May Reflections: On Reentering with Purpose

I know it’s common to tell ourselves “when X happens, then everything will be better.” For me it’s always been “when things slow down a bit, it will be better.” If things slowed down a bit, I’d finally have some quiet time for myself, my partner, and my home. I’d get to do what I’ve been putting off.I’d recharge. I’d finally focus on my physical and mental wellbeing. 

Right now, on paper, it would appear that most of us have more time—no commute, nothing to do out of the house after work, no travel. But despite the change in pace, here we are feeling almost as jam-packed as ever. Prior to COVID, never had my life slowed down so much, and yet, projects remain unfinished, books unread, hobbies unstarted, and friends neglected.

Why? 

It of course starts with the inundation of social obligations over Zoom, adjusting to major life changes, and feeling the pressure of trying to find a new job or adjusting to working productively from home. 

But I think there is another, perhaps, even bigger reason: it’s that more time alone won’t produce the life we want. When things slow down a bit, it won’t automatically make things better. It sounds trite,  but this is about choices. We have to choose what we want to do, and we have to choose what we don’t want to do. It’s that simple. That notion is the key to making things happen. It’s on us as individuals to choose how we spend our time—now, and when things return to normal. 

We shouldn’t be hard on ourselves about not having it all figured out—this is a really hard time to do self-work. But, we should also let it be a lesson that we can’t wait for things to improve all on their own. We can still use this time to inform those choices. What is different in your life now that is working for you? Let’s try to keep those things. Have you found the joy of an all-day picnic? Don’t give it up just because the world gets “back to normal!” Getting an extra hour of sleep because you can skip your commute? Maybe skip the extra coffee time in favor a few more winks permanently. That weekday lunch with your partner that wasn’t possible before — can you hang onto it somehow, at least sometimes? These changes probably happened by the default of our current situation, but if they feel right that says so much about the choices you should make going forward.

We have to make the future we want. Now more than ever, I’m making the decision to choose how I show up after this is all over. My challenge to you is to really consider and record how you want to emerge when life resumes. Slowing down on its own is not the key to making things better—we are. Regardless of the pace of life, we have to be choiceful about how we spend our time, and that will never change.