You know that favourite interview question about "where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?" It's fair to say that in 2015 100% of us got that question wrong. As I write this we're in midst of a global pandemic. It's certainly not something we saw coming, and I know that none of us have experienced this level of personal, professional, nor societal disruption before. Where I live, we're in the final days of our second full lockdown, and it seems to have hit people harder this time. I'm here to tell you that you're doing ok.
It's ok if you're feeling fearful. Or anxious. Or bizarrely energetic. Or over-caffeinated because your working-from-home situation is in close proximity to the kitchen coffee machine. Whatever you're feeling right now is completely natural, and possibly a tad uncomfortable at an emotional level. You've never lived through a pandemic before, so much of this is a big sharp learning curve. Your emotions are telling you that with their pangs of discomfort. The author Liz Gilbert stated it beautifully, "I don't need you to be some kind of hero right now who can glide through these changes without so much as flinching...To me it makes perfect sense that you're afraid. There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty right now -- more than most of us have seen in our lifetimes."
You've not had a pandemic to work through before. Can we pause for a second, and let that soak in? You're new at this. At the same time it's entirely likely that this isn't the first time you've experienced fear/anxiety/over-caffeination. I'd like to remind you that this ain't your first rodeo when it comes to the emotions you're experiencing, so this time let's spin the straw into proverbial gold (Rumplestiltskin, anyone?).
Recall another occasion in your life when you felt this way. Perhaps it was an earlier round of high-level exams you were sitting that made you feel nervous and unsure. Was it a relationship that came to an end? Was it something "good" such as traveling by yourself for the first time that conjured up anxiety because of all the connections to make to catch your next bus/train/flight? You've encountered difficult things before, and you made it through. You have examples of your resilience if you scroll through your resume and look at what it took to get there. You are made of strong stuff. Courage is not an absence of fear. It's being afraid yet doing the right thing.
As Martin Luther King observed, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." This coming chapter will be long. It will test your resolve and your character, and this is exactly where you need to be to develop resilience. Keep choosing the courageous path. Keep looking out for others, checking in with friends and colleagues and asking how they are. Don't wait for them to ask for help. Many won't. Use this chapter to become your most thoughtful, kind, and compassionate self. You get to choose who you are in 2020 and how you use your emotions to either withdraw or to deepen connection. Others will be feeling the way you do. By reaching out to them, no matter how you're feeling, you choose to build your resilience.
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