Was it I, in a column written a few weeks into the pandemic, who extolled the virtues of working from home? It’s true, fewer cars on the road is helping our environment, and the time we used to dedicate to commuting has freed us up to do new things with our time. As for me, evenings are less hectic with no lunch to pack or outfit to pick out for the next day. Oh yes, this work-from-home lifestyle has its perks, but now nearly four months into it, I’m finding that the reality of how different it is from the life I had, is beginning to settle in.
Readers familiar with my story will recall that within the last year I’d been led to my dream job. I looked forward to going to work every day and when setting my alarm at night, was excited to wake up the next morning. I’d suit up in my business attire, grab my travel mug filled with hot tea and off I was for the 50-minute drive to work. Along with my fellow commuters on 101, I would watch the sun come up each morning while relishing this peaceful start to my day. Once at my building, I’d run into other workers bustling about with the same end-goal as mine - helping people figure out what they want to do with their lives. Sharing the same space, we were able to experience each other’s energy and enthusiasm; mingle and share ideas. Ask questions and learn from each other. Provide a listening ear when needed. Sit side-by-side and have lunch together! My co-workers and I made a great team. We are all working from home now, and we have managed to still be a great team. But it is different now.
I remember the day we closed our offices. We gathered in a conference room while our supervisor explained that our work function had been determined to be “non-essential” and we would be closing our doors. Although we’d been witnessing the escalating pace of the closures around us of schools, stores and restaurants, and the cancellation of national events like pro-basketball games, we struggled to absorb its meaning and process that this was really happening. And then, we were all sent home.
My agency was quick to meet the challenge handed to us and begin reinventing how we deliver services. Like millions of other businesses and agencies around the country, we are working on finding ways to serve our clients while keeping everyone safe. It’s been exciting to watch and to be a part of this effort, but – and I’m just going to say it - I kind of miss my old life.
Last week I visited the office to pick up materials. It felt empty; almost like a ghost town. I miss the connections. I miss seeing people in their offices. I miss listening to a colleague answer a question I’ve just asked them, while standing two feet away and staring them in the face.
No doubt I am counted among the extremely lucky to still have a job. And my engagement with the people I help, though done remotely now, still brings me deep fulfillment. But allow me to share a recent experience which stirred feelings in my heart of how life used to be. It happened while driving to the East Bay on some business. Perhaps I felt it because my journey began on the path of my old commute, but while out on the road, visiting office buildings in another city and taking care of important matters, I had the feeling of being in the “big, exciting world,” again.
It was a tingling sort of rush that left behind a question: “How can I get this back in my life?” But what, exactly, was “this?”
Inside of me a voice said, “I want to go somewhere!” But where?
“I want to do something!” But what?
“I want to be with people!” I’m not sure how that will happen.
It’s likely I’ll be working from home for a good, long time. So other than forsaking my blue jeans to don myself daily with dressy attire, the question remains: how can I get this feeling back into my life? When I find the answer, you’ll be the first to know.
Cindy works as an employment development counselor and is a mother and grandmother. She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.