2020 was going to be THE year. At least that’s what I told myself as I wrote down my 2020 goals on New Year’s Day, a ritual that I do every year.
I brought in the New Year on a Beach in South Australia, with Jack and a handful of our close pals. The week prior to that, we spent in country Victoria, with my in-laws, along with their extended family and friends, for a wedding celebration.
We spent our days hanging by the pool, feasting on delicious food, boating on the Murray River and sun tanning on the dockside with an esky full of beers. I was certainly finishing 2019 with a bang and my natural tendency to think optimistically, urged me to believe that 2020 would be even better. It would be one for the books, monumental even.
Once we finished visiting in South Australia, we flew into Sydney (where we once lived for 3+ years). This is when 2020 started to feel a bit like a downward spiral, similar to a balloon deflating slowly. NSW was on fire, actually much of Australia was, but Sydney and Newcastle is where we saw the most evidence of this.
Of course, we were so happy to catch up with our friends and spend time in our old stomping grounds, wrapped up in nostalgia. However, due to the forest fires, there were people losing their homes, animals suffering and ecosystems being destroyed. I was enjoying the luxuries of my trip, trying to make the most of it, but catching myself in a mixed bag of emotions. I felt guilty for not being personally affected by it, despair for those who were, and fear of what this means for the state of our planet and prospective future. That was my first inkling that 2020 might look a bit different to how I imagined it on my vision board.
We got back to London in early January. It was time to get back to it, back to our jobs, our flat in Angel and to our community of friends. So I did just that. I went full swing into the routine of my life. My very comfortable routine – working at a job that I’m now pretty good at, with people that I like, keeping it real with the day-to-day cheeky office banter and censored lunchtime chitchat. Then, there’s my post work routine of getting on the tube, to take myself to the gym or yoga, before coming home to Jack, where we take turns preparing meals for each other. And then the next day, we do it all over again. Of course, we throw in some spontaneity here and there during the week, but usually we save that for the weekends.
Admittedly, it can be tiring, repetitive and dull at times, but mostly, it’s enjoyable, even fun. Not only is it something for us to do, but something to embrace. Being plucked out of my routine has shown me that some systems are there for good reason. Systems that can serve us, in ways that fulfill us, ultimately keeping us from boredom and from the unraveling that comes from an idle mind. Showing up to work and having an occupation, or rather a contribution is important. COVID-19 has taught me just how important that is – to have something to do, somewhere to be, and someone who depends of you.
Seemingly, since being back from Australia, life was rolling back to ‘business as usual.’ I remember in late January, when the news reporters started to change their tune, from the ongoing Brexit discussions, to a virus in China. At first, no one knew how serious it was. My boss made a joke that I might have to cancel my flight to Bali in May. Of course I scuffed it off, like ‘ya right’! Little did I know…
On March 13th, our CEO told the team that we would be working from home for the next couple weeks. We were to bring everything home that we needed and IT would be there to help set us up remotely. This was one week before Boris Johnson announced the mandatory lock-down in the U.K. As the virus started to spread, so did the panic. Then came the hoarding of canned goods, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. People were worried that the groceries store would close or the produce would run out, so they really went for it. I’m talking mass lines at the supermarkets, empty shelves and everyone looking at each other like a disease. People were scared, and understandably so.
Jack and I did our best not to hoard or panic. We shopped the way we usually do and seemingly, we always had enough. Apart from not being able to get Toilet Paper for 3 weeks, or canned tuna, we carried on eating as much fresh produce as possible, just making less trips.
While I knew the importance of being aware of what’s happening, I also knew that obsessing over it would do little good. So, I read one news update daily and otherwise, went about my day, as if working from home was my normal life.
I set up a routine for myself, having a daily team call in the morning, then checking e-mails, ticking off my ‘to do’s’ and calling my bosses once a week for an update. Considering that I work as an EA, much of my job is setting up meetings and booking travel, both of which died down immensely, obviously. So my tasks became fewer and far between. To keep some structure, I filled my free time doing simple things that I enjoy, like reading, cooking, yoga and best of all, catching up with my friends and family over Video Call. In addition to that, the weather in London was improving – days getting longer, blossoms filling the streets with colour and the sun shining bright, adding warmth.
Yes, I knew and still know the situation is bad. I do feel for those suffering, not only health wise, but financially as well. However, my goal in these weeks of social isolation is to keep myself above water, reflect, spread goodness where possible and lastly, try be to be better when this all over – better to myself, to others and to the planet.
I worked from home for 6 weeks until I got put on furlough (employment insurance). My job is still secure and awaits me when it’s safe to go back, which I am extremely thankful for. Yet, having no work at all would be an adjustment to my existing routine. Jack and my housemates are all still busy bees, and I’m self-aware enough to know that boredom really is not a good look for me. So, I made the decision to fly home to Canada, do the 14-day quarantine and use this time as an opportunity to be with my family.
I moved away from Ontario in 2012, only making scattered visits here and there. Always feeling rushed. What a blessing to come home and get some quality time with the people that I love. Now, it’s day 8 after landing at Pearson, and so far I have no symptoms of Corona Virus. I did my best to prudently follow all the precautionary measures on the flight (of 58 passengers).
It wasn’t a rash decision to come home, I pondered it for a couple days and had a handful of conversations with members of my family. Indeed, it felt a bit like breaking the law, even though I wasn’t. Heathrow Airport was practically empty and all the shops were closed. It looked abandoned, apocalyptic, like a movie scene from The Walking Dead, without the Zombies of course.
Aside from physical distancing, wearing masks and no hot meals, the process was much of the same. You can imagine the liberating feeling of taking off in that plane, getting over the clouds and being above it all. I’ve been a world traveller for the last 5 years of my life, but I can’t name a time that being on a plane meant so much to me. Flying into Pearson Airport, seeing the CN Tower and city skyline of Toronto, brought an immediate sense of peace and grin to my face. After everything, all the concern, careful consideration and uncertainty that went into this, I was home.
There is still another week to go of my Quarantine, but it’s already been worth it. Being in an isolated home, on Lake Huron, with everything I need, is a special kind of R&R. I intend to fully embrace this time, with my parents, sisters, and nephew. Plus, I get to meet my adorable niece.
In all this chaos, I hope and encourage people to find their silver lining – whatever that looks like. As Howard Shultz says, ‘In times of adversity and change, we really discover who we are and what we’re made of.’
We will get through this.
Thanks for reading!