WHAT I'VE LEARNED DURING THIS PANDEMIC

The company I work with is an exhibition organiser. We were supposed to have an exhibition early April - expecting 1,000 over exhibitors and 30,000 visitors from over 75 countries. Whilst the virus was still concentrated in North Asia, we were already seeing a slow down in exhibitors confirming and a great uncertainty from some countries that were being hit by the virus at an alarming scale. We made a call to postpone our event, especially seeing the trend of all the other exhibition organisers doing the same - it was the right choice, the only choice.


Once the government called for a restricted movement order, which they announced 2 days before commencement, I went on a bit of a panic mode. No. 1 - I didn't have anything in the fridge so I needed to basically do groceries and No. 2 - I didn't really know what to expect.


They said work from home - in my line of work, we deal with international participation a lot and all these companies were directly affected by the spread of the virus - most countries are on lockdown. It would be insensitive of me if I started e-mailing everybody asking if they've made a decision on participation (??!) I'd be a STUPID insensitive person!


We are TRYING to work from home, in the midst of a worldwide crisis with so much uncertainty of what's going to happen.


I've been at home for the past 24 days, we have 4 more days till the government announces to lift the lockdown or continue. So much uncertainty and I am concerned.


For the first week, I was savouring all the late mornings - I didn't have to wake up to send my son to school, no work, I took time, I didn't have to rush anything or anywhere. But I did clean the house and had organised all the cupboards that I had planned to clear out and clean. Since I couldn't do anything about this lockdown, might as well take the opportunity to Sit down. Relax. Breathe and Give myself some time to slow down and think.


Once I was happy with the time I took doing nothing much, I was ready to set a couple of goals - I did have a plan before but just didn't get around to it. But this is the week that I started this blog and it's also the week that I started doing yoga daily. I know it seems menial but it's the two things that I never get around to doing with the amount of time I spend in the office and then coming home to mom and home duties.


After 24 days of seeing and reading on what's happening around the world, I've developed fresh perspectives about certain things and people; these are some things that I have learnt and realised;


1. A Dispensable Industry

The exhibition industry is dispensable - a war, a pandemic, a recession - and it will be affected.I should be worried shouldn't I. Made me think that maybe I should be thinking of doing something else. Not necessarily moving over to an occupation that is indispensable but how to improvise what I do in order for us to be be not affected too badly by whatever it that comes our way.


The indispensable industry and those that are currently in our frontline is the most interesting and that I am thankful for - medical professionals, food manufacturers, the armed forces, the police force, fire-fighters, cleaners, grocery store workers, delivery personnel, reporters/journalists ( i'm sure there are more..). It truly made me isolate every single one of them in terms of what they do and how important they are in the current situation that we are in and I am so very grateful for each and every one of them for making this lockdown a whole lot more easier.


2. Going Online

Work from home, schooling from home, grocery shopping, food delivery, clothes shopping, banking - EVERYTHING can be done online nowadays. I was following some youtubers from the UK who ordered vegetables via a programme called 'Odd-Box' and wished that they had something like that here in Malaysia. Only after the lockdown whilst I was searching for organic vegetables did I realise that we actually did! - not exactly like 'Odd-Box' but similar - and I'm excited to be placing my first order once I run out of what's in my fridge.


The thing is that it's amazing ALMOST everything can be done online and I believe that some businesses were forced into going online due to the pandemic in order for them to sustain their businesses - now THAT I can associate with the 'new normal' because once we recover from this pandemic, I believe that this online practices and services will continue.


3. Physical Distancing vs Social Distancing

In my opinion, on lockdown, we're practising physical distancing rather than social distancing. We're not socially distancing especially when we have technology via whatsapp video calls, zoom, google meet, face time, youtube, social media, online news etc that can connect us with family, friends, colleagues and the outside world. Socially we are very much connected and it hasn't waivered thanks to technology.


What the authorities basically wants us to do is to physically distance ourselves with others, in the literal sense. Physical distancing for me personally, is not so tough, I was never one to be physically social anyway but when it comes to family I do like seeing them and I just miss hanging out with them. Regardless, I am lucky and grateful I have my son with me at home - I can't imagine being on lockdown by myself - and my hat's off to those who are.



4. Working From Home

Coming from working in an office full time, you'd need a lot of discipline and planning to be able to wake up in the morning. Not so easy when you have kids at home - to keep them occupied, lunch to prepare, the constant questions and needs required from you. It is especially hard if you're a single parent. I am one, but I'm lucky that my son is already a teenager and can, more like rejoices in being on his own in his room.


I believe that it's something that we can overcome if we have a schedule planned out for the entire family. Having a spouse would be easier because then you'll be able to divide your times between work and the kids. As a single parent, you would have work time blocks - at least this is what I do. It's definitely easier said than done but it can be done nevertheless.


If working from home becomes the 'new normal' even after the lockdown, there are two upsides to it :-


All the time we can actually save - the commute to and from the office, commute to and from meetings, useless/time wasting meetings that can actually be sorted out via an e-mail.


For moms, at least, it diminishes the guilt of leaving our kids behind. I'm not sure if men understand this concept of mom-guilt but it's a big cloud that hovers over us every time we leave our kids, especially the younger ones - not forgetting the heaviness we feel in our hearts. And it doesn't get any easier as they get older contrary to popular belief!


When my son was 4 years old I had to send him to a daycare and I had to leave him there the whole day because I didn't have any another choices since I had to work. Every morning, my heart broke watching him cry whilst his carers literally dragged him from the car. 11 years later and I still feel that heartache. I knew he wasn't ready and it wasn't the right time - but I didn't have a choice.


Throughout his teen years, he's been basically alone at home from after school till I come home from work which can be anything from 5pm to 10 or 11 at night. That guilt never leaves.


Being with my son is THE most important thing to me. I worry if he's okay, does he need my help, was his day okay. Of course, I call him from the office daily but what else can I do. Sometimes, no words are required but just your presence to make things a bit better. These are the things that go through my mind when he's at home and I'm in the office. Working from home would allow some sense of peace - to us moms at least. Even if working from home is not implemented widely after this at least flexible hours should be!


5. The Reset Button

Another thing that stands out in my mind is that maybe the universe is in some way pressing the reset button on planet earth - to rest and recover from all the damage that we're doing to do it. I feel bad for saying that there might be a silver lining to the anguish and anxiety that the world is going through right now but with the reported clearer skies, less pollution, reduce nitrogen dioxide in the air, the water quality in Venice canals becoming clear, the Himalayas can actually be seen after years of being hidden by smog - I can't help but believe that there is a silver lining.



Lastly,

My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones to this pandemic and to the rest of us, I hope we can be strong and take this opportunity to slow down and reflect.


It WILL get better.