I’m Still An Optimist Even In The Pandemic
I see the gloom and doom in the news, but I’m still here. The universe must need me to be here.
I had a quiet and peaceful weekend. I mowed and trimmed the lawn. I vacuumed the house. I fixed a loose doorknob. I moved compost to pot some plants. I dismantled three broken umbrellas so that they’d fit in a trashcan. I took out the trash. I went for a walk with my girls. I streamed some entertainment, movies, YouTube, and music. I made a couple of trips to the hardware store. I read. I did everything that I could want to do while sheltering in place, and you know, it was enough.
We’re still recording 20–30k new cases every day. The number of recorded deaths has reached a plateau between 2–3k per day. There is talk of a very accurate antibody test for the coronavirus. A lot of eyes and brains are working on a vaccine for the coronavirus. We’ll get through this just like we’ve worked our way through other problems. The human race doesn’t really have a choice. That’s one reason why I’m an optimist.
Like millions of other people in America, I am living a life where the impact of COVID-19 is on my job and in the news. The coronavirus took over the news, canceled sports, elections, and concerts. If you’re still working, there is a very good chance you’re working from home, just like me. And if you’re still working, you’re paying your bills, saving money when you can and finding things to do around the house instead of going out.
That’s all I can do. I have a family with two young girls and a wife. I have maintained minimal physical contact with other people. I’ve had contact with a neighbor who also works from home and I trust that he’s practicing social distancing. I know that he works in IT like me, so I know that like me, he can work from home, too.
IT jobs are ideally suited for work from home. We use remote desktop. We use VPNs (virtual private networks — an encrypted connection to the office). We use a softphone, a piece of software that knows how to talk to the phone system at work, and it operates very much like the phone on my desk. And I haven’t seen my desk in almost 2 months now.
I haven’t made the drive to work since about March 11th. No commute, no traffic congestion, no gas, no maintenance, I might get a rebate on my insurance since I’m not driving as much and I save the time spent commuting for something else. I’ve kind of been on a mini-vacation, and I like that. To the extent that I can get the work done in a manner that works for my team, I can continue to work from home. I think that working from home is going to be the new normal. Many of us won’t want to go back.
Employers who allow work from home will realize savings in their utility bills. All those computers that were at work are now at home. I’m footing the bill for the power. My power bills are noticeably higher than before now that I’ve been working from home. I have an office in my basement and I run a heater because it gets really cold down here. I can wear layers, but my fingers cant’ type when it’s cold. In the summer, I won’t need cooling. The ground around me will keep things cool here.
The extra expense of the power bill is more than offset by the convenience of working from home. The time spent preparing my lunch for work, dressing for work, driving to work, driving home from work, unwinding from work, all that is more expensive than the cost of power. I’m running a laptop, a docking station, two 24" monitors, a mouse, and a keyboard. I even built custom risers for my monitors. And I have a symmetrical gigabit connection that makes working from home a breeze. What I have now is worth the price of admission to work from home.
I’m saving about 90 minutes a day just by working from home. I’m saving gas, wear and tear on the car, and I’m keeping the air clean in the valley, by working from home. I heard that at one point, oil was selling for -$34 a barrel. They were paying people to take the oil and we were running out of room to store it. Things have settled a bit since then, and oil is now selling for about $20 a barrel. Worldwide demand for oil has cratered and that’s a good thing.
Now that we’re on pause, we can look at how we’re living. We can reassess how we earn a living and what we’re spending our money on. We have more time to look inside and see what we really want to do with our lives. If I was unemployed, and taking unemployment money, that’s what I’d be doing. But I’m still working.
Yes, I fear the virus, but I know that by following protocol, I can mitigate the risk of the virus. I watch the numbers but not as closely as I used to. I just check in once a day now to view the charts to see if we’ve reached the apex. I don’t think we’ve reached the apex. I think we’ve reached the plateau, and I think we’re going to be here for a while until the various governments can come to an agreement on funding and execution for a recovery plan.
I’m not pleased with the way Trump is handling things. He procrastinated from the start. He’s making the states fight among themselves, and he’s punishing the Blue States and rewarding the Red States. He’s acting more like a tyrant than a leader. And right now, we really need a leader. We need someone who isn’t going to play favorites. We need someone who will unify the country rather than divide the country. And that person is not Donald Trump.
I’m aware of the suffering out there. I see it. I read it. But I don’t know anyone who has been personally affected by it. My life is pretty good right now and I’m OK. I felt a little guilty about it, but I worked hard to get here. I’ve been saving money just in case I lose my job. I don’t feel guilty about it now because everyone has their own path. And as the folks at Vox say, It’s OK to be OK during the pandemic.
And I’m following their guidance. I’m making myself useful. I’m fixing stuff around the house. I’m maintaining the house. I’m getting outdoors with the kids. I have a bike to repair when a new tire comes in. I have a leaf blower to repair when the parts come in 2 days. I have roles to fill as a husband, father, and just being a man in the house. I am being of service to my family at home and to customers at work. And everyone is a customer at work.
I have a sense of purpose during the pandemic. I have a sense that if I’m still here, then the universe must still need me here. There are people around me who need me to be here. In the greater scheme of things, I’m connected to everyone and everything. I am a part of a greater whole. There is a place for me here. I belong here.
And when I rest my head on the pillow at night, I let whatever happened today be enough. I have enough. I am enough. Whatever problems I must solve now, I suppose that’s all I can deal with right now. I trust that I have the capacity to solve those problems, just like I trust that humanity has the capacity to solve the problem of the coronavirus.
I can trust that things will work out because I’m an optimist. I just happen to be agnostic as to the outcome. I reserve judgment in order to see what happens next, not to make something happen. And I can’t see what happened if I’m looking for my prediction to come true. So I avoid making predictions. That is to me, what optimism is all about.