The Myth of Work/Life Balance

Working from home isn’t as breezy and convenient when you are forced to do so, with no alternative. This is not just because collaboration is restricted to phone calls and Zoom meetings… There is a certain added weight when you have to consider the ramifications of leaving the house during a pandemic.

I’ve arrived at the conclusion that when it comes to WFH (especially now), work/life balance is a made-up concept. If you are like me, you have noticed that the lines become a lot more blurred when your commute is 5-second walk instead of a 30-minute train ride into the city.

There are a few factors that come into play here…

  1. There is less (or zero) pressure to get dressed. When you no longer have to decide which work-appropriate shirt, pants, shoes, and accessories will comprise the day’s outfit, there is a certain carefreeness that results. For me, it is a blessing and a curse, because the way I dress effects my mood, and if I throw on random, non-matching pieces that are super comfortable, my brain is not in “Rise and grind!” mode. I don’t want to get in the habit of wearing sweats and a t-shirt every single day; it adds to the monotony that is COVID life.
  2. Your living quarters are also your work quarters. I don’t have a house. About half of my friends do, so they have a designated office (or 2) in their homes. My work space is a round dining room table that also serves as my Etsy (jewelry) shop workspace. When you literally cannot separate your home space from your work space, it makes it a lot more difficult to set up boundaries between the two. I unplug my large, second desktop screen at 6ish pm each Friday and put it on the floor against the wall to force myself to take a break from work for the weekend. If I didn’t, I GUARANTEE that I’d be tempted to get a head start on a few work projects on my days off. I’m home most of the time, so why not? It would be similar to if I lived in the building I worked in: the convenience of being so close would override my need to take a break.
  3. We are anxious about leaving the house because of the pandemic. There was a period of time in 2020 when I would make myself leave the house a couple times a week for walks. Now that there is a newer, more contagious strain of the virus going around, I’m less inclined to go outside except to run necessary errands. It doesn’t help that it is about 40 degrees outside at any given time right now… I am not a fan of winter weather.
  4. It’s easy to lose track of time. All too many times, I’ve buried myself in work only to look up and realize it’s 1:30pm and I haven’t had lunch. I often ate at my desk when I worked at the office, so being at home is not much different, save for the fact that I use the stove instead of the microwave for my lunches. There aren’t any restaurants in walking distance to me, and the fees for delivery can get pretty ridiculous, so I cook every. single. day. I can’t really complain: I have food in the house. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I miss the Friday bagel runs I used to make with my coworkers, or the occasional blackened catfish sandwich I’d grab at the bar across the street from my job.

Something’s gotta give. It’s too easy to get stuck in a rut these days… I’m going to make a conscious effort to shake things up by ordering breakfast or lunch every few weeks and adding a calendar reminder for a weekly walk around the block. Cozy clothes aside, this WFH shit is getting old.

Corona Chronicles

Today I had another one of those weird mini breakdowns that was brought on by COVID-related stress. But it wasn’t because I was tired of not being able to do anything… It was kind of the opposite.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I have not been as careful as I was in the beginning of this pandemic. I have gone out to eat at restaurants with a couple close friends a few times, and today, in the midst of wondering when we’ll be able to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, I realized that because of these outings, some people might not see me the same way. They might think I am reckless and/or selfish. They might think I don’t care about the virus, and that I am willing to put loved ones in danger by not staying quarantined the entire time. 

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite my best efforts, I sometimes found myself in a mind state where I felt so alienated from the outside world that I craved companionship that felt closer to normalcy. In those moments, I happily accepted an invite out with friends so that I could reconnect with them in ways that social media couldn’t replicate: exchanging appreciative looks over delicious food, laughing at old inside jokes, and singing together enthusiastically to our favorite songs.

And today I felt guilty about that. Not just because of how others might see me, but also because I was disappointed in myself for not having enough willpower to stay at home like I’d vehemently chastised others to do back in March.

At the end of the day, I need to give myself grace. As much as I’d like to say I’m satisfied with the few moments I have had with friends, and that I will stay away from them for the duration of the pandemic, I can’t say with certainty that that’s true.

I can say that I will limit my excursions, and will quarantine myself before visiting folks that are in at-risk groups. I will continue to wear a mask when I’m out around people I don’t know, and will continue to socially distance when possible. I will continue to monitor COVID numbers in my city so that I’m not out gallivanting during a spike. And I will continue to remind myself that this situation is temporary, patience is key, and perspective is everything.

The End of the World As We Know It…

2020 has been a fuckin nightmare.

If you’re lucky, you’re able to work from home and still get paid. If you’re less lucky, you still have a job, but have to put your health at risk because of the pandemic. And when you’re not working, where do you turn? Your phone.

Except, our screens are no longer used primarily for communication. In this time of COVID and civil unrest, our devices have been used for Zoom meetings, to check in with friends/family, as our tool to research and share news stories, AND as our entertainment.

Social media outlets have always been used as sounding boards for various topics, but now they are being used more and more to out racists and share videos of harrowing encounters with police. There is a lot of frustration and pain being felt right now, and as much as I identify with the posts I’ve seen from friends and the folks I follow,  the avalanche of information sometimes becomes a bit overwhelming. I used to get on Instagram to take a break from the news stories posted and re-posted all over Facebook, but lately, posts of goofy viral challenges have been replaced with pictures of protests and thought pieces on why it’s challenging being a black person in America.

I’m not complaining, trust. I have shared on both platforms and will continue to do so. I guess I’m just pointing out that doing a social media cleanse seems so much more daunting when you’re stuck in the house 24/7 for fear of catching/spreading a potentially fatal respiratory virus.

It’s stressful to not be able to do a fraction of what you were able to do just a few months ago. There are no birthday parties to attend, no vacations to take, no boozy brunches that linger late into the afternoon. Being afraid to hug your parents FUCKING SUCKS. I’m starting to forget what date night feels like. I miss chasing my godchildren around the park, grabbing a drink at a rooftop bar, and taking a walk to the local bagel shop before tackling work e-mails. Being car-less is ESPECIALLY wack right now, as you can imagine. I can’t remember ever feeling this trapped. Add to that the fact that mistrust in 12 is at an all-time high, and it’s enough to make you want to take up drinking as a nightly hobby.

So I take solace in the little things, because being grateful for what I have keeps me from screaming at the sky. I take walks in the courtyard, I blast music while teleworking, I discuss my favorite TV shows with my girlfriends via Marco Polo, and I indulge in delivery twice a week.

We will get through this. And my hope is that we’ll be stronger, smarter, and more empathetic on the other side.

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