I thought lockdown would have more free time, really.
The thing about the current situation is that it has divided people into two broad categories. There are people who are less busy than they were when the world caught fire. And there are people who are more busy than they were then.
The people in the second category include the people who are justifiably being celebrated for keeping society rolling – the health care workers, the delivery and shipping people, the grocery stockers, the corrections officers, the retail workers, the teachers, and so on. You’ll note that this does not really include the wealthy and powerful. As someone pointed out to me the other day, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged – the basis of much of the American right wing’s social views these days – is built around the idea that if a bunch of CEOs decided to take their marbles and stomp off in a snit all of society would collapse, and now thanks to the coronavirus we know for sure that this is patently absurd. Let them go Galt for all that anyone cares. The real makers are the ones doing the work, not the ones in fancy suits telling other people to do the work.
As an adjunct instructor and an academic advisor I’m not in the same category as nurses or food chain workers, but I am definitely in the category that got a whole lot busier over the last six weeks.
On the one hand, this is a privilege and I’m grateful for it. I’m still employed, at least for the moment, and I’m happy to be working and earning a living, even if that is already being curtailed in some ways. It turns out that paying off the mortgage back in December was a smooth move.
On the other hand, well, it is exhausting. And that’s surprising. Because you think, “Oh, I’m not actually going anywhere, am I?” There’s no commute, there’s no office, there’s no running back and forth for errands or such. I’m home pretty much all the time except for weekly grocery runs and the occasional trip to the barn for the chickens. I’ve got the same jobs I had in February. I should be full of energy and spare time.
But I’m not.
It turns out that everything takes a lot more time when you’re online. Classes. Appointments. Meetings. Everything. All of the things you used to just DO are now formal processes. And all those Zoom/Webex/Skype/BlueJeans/Teams/WoW meetings really do take more out of you than meeting in person. It’s a different mental energy, and it’s draining.
My students in particular have been taken aback by this. I bring it up in our meetings and they all, uniformly, get this look in their eye (assuming I'm in a video conference and not just a phone call with them) and then say “Yes!” They’re so happy to discover that it’s not just them. That this is normal for the situation.
You’re going to be exhausted by this new regime. You’re going to feel you have no free time. Because that’s what happens.
This is why people who tell you that you should have developed three new skills, written your novel, worked out until you have a body you could enter into contests, and learned a new language by now are just insane. We’re doing all we can to get through the days intact.
Even the people who do objectively have less to do are exhausted by it all, from what I gather. And of course they are. The world is taking a lot out of people these days.
We’ll get through it. More of us will get through it if we can keep a lid on the simpletons protesting for their right to drown in their own lungs these days, of course, but eventually this will pass.
Until then, we press on.