TL;DR: Check in on your friends, things are crazy, small gestures go a long way.
Ah! Life in times of COVID. I’m an extroverted ambivert, so the idea of a lock down isn’t as scary as it would be if I was only a full blown extrovert. I’ve been basically quarantining solo for the last 5 weeks and one of the ways that I’ve been interacting with the outside world is by social media. I’m aware that I’ve personally been a little more extra than usual on my IG feed / FB Stories, but I’ve also seen others interacting more, so it has been creating some of the desired interaction and impromptu catching up with others.
Last week I used one of the ‘Question’ features and just prompted people to ask me anything.
A friend from my hometown sent the following question:
“How do you stay so cool and relaxed in all this chaos?”
Well, the short answer was (and is) “I don’t”. I am not keeping my cool. I’ve actually had a relatively hard 2–3 weeks.
First of all, I got sick around 3 weeks ago. Headache, cough, sore throat, exhaustion and, yes, fever. Symptoms sound familiar? I’m not sure if it actually was COVID or just any other virus, but it knocked me out for some days. I only told a handful of friends in the city, in case things got complicated (Sorry, fam). No testing was available right then, and the advice from the professionals was just to stay home and only go to the hospital if I developed any respiratory challenges (which I didn’t). 4 days later I was feeling back to normal, but I was encouraged to rest an extra day to make sure I recovered.
The week after that I went back to work and had to deal with the usual ‘coming back to work and playing catch-up scenario’. My team helped keep things going, but as usual, it’s overwhelming to come back and keep up after a week of being out. This ended up resulting in me dropping some balls and creating some internal dynamics that needed to be dealt with. Oh, and just to make things even more exciting… the day that I went back to work, my refrigerator stopped working.
And just to keep it short, at the beginning of this week, after basically 4+ weeks of being locked inside my apartment and apartment building, I had a weird type of anxiety attack or feeling, and I had to physically leave my building and just start walking it off.
I walked for 5–6 blocks and then back. And that’s when reality kicked in. I’ve been worried since day 1 about the impact that a ‘lock down’ would have in the economy and on people’s lives, but I hadn’t been outside to actually experience it.
The streets were empty. As I walked the streets of south Mexico City, the only businesses that were open were the big international chain stores & restaurants; the Applebees and Burger Kings of the world. All the small businesses, coffees, bakeries, ‘fonditas’, restaurants and more: all closed.
Not long ago I owned a small coffee shop with a friend, and sometimes a week or two of poor sales could make us sweat and worry about things like payroll, or covering a previous investment. My ‘anxiety’ shifted into a deep sadness, trying to imagine the owners of the business and their employees.
The first 5 blocks I walked feeling anxious, the 5 blocks walking back I couldn’t feel anything other than a weird feeling of hopelessness and worry for my country and its future.
So, no. I haven’t kept my cool and I’m not doing ok.
And that’s ok.
Now, before you start playing sad music to my story, please know I’m VERY aware of how lucky I am. I have a job, I’m healthy, I’m quarantining at a 3 BR apartment by myself, my family is doing Ok, my friends are Ok. I’m aware of how privileged I am (or I hope I’m at least close to being aware of my privileges).
The reason why I’m sharing all of this was because after Belén, my hometown friend, asked the question I shared above, I answered honestly that I had a tough day the day before:
“I’m not [keeping my cool]. Yesterday I had some type of anxiety attack and, for the first time, I left my apartment and walked the streets because I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m not in a bad place, and I know these things happen, and in general I’m ok, but it’s normal to feel like shit [in these times.]”
And what really surprised me was the number of people who later reached out after reading my answer.
A lot of them just started their message saying “I just would never think you were having a hard time.”
And that is why I’m writing this post. I just want to encourage you, random reader and or person I forced to read this post, to reach out to your people.
We’re going through a very unique situation at a global scale. The impact this pandemic is having is unprecedented for these generations, and the way that we’re experiencing it is unique as well.
Check in on your family, check in on your friends, ask the people working on your building how they are doing. If there’s anything you can do to make the day slightly better for somebody else, do it. We know this is going to continue for some time, so let’s start finding ways to be even kinder to each other. I’m lucky enough to have friends that check in on me, and even do little things like send a surprise care package (a six pack of beers to celebrate the launch of my program, a bottle of wine for the weekend, some candies or treats) out of the blue. A friend that knows I enjoy how she sings has been sending me short clips randomly. I then pay such generous gesture with the best memes & gifs that the Internet can offer. (See, just use your god-given talents to make somebody happy.) Just doing small things really have a huge impact right now.
Everybody is going through their own internal battles. Those that are quarantining with their partner, the ones that are by themselves, the ones that are quarantining with their pets, or the ones that are doing it with their family; all of us are struggling somehow. A message or a small detail can really change the day or week.
And those friends who you usually don’t need to worry about because you think they’ve got everything figured out and are ok, check in on them too. They may be the ones that are needing it the most.
And please, be kind to yourself, too, and to those around you. It’s ok to not be OK right now.