At the beginning of last week, I wrote a blog post about how I discovered that I had been inadvertently selfish my entire life, and how the COVID-19 pandemic opened my eyes to empathy—not quite literally the concept itself, but rather, the fact that just because you’re aware of a concept doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve fully manifested it into your life. Since then, a whole lot more has happened.
I’m glad that people around me seem to be responding accordingly. I found out yesterday that the homeowners’ association of my condo taped a red “social distancing line” on the floor of the main entrance to protect our concierge and security staff—which was hilarious, but also gave me faith that the HOA was taking this seriously and keeping our workers safe.
So, with these recent developments and stronger responses from the community, there are two more things that I learned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apparently I’ve basically already been self-quarantining my entire life.
It seems like everyone is complaining about having to make drastic lifestyle changes and how they are bored out of their minds… but I feel like I’m just living my normal life. I’m almost sort of jealous that people seem to be finding unity in struggling through self-isolation, while I can’t join in on the fun because this actually isn’t a struggle to me.
I also seem to be exceptionally well-prepared for self-isolation, because I didn’t have to go out and “stock up” or “prepare” for anything. While other people are cluelessly going out to buy egregious amounts of toilet paper and bottled water, I already have a stockpile of toilet paper (I take leftover toilet paper rolls from hotels I stay at, and I travel a lot), and I already have a few extra water filters in my cabinet. The only thing I don’t have is frozen or canned food, but I have enough faith in the government that I won’t actually starve to death, and if I get close and every single grocery store and restaurant is shut down, then there will be alternative methods available to get my hands on food.
Anyway, I keep myself busy and don’t really have free time, and it’s remained that way throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While people are sitting on their couches mind-numbingly watching hours upon hours of Netflix, I’m just continuing on with what I normally do on a regular day—just with an elimination of the very little human-to-human, in-person contact that I did get before.
On a mildly related note, a lot of people who have a ton of extra free time now have been reaching out to me to reconnect—people who I didn’t realize even remembered that I still existed. They just assume that, because they have a lot more free time, I do too… which isn’t exactly the case. But, of course, I always say that, if you are important enough to someone, they will always make time for you, no matter how busy they are. My own philosophy is being put to the test as more and more old familiar names are popping up in my messages…
Other people now understand why I take a lower paycheck to have a fun job where I can work from home.
I’ve generally always been the type of person who hasn’t really placed “making money” at a very high priority, but when I decided on my full-time career, I decided to take a lower-paying job at a young company within an unstable and new industry just so I could do what I had fun doing. Prior to esports and gaming, I was on track to going to law school and becoming a criminal prosecutor—which, again, is one of the lower-paying legal jobs, but it still would’ve equipped me with a Juris Doctorate and made me a barred lawyer.
Instead, I believe that doing fun work, having control over your life, and being able to work from home are extremely underrated components of a career. I had the great fortune of finding an opportunity that provided me with all three of those—I get to work in the esports and gaming industry, I determine my own schedule, and I get to work out of my home office.
Throughout the last five years, I’ve had people regularly question why I am doing the work that I do right now when I could instead go back to school for a few more years, then double or triple my salary. I’ve always explained to them that both the concrete (personal time and mileage expenses) and abstract (mental health and well-being) value derived from not having to commute to a physical location is worth far more to me, but people generally think I’m wrong.
Now that people are forced to work from home, a few are coming back to me to let me know that they now understand why working from home is so amazing.
I’ve seen people’s commutes range from half an hour to two hours in each direction, and if you account for how much of your life you’re losing to that, it adds up extremely quickly. Some people take public transportation, but others drive, and operating and maintaining a vehicle is usually more expensive than people think.
Most importantly, not having to force yourself to wake up at a specific time or be bound by someone else’s commands can be a freeing and empowering experience. There’s a psychological phenomenon called reactance where you experience displeasure when other people tell you to do something, even if you were going to do that task anyway. If you’re particularly prone to reactance, you may notice situations where you were planning on doing something, but if someone happens to tell you to do that thing before you actually get around to doing it, you no longer want to do that task anymore because it feels like you’re only doing it because that other person told you to do it, rather than out of your own free will.
Reactance can be extremely dangerous for productivity, which is why, when I lead others, I try my best to equip them with the tools and resources they need, then have them come to the conclusion as to what they need to do to achieve our goal. I may nudge them towards my task or create a situation where they will inevitably come to the conclusion that they have to do what I want to do, but the important part here is that they decide on that themselves, and they’re doing it because they want to, not because I told them to.
If you work when you want from where you want, that’s one of the most powerful ways to increase your self-perception of self-worth, thus leading to much greater confidence. You feel like you’re in control of your life, your attitude and outlook on your future improve, you are more motivated and dedicated to your own tasks, and your productivity skyrockets. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put a concrete dollar amount or salary increase in exchange for sacrificing something like this.
Now that other people are getting a taste of what my everyday life is like, I’ve gotten a lot more acknowledgement for my career choice. I’ve never really been someone to care too much about what others’ think, but it’s still nice to hear from people that I was right all along.