If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself right before the pandemic hit, what would you say?
Here’s my answer. Let’s assume it’s January 2020, just as we’re beginning to hear news about a strange virus in Wuhan, China…
Welcome to the beginning of the strangest year the modern world has ever known. You don’t realize it now, but life as you know it is about to change drastically.
Remember how you’ve been talking to everyone about “working from anywhere” for the past decade? Well, now the entire workforce will be leaving their offices and telecommuting. One problem: they can’t actually go anywhere. Working remotely usually implies freedom, but in this case it points to constraint. Simply put, the workforce is working remotely because it’s not safe to work together.
Most of the world’s borders will have closed, though if you want to visit the Maldives, you can buy an unlimited pass to a luxury hotel for all of 2021.
So that’s what you’re looking at! Let’s make a plan. Making plans is something you’re good at.
STEP 1: LOGISTICS.
First things first, buy stock in Zoom and Tesla. Pretty soon the whole world will be using Zoom, even kids in elementary school. “I think you’re muted” will be the new “Can you hear me now?” No one knows why Tesla’s stock keeps rising, but buy it anyway.
Next, start wearing a mask sooner rather than later. Wash your hands frequently, and stop touching your face ten times an hour. Oh, and forget about that forty-city tour you’ve been planning for six months. It’s not going to happen this year.
STEP 2: LET GO.
This time will be unlike anything you’ve experienced. Weirdly, it will be unlike anything that anyone has experienced.
You might feel disconcerted or worried. You won’t understand why other people don’t feel the way you do. You’ll be mad at the people who say it’s all a hoax, and frustrated at the ones who are so afraid that they let it affect every part of their lives. At times, you’ll feel more or less optimistic, but these times won’t always coincide with how other people feel.
You’ll try to see it as an opportunity. Lots of “we’ll get through this together” posts and articles will be published, some even by you. Collectively, you’ll cheer on healthcare workers from balconies.
All of this will be in April. But then comes May, June, July, August, September…
STEP 3: LET GO MORE.
Okay, fine, you think. We’ve all had to struggle through this, but now we’re ready to get off the train. It’s time!
But it doesn’t stop. A bizarre class conflict breaks out over whether or not we should take measures to reduce the number of people getting sick. Meanwhile, 400,000 people ride motorcycles to South Dakota. What could go wrong?
It’s hard to relate to the statistics you hear. Well over a million people are dead from something almost no one thought anything about when the year started.
Then you’ll go into winter with higher numbers than before. It’s discouraging, no doubt, but you’re starting to hope again. There are vaccines on the way.
Is it dangerous to hope? Time will tell, but either way, you still have a next step. Your next step, once again, is to use this time to improve yourself.
STEP 4: RESOLVE TO BE BETTER
Yes, hope is on the way, just as it usually is. Some countries are already distributing these vaccines, and it seems it’s just a matter of time. We will once again be able to have concerts and conferences and hugs with strangers, at least the strangers we want to hug.
The goal now is to see it through. Remain vigilant, but don’t put your entire life on hold. Be cautious but not afraid.
Stay tough during the holidays and do whatever you can to find moments of joy. Put yourself first, and you’ll end up being a better support to others.
All the while, keep your head down and work on something to share with the world in 2021.
It really will come to an end! Hang in there, everyone.
Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.
Image courtesy of Harry Cunningham.