I wasn’t expecting to press pause for a month after my last post. I also wasn’t expecting a pandemic, but here we are!
2020 feels like an alternate reality, doesn’t it? Like we’ve been dropped into a season of LOST—a world that looks similar to the one we know, but doesn’t function like it. There’s no toilet paper in this version of the world. We rarely leave our houses and only see our friends on screens. I live with my parents in this world? Tom Brady plays for the Bucs here???
It’s completely disorienting.
I’ve been trying to write for weeks, but I’ve had trouble finding the words. Part of that is because I haven’t given myself very much time to think. And part of that is because there hasn’t been very much time to give.
Maybe this isn’t everyone’s experience. But I’ve noticed—in my own brain and in suggestions from the internet—that a schedule cleared of extracurriculars leads to the expectation that we all have a lot of free time right now. Because we’re all “just at home.”
Also, let’s pause to note the major shade being thrown on home, as if it’s somehow less than our other normal options. All the introverts love you, home. Don’t listen to the critics.
Well, internet voices and nagging voice inside my own head whose name is probably Carol: I do not have more free time right now. I arguably have less free time right now. And if you are in any way responsible for the care of another human, perhaps you feel similarly. We’re trying to do our regular work and mostly-regular lives with the added stress of finding and securing groceries, making vague emergency plans, and trying to maintain some form of sanity, for us and for all.
And yet, especially if you’re a person with a related marketable skill, it feels like there’s growing pressure to be extra productive. Now is the time to launch! To create! To capitalize on a time when everyone is trapped at home and looking for escapes!
But maybe now is not the time to be productive. Maybe now is the time to be in a pandemic.
Maybe it’s not the right time to get lost in an infinite Instagram scroll or double down on creating the content that goes into those scrolls.
Maybe it’s time to ask the kinds of questions we only ask when our foundations are shaken. Maybe, while we’re forced to face the bare-bones reality of our homes/our jobs/our families/our lives without distractions from the outside world, it’s a good time to stop and reflect.
What is working, and what is not?
What is important, and what is not?
Who do I want to be in the middle of this?
Who do I want to be after this?
And maybe, after that, in those rare bits of free time, we could just sit. And read. Or watch movies. Or be with the people in our houses. Or be with our people on screens. Or cook with a selection of ingredients that is starting to resemble a basket from Chopped. Or figure out the best ways to help friends and strangers—right now, but also as the damage of this time continues to unfold.
So here is your second coupon in this two-post series: You still have permission to press pause.
You are very much allowed to be as productive as you want to be/have to be. But you also have permission to press pause on your big dreams and lofty goals. You don’t have to be productive with your current amount of “free time.”
The free time you have right now is different from the free time you’ll have when the world is not crumbling.
You can spend your current free time in any way you want! Personally, I have a long list of things I want to do while I’m here—things like cleaning out the attic and organizing my writing notes into an actual narrative. That’s extremely fine. But I also want to quiet the voice (CAROL!) who is saying I need to use this time to finish all of the work that needs to be done on my parents’ house and also write my first book, because “free time.”
Nope. Nope nope nope.
At 8pm, after a full day of working and helping and surviving, I would like to give myself permission to watch The Voice. And I would like you to have that permission, too.
So let’s go ahead and end the same way we did last time, because it’s worth repeating, especially now:
We’re all doing our best, you guys. In so many ways. Let’s let that be enough.