How Are You Doing?

Exactly three months ago, our lives fundamentally changed.

I vividly remember Monday, March 16th?—?otherwise just another workday evening when I would routinely go to Equinox around 7:00 PM to exercise and relieve stress after work. As I walked into the classroom, anticipating my regular workout friends waiting and stretching, someone told me that all the classes ended already and that the gym will be closed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Even though the impact of the pandemic had been all over the news, from wide-spread infection to cities shut-down, I still found it hard to believe that it was actually affecting my routine. I left the gym frustrated and paranoid. How am I supposed to survive the next few weeks without my workout routine?

The World Is Temporarily Closed. Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

Unsurprisingly, the gym closure lasted more than a few weeks. In the following months, people around me, and myself included, scrambled to adjust to the new reality, including social distancing, sheltering at home, queuing outside of grocery stores, and buying weeks’ worth of groceries. Zoom became the popular social gathering platform. Friends, families, current and former colleagues scheduled tons of videoconferencing meetings because we all craved for a little bit of togetherness and belonging. We are of course not alone. Cities and countries around the world are battling against COVID-19. And we are doing what human beings are best at: surviving, coping, and adapting.

4–6 weeks into the new normal, I have to admit that things started to feel like normal again. My husband and I found our new hobbies, from baking blueberry scones to exploring new trails around our neighborhood to stock trading (and investing). Before the pandemic, we both worked at different schedules and rarely had time to talk about our days, let alone have intimate conversations about our future. With the new normal, we have been fortunate enough to do our jobs at home, juggling different conference calls and finding our own workspace around the apartment. At the same time, the new normal also presents its own challenges. I felt that there have been more hours in a day that I need to effectively manage myself (but I am not). Someone posted on Instagram that “if you don’t come out of the quarantine with a new skill, new gig, and more knowledge …”, setting a stressful bar for personal success. There hasn’t been a time in my life that I can remember when I felt that I’ve done enough. With the pandemic and the seemingly increased amount of time, I felt behind. Signing up for Coursera classes, volunteering for new projects at work or non-profit organizations, reading more books, and even picking up Deepak’s 21 days of meditation challenge, I still felt inadequate. Did I really just waste 2 months worth of my time without any accomplishments?

Fast forward to the Memorial Day weekend. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a few weeks since the end of May; the pace of time does flow differently in times of distress. The tragic news of George Floyd being brutally murdered by law enforcement in Minnesota swept the country with anger, sadness, and anguish. Thousands of protestors around the country and across the world took to the streets to demonstrate democracy and make their voices heard. Being in DC, the capital of the United States, is a privilege and responsibility. We drove down Constitution Ave., surrounded by hundreds of other vehicles, the type of traffic jam we haven’t seen since the pandemic, and witnessed how organized and passionate protestors are. Signs with #BlackLivesMatter filled our hearts with compassion, empathy, and warmth. Besides the protests, other Asian American communities and advocates also mobilized. People confided their feelings to one another and shared resources because we felt silence and inaction are a new violence in the racial divide. I was inspired to learn more about America’s justice system and to have honest conversations.

That’s roughly ninety days of my life during COVID-19. I am still struggling to find meaningful things to do and figuring out ways to stay connected with others, but I also want to share what I have learned for this amount of time that has felt like forever.

Work smarter, not harder.
Have you felt that there are an unlimited amount of work and an insidious amount of requests? A few colleagues have had to take personal leaves since the pandemic, and many more have experienced increased workload and burnout. As more companies furlough and lay off their employees, those who have jobs can’t help but to worry if we have done enough. There will always be another deliverable with a tight deadline or another revision with unnecessary demands, but once we reach the level of burnout, the amount of mental and physical toll is hardly reversible. So instead of pushing yourself to finish up another report, take a 30-minute break, and go for a run. Force yourself to clock out at a regular hour in exchange of quality time with loved ones or yourself. I took up running, an exercise I absolutely felt appalled at prior to the gym closure, and now I am attuned to a regular rhythm, and my body aches if I don’t get my fix twice a day.

Prioritize what’s true to our core.
With seemingly more time working from home, how would you make the best use of it? Aside from my yearly goals, I started making monthly plans such as writing and learning different skills like French or Cybersecurity. I signed up for several coursera courses but soon realized they aren’t really aligned with my core values. While reskilling in this economy is crucial to the ever-changing job market, knowing what matters to ourselves should be the first step of the quest. To be honest, this is still something I’m experimenting with, and with more time at hand, I meditate to figure out what to look for in the long run. Carnegie Mellon University has a good resource for value evaluation that I find helpful.

Carry on rather than trying to be perfect.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement regained momentum in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death. And I find myself drawn to human rights and racial equality, something I’ve somewhat experienced through volunteering at non-profit organizations and Employee Resource Groups. It’s overwhelming to process what could have been done, and it’s even more daunting with the amount of information being passed along on social media and through word of mouth. But I think the key is to keep going, whether that means continuing down the path you started or focusing on marching ahead without trying to be perfect. To quote Martin Luther King, “if you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” While this reminder might seem most resonating to the current social movement, I find it broadly relevant to our lives. The pandemic forced us to adapt to a new normal, and we can only better ourselves by moving forward at whatever pace we can manage.

What have you experienced in the last few months? Most importantly, how are you doing?

Thank you for my accountability partners/friends: Malini Patel, Monica Kang, Ming Lou, Li Zhou, Camiel Irving, Washington English Center staffs, Jason Frank, Ellis Mbeh, Kristy Reynolds, Krysta Lin, and Lilly Scott (who followed her passion and started her own business during the pandemic. How incredible!)

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