There is a popular saying, which has been used in several memes, among my developer and remote-working friend groups. It goes something like the following:
Government and Doctors: Practice physical distancing during this pandemic.
Remote Workers: I’ve been preparing my whole life for this moment. I got this.
The truth is that we don’t “got this,” at least I know I don’t.
While practicing physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is those little moments that you do not think you will miss that suddenly become important.
Every Saturday, I awake around 6 or 6:30 a.m. I go through my normal routine and get dressed for a morning drive into the city. My home is in a quiet area in rural Alabama. I am a Millennial living within a neighborhood of mostly Baby Boomers. For the most part, it is an ideal place for remote work. Few people bother me, and I can tend to my animals and get my work done in peace. However, it is not exactly the most socially invigorating place in the world.
Those Saturday mornings are important. Assuming I have no other social plans for the week, it is my one chance to get out into the world. I stop by the local Co-Op, pick up any feed or seed I need, and chat with the people there about the farming season or the weather — mostly the weather. I drop into Hidden Treasures, a flea market, and talk with a seller who shares an interest in finding old DVDs, VHS tapes, and Laserdiscs. I grab a sandwich at Subway and am greeted by the Indian-American manager who learned my name on my first visit years ago. He asks about my family. I ask how his family is doing.
These fleeting moments are almost forgettable. They are routine. Run-of-the-mill. When they are happening, you do not think about them. However, when they are gone, there is a void remaining that is hard to fill.
Yes, I have been practicing physical distancing for over a decade, at least to some degree. That makes those small moments where I interact with others in person crucial to my mental health.
This Saturday, I will once again head into the city after a hiatus. However, my trip will be different. This time, I will be gathering necessities for myself and some of my elderly neighbors who want to avoid the public for a while. The trip will be quick. Some of the places I normally visit are closed. My Subway meal will be carryout.
Even after a couple of weeks, and feeling like I was prepared for this moment, I am still coming to grips with the world as it is now.
Staying Strong as a Community
The WordPress community, the people, have put up a strong front. Bloggers have written posts on remote work. Developers, designers, and others have willingly shared their knowledge with others. Companies are offering discounts to help ease the burden for those looking to begin a shop or blog online. Yes, our community will get through this, and we will be stronger for it.
However, it is OK for us to share our vulnerabilities during these uncertain times.
Ultimately, this community is not about software. It is about people. The software is the way we connect. It is a tool that we program, design, and evangelize. We do it for ourselves. We do it for millions of others to have a voice online. But, it is always about people.
Sometimes, people need to know that others in our community are struggling. This is a collective pain that we are working through. Remote work does not always mean physical distancing from everything and every one of the outside world. Many of us may have a bit of a head-start on staying put at home for hours on end, but we are also dealing with a new reality every day. Showing strength is good, but sharing our stories of struggle is just as important.
For some of us, that weekly trip into the city plays a vital role in our well-being. Others are dealing with children who would normally be in school or daycare. Kids can be disruptive, even when you have the best-laid plans and every hour of their day mapped out. Even for us remote workers, life is a little out of balance now. It is OK to admit that. If you are running a WordPress business, it is OK for you to provide a little more flexibility for your workers who are at home. Many of them will need it.
It is not time to break down. It is time to find a new balance in our current environments. That may mean starting up a family board game night. It may mean making sure that you set up a video chat with those loved ones you have been too busy to call in several months. Maybe you will start taking a daily walk for better health. It might also be time to set up WordPress blogs for your children as part of their education. Some of these new things may and probably should become routine, especially that last one.
Do not become overwhelmed if you feel like you should be handling this situation better because you have practice at remote work.
Hop over to your personal WordPress blog. You may have to dust that thing off; some of you have not used it in a while. Write about the things you are struggling with. Share them with the community and find support among others. Post about your experiences. Tell us about your tough days and those small wins that are helping you get through this.
For me, it is having my dad call to check in for the third time this week, and it is only Wednesday.