Do you remember when you were a kid, and you were gearing up for a big performance, basketball game or other major kid event? And then your mom pulls you aside as you’re getting ready, does the eye level squat, and with all the empathy in the world lets you know someone really special, who said they’d be there, isn’t going to make it.
Fifth grade me is trying to keep it together, “yeah, it’s cool, let’s send them a photo or something” – but on the inside, we’re screaming BUT THEY SAID THEY’D BE HERE!!! Feeling betrayed, lied to, and a bit down, we push it all aside take to the stage or court or field and do our best anyway.
During the height of COVID-19 in 2020, I remember feeling like that pre-performance kid. Locked down, making masks, searching for toilet paper, cancelling vacations, doing the best I could to learn how to lead my team from our guestroom-turned-home-office, and stumbling my way through facilitating 1st and 3rd grade zoom school AT THE SAME TIME.
I remember a lot of if/then statements at the time. “If you stay home till x date, then this will be over and you can burn your masks and hug your neighbors” Ah yes, the new normal would be here soon, or “Nermal”, as I jokingly personified this mysterious milestone. But just like the kid learning their VIP guest wouldn’t make the performance, Nermal has yet show up for us.
When June 2021 came around, vaccines were available, masks came off, people gathered, and we all smiled a little more. As we celebrated declining COVID numbers and bigger safety circles, I felt like Nermal called us to let us know she packed her bags and would be here soon. Except, the Delta variant rolled into town first, and Nermal never showed up.
Is Nermal ever coming? I don’t know, but I’m done waiting. Even if she was, we probably wouldn’t recognize her.
The amount of change we’ve all been through over that last 18 months is mind blowing if you think about it. We changed where we work, how we work, how we dress, who we spend the most time with, what we do in our free time, and a million other changes that we don’t even think about it like opening an app on our phone to order dinner instead of hopping in the car.
While some of these new ways of life are feeling comfortable, like the joggers you’re wearing during that Zoom presentation, there’s more change ahead. If your happiness is linked to control of these outside circumstances, you’re going to be in for a bumpy ride.
Instead of looking for Nermal to show up, I’m going to keep moving forward making sure I remain critically optimistic as I step out onto the stage of life and remain flexible to the challenges I meet. I’m planning vacations with back-up plans, I’m figuring out the best way to structure my week in a hybrid work environment, and I’m saying no to common practices that didn’t work before (like attempting to do “deep work” in a cubicle), and definitely won’t work now.
So what am I doing to rock my workday?
- I’m getting out of my inbox
- I’m doing my most important work when I have the most energy
- I’m making sure every meeting I schedule has purpose and clear intentions for its participants
- I’m not living at work, I have starts, breaks, and finish lines in my workday, regardless of where I open my laptop.
- I’m driving for results with stakeholders beside me, not in front of me, because running people over to get something done isn’t good for anyone.
And if Nermal shows up after all, I hope she enjoyed the show and brought cookies.