It’s been another weird year for many. Most of the world had vaccines, came out of lockdown, only to be hit by another variant, and ending up in a weird limbo lockdown all over again.
As someone who has predominantly worked from home for the last 8 years, I have welcomed the last couple of years. I no longer get the, “oh, so you’re working huh” nudge nudge wink wink from people. Now I get the, “WFH is hard. I have no boundaries, I crave social connection, I’m constantly miserable and I’m forever in front of a screen.”
Of course, I never say, “I told you so”. I always approach friends and family with empathy, lending an ear, and reminding them that despite the struggles of remote working and living in relative isolation, we are grateful for remaining in employment when so many have suffered.
I’m sure that there’s an alternate universe somewhere, one in which I am playing a tiny violin anytime anyone tells me how hard they’re finding it to work from home and me singing a poorly-rendered version of Bon Jovi’s ‘Bad Medicine’, “Looks like you gotta work from home… work from home is what you need!” (Yes, I realise my tiny violin would have to transform into a tiny electric guitar but remember this is an alternate universe.)
Back to our own reality – everything combined has felt like quite a lot at times. During the lockdowns when the children were off from school and we couldn’t mingle with friends or relatives was probably the hardest because it’s when virtual conferences cropped up all over the place and I had to get comfortable presenting to a webcam 3 times a week and hoping the technology wouldn’t fail me.
It was in those days where we finished all of Netflix, Disney Plus, and well, the two things that were worth watching on Amazon Prime. So we’d wait patiently for Thursday evening where we’d join some of our neighbours in stepping outside our houses and clapping for the NHS. Because, who needs to pay our nurses a living wage when they know that we’re outside once a week clapping, banging pots and pans, and letting our kids write “thank you NHS” with chalk on the driveway like a bunch of savages.
I’d like to say some good came out of the lockdown years. A friend of mine really got into fitness. He lost over 20kg’s, pretty much works out 7 times a week, is always quoting Goggins, and is always talking about how he’s in a state of ketosis.
However, I take solace in my lockdown belly by reminding myself of something a friend told me. In China, a round belly is seen as a sign of wealth and admired accordingly. I don’t know if that’s true, but being surrounded by smiling faces singing my praises in Mandarin sounds an awful lot better than being in ketosis – which frankly sounds a bit like an STD you’d catch in a jungle.
Perhaps the best thing that happened to me this year was that I finally completed my amicable separation from social media. We are no longer in a relationship, but are still very much friends.
It started by removing social media apps from my phone, and now I just find myself using them less and less. Despite its flaws, Twitter is still my poison of choice. I did go through a phase of beginning to like LinkedIn, but then they introduced polls, and everyone and their dog started posting these completely stupid polls such as, “Shall I wear red or blue socks today?” And it’s completely killed any usefulness the platform had. But who cares if something is useful as long as the metrics show its getting engagement.
Ransomware was the major thorn in everyone’s side throughout the year, but Log4J ended up being the real gut punch right as we let our guards down.
Next year will probably bring us more of the same, but with added Web3.0. I’m still not entirely sure what web3.0 is, how it offers real ownership, or whether it’s the most elaborate cryptocurrency scam we’ll ever see.
I’m not alone in saying there have been challenges over the year – but I’ve been reflecting on some of the things I’ve adopted over the year (consciously and subconsciously) which have helped me enjoy the year more and feel more in control.
In no particular order, these are:
- Be deliberate in making time for yourself
The “deliberate” part is what made it for me this year. I’ve been more deliberate about making time for myself and trying to enjoy it. There has been less dead time flicking aimlessly through channels and more time doing things for me and trying to not feel guilty about it.
- Be OK with leaving things half-finished
I have been guilty of either not starting tasks because I fear I won’t finish them or spending way too much time trying to finish a task. This isn’t just related to work, but work is probably the biggest offender for me. I could start something and end up working into my own time only because in my head I needed to get it finished.
But this year I’ve been getting ok with leaving things unfinished for the day (unless there’s a major deadline I’ve committed to). It’s ok to come back to things the next day, next week, or never come back to it. The world will still revolve and it’s made me less stressed about things in general.
- Let it go
No, I’m not quoting Elsa. But if a global pandemic, deaths, and realisation of your own mortality doesn’t change you in some way, then you’re very different from me. It’s so easy to carry around stress and anxiety from work, from family, from issues completely outside of your control. As my friend and colleague Erich Kron often reminds me, “put your worries in a worry-shaped helium balloon, and just let it go.”
Anyway, before I go – I’d like to say thank you to everyone who reads what I write on my blog, newsletter, or social media. Even more thanks to all of you who take time to respond and help me learn and become better.