Erwin Lemuel Oliva · 5 min read

Celebrating my birthday from home or while on quarantine: A rumination

Back then when we still can go out and visit historical spots like this famous monument in Bataan.

I’m celebrating my birthday from home. This is now a common refrain from anyone growing older under today’s circumstances: a pandemic hanging over our heads while your government wants you back in the office because the economy is suffering. The last bit is a serious matter that deserves a separate post.

I blog every time I turn a new page in life. As writing is triggered by inspiration, my writing is inspired by life-changes or milestones — and birthdays are milestones.

If there’s one big lesson I learned this year, it’s this: we’re taking life for granted every waking time. We’re often lost in the fast-paced and blurry moments of work and life. The economy is practically dictating our pace; we consider breaks or moments of ruminations outside of work as an afterthought.

Having worked from home for last 3 months, the line between work and living has blurred. I found myself spending working more during the first few weeks of the community quarantine versus when I was at the office. Why? Some psychologists say that when we’re working from home, it’s hard to tell the difference between work and “play” because they are both so intertwined.

Then, you also have to figure out a way to find a “work space” at home where you have uninterrupted hours devoted to doing, thinking, arguing, and yes, video calls. Thanks to Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, our working lives are now reduced to spending hours listening and watching screens of people talking to a camera on their laptops, while you try to comprehend what they’re saying while multi-tasking between chatting with the rest of the team whose attention spans are challenged, and answering emails.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Our quarantined life

The biggest fear that many of us have right now is getting infected with the coronavirus, which has killed thousands worldwide. With no vaccine in sight this year or even in the next two years, I fear that spending time outside of the four corners of your home is like heading into a battle against an invisible enemy.

Your senses are heightened when you’re in flight or fight mode. So during a pandemic, paranoia is clearly visible among us. Any news of an infection among the people you work with, or the people closest to you, sends your brain into overdrive, triggering thoughts of protecting yourself and your loved ones.

I salute the health workers and doctors who have gone out of their way to serve us despite the risk of infection. Many of them have died, sadly. But with that in mind — and with news of cases still on the upswing —I cannot blame you if you find it hard to go sit comfortably in an office while being told that you have to maintain 1.5 meters of physical distance from each other.

Air-conditioned rooms are also deemed not safe, as I have read, and staying inside a roomful of people can increase your risk of infection. That explains the almost empty restaurants and fast food chains. I also learned recently that air-conditioned offices have to invest in exhaust systems to reduce possible infection.

We use masks, protective gloves, and other personal protective equipment to keep us safe. But will this be enough to spare us from being infected by an evolving virus?

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An unforgettable year

No one will argue with you when you say 2020 is a year that will be etched in your brains, forever. The year started poorly, if you try to scan the news from January to this moment.

However, as an optimist, I am trying to view this year from the perspective of a glass half-full. Amid the uncertainty, I see some silver-linings from this experience:

  1. Productivity at work has dramatically increased — admit it or not. Is this a good evidence that working remotely or from anywhere will not decrease productivity? For naysayers who think that work cannot be done remotely, well, they’re wrong. You can do more work from home or from anywhere as one colleague puts it boldly.
  2. We’ve connected and re-connected with more people. Yes, we’ve had endless late evening chats and video calls with family, friends, and even friends of friends whom we have never even connected prior to the pandemic. This is all thanks to technology.
  3. We took on new hobbies, upped our skills, and read a few more pages of a book. My wife and kids have learned to cook new delicious dishes they have picked up from YouTube. I have seen friends, colleagues taking up baking. And yes, I have finished more e-books now because I am not wasting time stuck in a traffic jam. So, yay for us!
  4. We’ve been drawn closer to our Creator. I am the first to admit this. When you’re too busy with life, time spent on our spiritual lives declines to almost nil. Many people have turned to prayers and spirituality in this time of crisis. Why? Because we’re always searching for answers to life’s biggest questions.
  5. We’re back to basics and realizing we can survive with little, but essential things. Lifestyles have changed. New habits have emerged. They call it the new normal, but what is it? The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into our personal finances, for one. People have lost their jobs because of this pandemic. For those of us who have jobs, we’re forced to rethink about money. It is also pushing us to think about saving up. The pandemic has definitely given us pause; a time to think about personal finances, especially the money that we can save. Are we spending beyond our means? Are we even budgeting our money every month? Are we tracking expenses, loan payments, interests, etc. Money issues are palpable during crisis.
  6. Finally, one of the things that we’ve regained from this year’s experience is time. I believe that time lost to traffic jams, to long commutes, and sometimes work meetings, were given back to us. It is now up to us to figure how we’re spending that time. So, if you find yourself with more free time at home, spend a few minutes having conversations with the kids minus the screens. Spend 20 minutes exercising (I keep telling myself this everyday). And, spend a bit more for rumination about life — and not work. It can help you cope with life during a pandemic.

*This author makes certain that he has time to write his ruminations, less he forgets it.

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