Musings on Creativity, COVID-19 and Normal
It's the Saturday evening of May 16th, 2020 as I write this blog post. I came up with this post earlier this week while I struggled to finish a rather long post summarizing the survey results from a project I co-lead called The Web We Want.
On the same day I decided to start video blogging tech thoughts, purposefully titled Tech Thots, while I jotted down other ideas for work content.
I am overflowing with ideas while simultaneously too exhausted to bring them all to fruition.
The weight of sadness over lost events and experiences is heavy.
I spoke at my first tech event of the year, SFHTML5, at the end of February, where my Uber driver teased me about the cough I'd had since January: "It's not that corona is it?"
"No, just asthma." I said at the time. But my cough didn't go away until April and I'm left wondering when I think about my symptoms in January, did I have it?
Then the next week, I flew to the UK, to squeeze in a talk at FrontEnd NE. My manager left it up to me if I wanted to travel as talk of COVID spreading hit the news.
I got out the door a day before Microsoft put a non-essential travel ban into effect and spent 6 days in the UK. I gave a talk in Newcastle, I went to Leeds for another event and to see a friend, spent an evening in London wandering around in the cold, visiting spots I wanted to despite being tired, thinking I would for sure be back in May. I booked my flight while sat in Heathrow in an unusually empty airline gate. And then I flew home.
I flew home and I was supposed to be leaving for New Zealand not long after. I pulled out of that event. And then my trip back to San Francisco for another SFHTML5 session got postponed. As did each and every work and personal trip I was supposed to take.
I was supposed to be traveling every other week from March to the end of May. I was supposed to spend a week in Arizona with my parents for my mom's birthday. I was supposed to go to Washington D.C. to watch my brother graduate from medical school. MEDICAL SCHOOL. Instead, he graduated medical school alone, sitting in a parking lot of a grocery store.
By now, I'd have given 5 conference talks and led 2 Web We Want sessions. If I was posting this next week, I'd have given 6 talks.
I am sad, and most importantly, I'm allowed to be sad, to mourn the lost time. We all are.
A Paradox of Imagination and Burnout
I'm not sure burnout is the right word. I know what burnout feels like and what I'm feeling due to no face-to-face interaction with my co-workers since February is not burnout. But I am exhausted. The weight of a never-ending news cycle coupled with a petulant, narcissistic child within the highest office in the United States is heavy.
I have weeks where I feel completely useless and my focus isn't there. I make my way through tasks but I notice how distracted I am. A heavy weight. I notice how distracted I am, I acknowledge the world but I am still so hard on myself, as I've always been.
I am distracted but I find myself brainstorming new ideas.
How do I evolve The Web We Want when I can't host a session at a conference? How do I engage with the web developer community? What about...? And what if...?
And suddenly I'm writing down ideas for videos and blog posts and content I would not have otherwise thought about had I not been in this situation. I'm writing them down but the heaviness is there, omnipresent.
Everything takes longer to do right now but somewhat ironically I'm feeling more creative than ever despite that constant heaviness of an infinite present.
Light at the end of tunnel whose length I don't know
Tech has been a saving grace in all of this.
No, Zoom isn't the same as hugging my friends and dancing with them. A Skype date isn't the same as meeting face to face. DJs livestreaming while everyone joins a Google Meet room and livestreams themselves dancing is not the same as a festival. But it's something.
Connection while in isolation.
I have a vague idea of when I'll be able to travel again, with the intention of staying put in that place for a few weeks but that timeline is not necessarily guaranteed. The first time I get on a plane, it will not be with the intention of a quick trip like a conference. I know why I'll be flying and my heart is elated.
And the universe continues to baffle me because if it wasn't for quarantine, there are conversations that wouldn't have evolved, connections that would not have happened and there are plans that wouldn't have been made.
Remember in my recap of 2019, how I stated that life doesn't always turn out the way you plan? I've embraced the unexpected. Per usual, I didn't know what I was hoping to find but what I've found in quarantine is something I never expected: a slice of pure joy in an otherwise unhappy time.
What I've found isn't necessarily "normal", whatever that means. What is normal?
There is no normal.
And if there was, we shouldn't go back to it. I won't be and what works for me may not work for others.
I did not go back to the UK in May.
But let me vague-post and say, I think I'll get my fill and more than I ever hoped for in visits to the UK because of quarantine. A light at the end of a very long tunnel.
It's something positive and that's what I'm clinging to, to counteract the weight of time standing still and months lost to COVID quarantine.