• Denise Cartagena

What Will Your Life Be Like After COVID?

Let’s take a second to reflect. Think back to January. Remember what it felt like to ring in the new year and new decade with open arms to welcome all the possibilities? What were you doing? Who were you with? Where were you celebrating? Although it was only just about 7 months ago, it feels like it was during another lifetime.

Fast forward to March. Think back to the first time you went grocery shopping and how you felt when you saw that half the shelves were empty. What was going on in your life? Were you still working? Were you able to fill your time with errands or hobbies?

Now here we are, finishing off July, a time usually filled with vacations and being outside and enjoying the company of friends and family. But this year it looks a little different with virtual happy hours and wearing masks while in any setting outside the home. How has this situation affected you? How have you changed because of this situation?

There is so much talk about the historical unemployment rates and the highs and lows of the economy. Normally, a nice-paying job with security is the goal in Working America. Has Coronavirus shifted that perspective at all? Was that job satisfying for you? Were you already living your ideal life?

The biggest lesson that I encourage you to reflect on is this: in an instant, everything you know to be true can be taken away, forcing you to seek another truth.

In January I was so excited to start this new decade off right. I had been working at my bar job for about four months, ready to make as much money as possible in the busy-season that was upon us in Phoenix. We made it through the Phoenix Open and started welcoming visitors for Spring Training. One day, a few people came to the bar disappointed because their games, that they had specifically come to town for, had been canceled. It was almost overnight that the crowds had decided to stay home, and before I knew it, I had been furloughed.

By this time in my life I had been a bartender for a few years, and I hate to admit it, but my spending habits had morphed into: make a lot of money real quick, spend a lot of money real quick. For those of you who don’t know, the restaurant industry is high and low, but it allows its workers to make fast cash and enough money to provide for their lifestyles and then some. So with that stream of income being cut off, and low preparation (because who could have predicted a pandemic in the near future??), I was really thrown. I then had to figure out how the unemployment system worked, which we all know now is a shit show. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

In addition to being stressed about money and being unemployed, I was in total uncertainty of who I was and what I was doing in my life. I love bartending, but I know that it isn’t something I want to do for my main source of income for very much longer - that immediately turns it into just a job. Despite my confidence in that idea, at the time I got furloughed I was working to gain some leadership in the company! I found comfort in the idea that my management trusted me with new responsibilities and I could satisfy my need to grow in an environment that already provided good money. Moreover, I didn’t even know what my hobbies were, and anything that came to mind I couldn’t do because I didn’t have the money to spend on the supplies and gear I lacked. So, in short, I spent the first two months of quarantine desperately grasping for empty opportunities, coping in very unhealthy ways, and then laying around crying.

And then something amazing happened. I was approved for unemployment insurance. I started searching for ways to learn about money, and tried implementing some of those techniques into my new financial situation. Once I got a few things down on paper, I realized that even taking the smallest steps towards my own personal growth made me feel a lot better about my situation. This realization allowed me to take a mental step back from the reality and emotions I had been experiencing, and work on the awareness I needed to climb out of that pit of despair I had been curled up in for over 2 months.

Even though coronavirus has been a very difficult experience for all of us in this country, the optimist in me allows me to see, and encourages you to identify, the lessons and opportunities we can take away from this. For me, I know how to file for unemployment now and unfortunately, I know what the pressures created by our flawed system feel like; I know that I am only in control of myself, regardless of what’s going on around me; and I know that no amount of fear, worry, or regret can fix the situation.

I don’t even have to go into too much detail to explain how much this situation sucks. I mean everyday, people are suffering, people are divided and emotional, we’re unsure if it’s safe to go out even though we desperately want to. There is so much uncertainty surrounding our current state right now. HOWEVER, IT IS CERTAIN THAT THIS IS TEMPORARY. Things will get better. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but someday we will come out of this on the other side. There will come a day when we can go outside and re-experience what it feels like to finish a rejuvenating flow at the yoga studio, enjoy the sun on the beach, or feel comfortable to enjoy breathing without wearing a mask! For now we will have to prepare for the good days by getting a better understanding of what we want when the safety and freedom return.

Each of us is the only one in control over ourselves. But knowing that, know also that you are powerful, and you are strong enough to pull yourself out of the pit you’ve been hurting in since March. If you want it badly enough, you will make it happen. Take responsibility and start showing up for yourself! Quarantine doesn’t have to be the story of how your entire life shattered into a million pieces. What if it’s actually the story of how you regained your strength to reorganize your life into what you’ve always wanted it to be?

Think about it. For example, were you happy in your job? If so, I really admire you for being able to find something that fuels your soul, and I aspire to be like you! If not, understand that the “sense of security” you felt in that job, even though you didn’t like it, is gone now. Are you willing to go back and keep allowing yourself to endure that? Also, were you able to enjoy any hobbies during quarantine? Or did you keep coming up short on supplies or gear, like me, because time wasn’t made for those hobbies during “regular life”?

Private self-awareness, or your awareness about your thoughts, feelings, desires, etc., is key right now. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. What are the things you are in control over right now?

  2. What are some lessons that you have learned during COVID?

  3. How will you be different when this is all over?

  4. How do you want your life to be different when this is all over?

  5. Why is it important to make these changes?

Pro Tip: To maximize the benefits of your reflection, try saying your answers out loud with a reflection partner (or even by yourself if you don’t have a partner to do this with). Sometimes even hearing yourself say your thoughts aloud will allow you to better make sense of what you’re feeling or even dismiss it as something you should not have been worrying about in the first place. It will also help your good ideas make their way into your long-term memory! If you or your partner needs any additional support, feel free to reach out!

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Happy Growing & Best Wishes,