It’s almost 2pm. I woke up before 9am, showered and exercised before 10am. By 10:15am, I was drinking coffee with my computer open, slowly coming awake and energized from the caffeine. By all accounts, my day started out well. I was motivated and busy. Productive for a minute, even.
Then my phone buzzed. A notification from Facebook. Oh, and three friends are “in the house” on Houseparty. An iMessage from my friend down the street: “Just checking in. Hope today is better.”
These are my days now. A flurry of messages every hour while I sit at my desk, a pen and paper with an ever-growing scribble of ideas and notes and lists (buy broccoli!). I already deleted the Instagram app from my phone to try and reduce the amount of distractions.
• • •
But really: it doesn’t matter. The messages continue to come in and I’m craving the attention, the connection. My mind feels so lost. I can’t decide if I want to focus on work, or take the time to digest this crazy moment in history.
The distractions are endless online; exacerbated by the fact we’re all online right now. Even those lucky to still have jobs are seemingly, suddenly finding themselves with extra time on their hands. Trapped in their homes with time to focus on creative crafts, hobbies, or that freedom to digest what’s happening.
Meanwhile, there are others (and I count myself here), that feel lost and confused. While it feels as if our entire global society has changed drastically, my entire industry has just, kind of…disappeared. No one is looking to travel because we can’t really travel right now.
And now, with my industry totally uprooted and my income sources totally evaporated, I feel lost and hurt and confused and stressed. But I also know I’ve still got to hustle. That’s my game; it has been for a while.
How do you hustle during a pandemic, though?
With no prospects for future income, I feel this incredible pressure to figure out where next month’s rent paycheck is going to come from. How will I pay my credit card bills?
When I moved to New York City two years ago, I tried my best to find an affordable apartment, to save my money, to keep a budget. And as my self-employed income increased and my life in the city has become more stable, I finally started to feel like I was on solid footing in one of the most expensive cities. I’d created an entire business plan and goals for 2020 and was already on track for a blowout year.
Obviously that all came crashing down with this looming recession, and the drop in tourism.
• • •
Now: my plans have all but disintegrated. I’m finding it just so difficult to focus. It’s terrifying to not be able to plan for a future, to live day by day. I don’t know what’s going to happen next in my work, in my health, in the lives of my loved ones. All those questions and doubts and anxieties, and grief—it’s made it nearly impossible to do what little work I actually still have.
In my new work-from-home life, I’ve been managing my anxiety by focusing on little positive habits and routines, so my days don’t seem too difficult at first. I wake up at a reasonable time. I’m getting healthy sleep (with occasional sleep aids). I’m making sure to have a healthy breakfast, and to try to eat a lunch and/or a dinner. I’m not binging on snacks or on Netflix. I’m really trying.
But every time I sit down at my computer, ready to type or to research or to send an email. My hands stop. My mind wanders. I try switching up my music, from early 2000s grunge to tech house to Dua Lipa’s new pop anthems. I turn the music off. I open the window. Do I want silence or the buzz from the birds outside (interrupted by the increasingly frequent sound of an ambulance siren)? Do I want to blast my music from a Samsung sound bar at full volume, to drown out my thoughts?
My mind is riddled with thoughts and worries, and the focus is nowhere to be found. Who knew trying to keep a semblance of normalcy during a pandemic would be so difficult?
• • •
I think my biggest challenge at the moment is the noise online. So many people, friends included, have suggested to just use this “time off” to reset and reassess. But when you’re under-employed and already on the edge, how do you take time (the only resource we have) for non-essential work?
Our society (ie, capitalism) doesn’t really allow for us to breathe. To take the time needed to process our mental health. Or even to process this still unraveling pandemic.
So, I am stuck working on mundane and menial tasks, trying to drum up some creativity and words to write, while the world around me tumbles. All the while, my still safely employed peers get to breathe. In the meantime, all I can do is focus on the little things to keep my spirits up—just enough to be productive…just enough.