Maaaaan, 2020 kicked my ass. In the I-started-a-new-workout-so-I’m-sore type of way. Somehow during the most devastating year of my generations collective life I have managed to be ok.
Yes, this year has been full of pain, suffering, and death. However, this year of physical distance from outsiders has also given me the gift of being at home. As an introvert I have not missed outside AT ALL. I don’t miss unsolicited hugs from huggers or driving an hour each way to get to a 30-minute meeting.
I haven’t been at home like this since the mid-2000s. Working from home showed me a lot of things I could not see before because I was moving so fast. Always in a car or on an airplane. At home, even being on Zoom most of the day, I can see my new coworkers (aka my husband, daughter, and dog). I hear them
being loud in the kitchen…or on their own work calls. I feel the vibration of our family text thread (that includes our son) with a link to some random TikTok.
Even though I do not mind being in the house, those early days of knowing the world was on fire metaphorically and literally was hard. I certainly didn’t think I would be in a goodish headspace at the end of the year. But here I am. In a better place than I have been in a long time. I have no idea how that happened and I do not take it for granted. I am so, so grateful.
Quarantine started off shaky. I did not want to work from home. I was one of the last people to pack up and leave the office. During the first two months of quarantine I drank too much and spent too much time reading the news. Thanks to my best friend, somewhere around May I reconnected with girlfriends from college. We started having weekly Zoom kee-kee-fests where we would talk about work, relationships, and challenge each other to get back to practicing self-care. Without pressure, I felt accountable to find my footing and soon enough I was walking every day. Collective care was/is been a gift I didn’t know I wanted/needed.
When George Floyd was murdered at the end of May, I was clear that something IN ME had shifted. I didn’t have the words for what was happening but something shifted for me professionally as well. I started declining meetings when my calendar looked too full. Next, I decided that unless unavoidable I was going to stop having back-to-back Zoom meetings. Then I went rogue and deleted the one-hour meeting option from my online scheduler. I mean, surely whatever someone wanted to say to me could be done in 30 minutes, right?! I even started making time during my workday for my walks and NAPS! Y’all, who have I become??
All of these changes happened gradually, over the summer and through the fall. These days instead of blindly saying yes, I have a little voice in my gut that reminds me to check in with it before responding. I started asking myself, why was it ever a good idea to be in back-to-back meetings? Is there another way to show I am engaged in a meeting without having my video on all day? What criteria should I revisit before saying ‘yes’ to a meeting? Is my job to be on every committee asked of me or the ones where my leadership is needed?
By making these changes I was able to move at a pace that allowed me to be intentional. To think.
I won’t go back.
Don’t be mistaken, my work is still intense and I have a long way to go in terms of right-sizing my workload and workday. But I’ve seen a new way of being and leading and I want more of it. As the saying goes, ‘once you see, you can’t unsee.’ I want regular time to vision and strategize. I want to spend less time with people who want to talk and sound important and more time with folks putting it all on the line to make life/work/community better.
I am learning to decenter the doing and embrace being. Being is enough, y’all. I’ve said it for years but now I’m living like I believe it! If I can be myself you will see my expertise. I don’t have to work as hard as I have been to show my knowledge, skills, etc. You know that thing that happens when you are the only Black woman in the room and folks act like you’re not there. When you say ‘yes’ to the committee/board/commission because you would be the first/only and it’s important for Black folx to ‘be at the table.’
I’m not playing the game anymore. I want something more for career. My legacy is not going to be reacting to whiteness and its norms. I’ve been doing that for twenty dayum years.
So, as I hear people in distress saying they are longing to go back to life before COVID, I actually get nervous. What I was doing before was not working for me. The way I moved in the world was not serving me well. I ain’t going back.
As I think about 2021 and what it holds, I am looking forward to the renewed life I am building. I’ll get there by:
- Saying no to things that don’t serve me, my people, or my community
- Having more dates with people I love
- Feeling more, numbing less
- Only doing work that grounds me
- Being paid what I’m worth
- Taking more VACATIONS
- Reading, writing, and crafting
- Reconnecting with my ancestors
- Spending less time sitting in traffic
- Coaching YOU