Adjusting to the New Normal

When my office shifted towards a work-from-home model, it was billed as being a temporary thing. By the beginning of April, when this all blows over, we’ll be back to business as usual.

Two months later, we got an update. Office isn’t opening for another few months. At this point, who knows what the situation will even be by then. Knowing what I know now, I embarked on one more trip to the office to get my things in order to settle into working-from-home life (and pandemic life) for the foreseeable future.

We’re now months into this era of social distancing. There have been some positive signs that staying home is helping to flatten the curve. Some places are easing restrictions on movement ever so slightly as the situation improves. Others are charging full-steam ahead towards reopening society (even if the likelihood of disaster with this approach is high). Regardless, it’s becoming clearer that this world event is drawing a hard line between what the world was and what the world is now.

What’s happening with my office is just a microcosm of the new reality we live in. It was eerie stepping into the office foyer with the lights off. Only the sunlight beaming through the window kept it from being pitch black. Once I got to my desk, I scrounged up a few things I really needed. Having left my running shoes with custom orthopedic inserts behind when I thought this would be a temporary thing, I threw them in a plastic bag I scrounged up from my drawer. Put my work notebook in there too. Also found a dirty lunch container that made a one-way trip into the garbage.

Taking stock of my surroundings, I felt two things. One, I was sad that I wouldn’t be back here anytime soon. I miss my coworkers. I miss the routine, even if this new one is keeping me safe and saving me a lot of money.

But I also felt a sense of anxiety. Odds are, when this office is tentatively scheduled to reopen, we probably still won’t have a vaccine. Are we wearing masks in the office all day? Are we spacing out all the desks to maintain social distance? What about the communal spaces? Outside of the office, I’d still be at the mercy of a public transit system built around moving thousands of people in tin cans. Feels like this entire journey is perilous under these circumstances.

These are just some of the concerns our world has to come to grips with going forward. For now, it seems to be a fool’s errand to hold out hope for what life was like before this any time soon. I have to adapt.

Taking my stuff home from the office was just the start. My streaming studio is now mostly my 9-5 office. The commute is from the bedroom to the basement. My wife got me a cushion to prolong the life of my chair. Outside of work, we only leave the house when necessary. I miss seeing my family and friends IRL, but these video chats are the safest way going forward. Whatever it’s going to take to stay healthy, for however long it’s going to take before we can get on top of the situation, so be it.

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