I spent the best part of this morning feeling lost.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t doing anything – it’s that I, no matter how many “things” I do, never quite feel like I’ve done enough. I’m lucky, though – I have a job, a business, I keep people paid, we get paid, everyone’s good. Our work makes clients happy, and new business is still rolling in. But I still feel like I’m not doing enough, because I feel like I’ve sat in front of this computer and typed and hit send in the same way every day (minus weekends) for months, because I have.
The nature of what I do, and what you likely do reading this, is inherently digital, and thus the difference between one day and another is usually dictated by what happens on the computer, or on Zoom, or beyond. As even those lucky of us to have a separate home office to go to have found, the lack of change, the feeling of being in the same place, doing the same thing, every day, is grating and brutal.
The issue isn’t so much work-life balance (which many of us struggle with, obviously), it’s the separation of one piece of time from another. Even the most sedentary of us has some degree of change that they faced every day – “having” to go to work, or go out to eat, or take the bus, these were all things that broke up our day into comparable chunks. And when life sucked, we’d feel exactly like we do today – like we’re stuck in a rut, repeating the same few lines of a story.
I should add that we do have it easier than those who have to travel into meatspace, going to physical jobs, in real places, where the coronavirus also might be hanging out. The other side – which does not discount the safety and significant stability that this offers – is that many of us are simply moving from one screen to another screen to bed. I’m not making that vacuous, boring argument about how you need to get away from the computer – I’m just saying that our physical movement of our bodies through different spaces is what gives our brains and opportunity to sense and experience time.
We are lucky. We are privileged to be able to do work on the computer. Digital marketing and PR professionals are still, somehow, in demand. We aren’t totally isolated from layoffs, but our jobs do not require physical space nor physical materials to complete them. We are digital. I am grateful for what I have, but understand the repetitions that come with it.
I want to quickly touch upon the negativity of the news. I believe that, yes, there is a level of self-flagellation we put ourselves through by “having too much news,” but a big reason why things also feel bad right now is that there really aren’t many new things. Like it or not, we really did enjoy the idea of a new movie coming out, or a new TV show coming out, even if it was bad. Even if our vacation sucked, we enjoyed the distance it gave us from work. Business travel was exhausting, but it allowed for us to designate where home was and wasn’t, when we were or were not working.
The reason that being able to go outside “just to take a walk” doesn’t seem to help right now is because we’re fully aware that said walk lacks purpose, and that we’re simply roleplaying what real life used to feel like. I doubt many of us actually miss going to the grocery store – but I know that we miss having a life where going to the grocery store existed, as it opened up new possibilities, even meaningless, and even at times negative ones.
This even applies to the content we’re getting online. When you put aside the often-bad news, the news you’re seeing usually isn’t something funny, or cute, it’s someone mad at someone else because they didn’t wear a mask, or someone being stupid, or something negative. People want sports back so badly because it’s a gesture of normality – but even then, we can feel that it’s just a simulacrum of watching sports, played differently, with the viewer starkly aware that there is no feeling of “being there.” You’re not there. Everyone knows. There aren’t really any new TV shows, or movies. Everything we discuss in entertainment is in 2021, or 2022, or beyond. Being able to look forward to something usually requires you to pinpoint said thing in time, as close or far away, as “real” or imagined.
Everything feels like it’s going slowly, producing less and doing less, yet we are still expected to give the same amount of energy and effort.
Right now, there are very few unique hooks to attach time to. We can pretend that sending emails or having calls or doing things digitally can make up for the lack of a physical space, but, especially for those of us that are online all day, it doesn’t. None of us know when real life will start again, and each day seems to bring news that only pushes back when we can leave the house safely.
And it’s alright. I have no solutions. I have no quick tips about feeling alive again. I haven’t got much to do other than to say that you aren’t weird to feel this way. I don’t think going for a walk will fill that hole. I don’t know if taking up a new hobby will help. I just want you to know you’re not weird for feeling like this. At least, I hope not, because otherwise I’m alone.
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