A shared experience differently
The past couple months have been strange and exciting and filled with uncertainty. I think that’s probably true for everyone across the globe.
That’s part of why it’s exciting, in a way; there are very few times where we can really say an experience is global. That everyone is experiencing this thing. Though there’s still definitely variations, it’s all related.
That said, I’m once again reminded that everyone experiences things in their own way, through their own lenses, and with their own background.
I’ve known a number of people who responded to the “we all have to stay home for an indefinite period” with a “well that’s what I wanted to do anyway”. I’m kind of one of them. To me, staying home all the time is a luxury.
But even those of us that want to be home all the time aren’t necessarily happy with having to do it all the time. Or alone. I miss having my friends over for video games, and I’m constantly thankful for my wife, as we all still need human contact.
On the opposite end of the spectrum there are people who never wanted to be home this long, and are really not happy about the alone part; people who get their energy and motivation from being surrounded by others. They feed on social interaction. Those people are, understandably, having a very hard time with the current situation.
I also see another axis; one which describes how much you worry about the global crisis and things you can do nothing about. On one end, you have people who are not especially stressed about the virus, on the other, people who worry about it constantly.
For some of the people who seem surprisingly relaxed about a global crisis, it’s simply how they are. Some aren’t directly affected, and some just have the philosophy of “I can control only myself”. Majority of them will still do what they have to and take precautions and distance from their loved ones for the sake of their loved ones. They just don’t spend a lot of time worried.
Then there are people who worry. Some are simply wired to be worried about the situation, and to work out possible scenarios. There’s nothing wrong with these people; it’s valuable for society to have people who work that way; but they are not having a good time right now.
And that’s just a couple of the axes of the spectrum of experiences people are having about this global event. There are plenty more, especially considering socio-economic situations.
I find myself perfectly happy with being at home, well satisfied with having my wife nearby and online connections to friends, and not terribly worried about the virus itself. I’ll do what I can and it’s a big deal, but my philosophy tends towards “spending mental energy on it won’t make it better”.
Of course, I’m very lucky. My job is one I can do over the internet, which works just fine for me, and I’m not worried about my financial situation. I also live in a country that has taken reasonable precautions and has very reliable public healthcare.
Even with all that, I’ve started to notice interesting things about my mental state.
Where I’m at Right now
I work part-time as the Chief Technical Officer of a VR game development startup. I’m still having a blast doing that, and consider myself very lucky to be doing that. I spend the rest of my time building up what I guess many people would call a “side hustle”. I love that, too.
But I’ve noticed that my work hours since the world shutdown have gotten kind of crazy. At first I didn’t think much of it, as I was trying to get certain things done by deadlines, but after a while I’ve noticed that the hours didn’t really go down after those things were done.
And I’m reminded of when one of my colleagues from years ago called me a work-aholic.
I laughed at the time, as, at the time, I thought I was fairly lazy. I kept weird hours, I showed up for work later than most everyone (there weren’t strict hours), and I had plenty of free-time.
But looking back later, I realized he was probably right. I did long hours there and my free-time activities were usually more work. I spent ridiculous amounts of time working on Mystcraft, I was part of two different arts societies, and streamed and interacted with people on a 6 hour time difference, to name a few things.
And lately, again, all of my time has been working. I work at Critical Charm, I work on my own projects, I’m developing and learning art skills, and I’m learning how to play piano. I squeeze in a little bit of playing video games.
This is how I function -it’s kind of my normal- but I’m still at risk of burning myself out. I’ve worked weekends the past few weekends. It was fun, but… it was still energy expended, and I’ve not recovered energy in a while.
And right now I’m not sure how to do that.
I keep thinking about how everything must be useful. Even writing this, part of me is thinking about how to make it useful to me. “Can it advance my hypothetical future career?”
And by Jove I hope it IS useful, but not to me. I hope it’s useful to someone else who needs to hear this:
You aren’t alone, we’re all struggling in our own way, your way is perfectly valid, and you don’t have to come out of this with a side business, a six pack, or a new skill. You just have to come out of this.
When we say “take care of yourself” it’s not just “don’t catch the virus” it’s also “remember to bathe, get enough rest, sleep well, and let your brain do happy, relaxing things.”
If one of those happy, relaxing things is staring at a wall for six hours, go ahead. We all need brain downtime.
Yes, Isaac Newton came up with a bunch of stuff during his quarantine in the 1600’s, but he was also a student at Cambridge self-isolating on his family farm with plenty of resources at his disposal. If you are stuck at home and not sure how you will pay for food in 3 months it’s hardly a fitting comparison.
Most people during that time just worked hard to survive. And it took Newton 7 years to actually take what he’d figured out and be able to formalize and explain it. Another 30 before it was actually published.
So if you notice something neat you want to spend time on, you’re even with Newton. If, in 10 to 20 years, you publish a novel you started during the pandemic you’re doing better.
For myself, I’m going to try to get more sleep and I’m going to push some of my side stuff back a bit.
Take your time. That might be one of the few things many people really have more of right now. Don’t worry about using it, just enjoy it.