisco at the end of February for an internal workshop. At the time that I took the trip, I had no idea that it would be my last business travel for internal events. Shortly after that, the company asked us to cancel all non-essential travel. For my job role, that meant that all travel for internal workshops would be put on hold or moved to virtual meetings.

What might actually be the last AWS Certification item-writing group workshop for awhile. What might actually be the last AWS Certification item-writing group workshop for awhile.

Things were still normal in San Francisco. I took an extra day off and my husband, Raphael, joined me for an amazing weekend in Napa Valley. Again, everything there felt normal.

After the San Francisco trip, I had one more customer visit to Northwest Arkansas at the beginning of March. The guidance we were getting at work was that travel necessary to do your job was OK, and since I’m part of the sales team there was an expectation of travel. In the DFW and NW Arkansas airport, everything looked like a normal day at the airport. However, this would be my last business trip.

The week of March 9, I started seeing public events being canceled. If I remember correctly, Google cancelled one of their conferences. I was scheduled to take some personal time off and attend a personal development seminar that I had paid for in Atlanta a few months prior. I was looking forward to the event. I had concerns that they would cancel it, but the event proceeded. The airport had the appearance of business as usual, but what probably would have been a full flight was only about half full. At this point, the only other noticeable difference was an extra hand sanitizing station in the hotel elevator lobby.

The flight back to Dallas from Atlanta is when it started to set-in that things were really about to change. Again, the flight was about half full. That night when I got home, I remember seeing emails from Amazon travel and others telling me to cancel all business travel. The following week, all of Amazon effectively went to work from home.

Dallas (and most everywhere) Shuts Down

Monday, March 16 was the day when the City and County of Dallas ordered all restaurants to close and switch to take-out only that night. The previous day (Sunday), Raphael and I had gone to the mall where it looked like 8 pm on a weeknight for what would have normally been a busy shopping day. Monday morning I went to a cycling class at my gym. I had an amazing ride, but I had no idea that it would be my last visit to the gym for a long time. Up to this point, the gyms had been staying open but were going to extreme lengths to keep the equipment and facilities clean. That all changed on Monday night.

The effects of this have been pretty well-documented elsewhere. Retail and restaurants are being hit especially hard. Raphael and I personally know people who have been affected. One of them was laid-off, another accepted a pay-cut to be able to continue to work remotely. During normal times you want to be there for your friends, give them a hug and comfort them, but you can’t really do that now with the social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. I’m very fortunate that the type of work that I do can be done very effectively online. However, it’s still not the same because the human element is missing from all of our interactions; not just in my case, but every case that involves some form of commerce.

This is what we have to do now when we go to the store. They only allow so many people inside at one time in order to enforce social distancing. This is what we have to do now when we go to the store. They only allow so many people inside at one time in order to enforce social distancing.

Adjusting to the new normal

Focus on what you can control.

There are so many variations to that quote, and probably for good reason. Why do we spend so much time and energy worrying about the things that are out of our control? Your time is so much more valuable being put to use working on the things that you can control. So what can we control during these times? A lot, actually! I’ve given this newfound time a name: Build a Better Me!

Here are some of the things that I’ve done, re-started, or focused on:

  1. Cooking: We honestly used to eat out way too much before this. I joked with Raphael that the Big Green Egg has gotten more use in the past two weeks than it did in the past year.
  2. Creativity: I’ve had free time to work on my photography hobby. I’ve been going through old photos that I had never processed and I’m working to edit and showcase them. Unfortunately, both labs that I use for physical prints are closed at the moment, but I’ll have the orders ready to go for when they re-open.
  3. Reading: So far, I’ve finished two books and have started reading a third. I’ll devote a more detailed blog post to my reading and personal development in the future.
  4. Cycling: I’m continuing to go for bike rides around the neighborhood. When we bought this house, one of the reasons we chose this neighborhood was its proximity to White Rock Lake and the surrounding trails. The time that we’re in now has caused me to become more purposeful in outdoor exercise and take advantage of this amenity.
  5. Organization: Last weekend, I spent the entire day on Saturday cleaning out the clutter in my office and office closet, as well as organizing my space. It’s amazing what having a physically organized space does for the mind. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up from Marie Kondō is very insightful in this area about what physical possessions are truly important.

Parting thoughts

Use this time to think about what is truly important in your life. Practice gratitude! In the grand scheme of things, we are all on this earth for such a short time, and it’s not worth getting upset and frustrated over things that we can’t control.

If you’re reading this, you probably have at least a computer or cell phone (or access to one). We still live in an amazing time! Imagine what this would be like if we didn’t have access to all of the technological advances that have come about even in just the past 20 years?

This time will eventually pass. There will be some habits that stick around and become part of the new normal. Don’t fight what will become inevitable change, but find a way to embrace it and capitalize on it. Use this time to build a better you so that you’re prepared for what lies ahead once we emerge from all of the stuff that’s going on right now.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts, so please drop me a comment below!

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