2020, New year’s resolutions, old goals and dreams carried forward, balance of a year passed and a new one ahead. You look at it with hopes, motivations, energy and with to do lists that get bigger and bigger each day. But it’s ok, because life is good and the only worry you have is “where do I go on my next trip?”.
…And right when you are there, planning for the next weekend away you are hit with the first “new year worry”: your dad, back in Italy needs a biopsy for a mass in his brain. Do you still go on that holiday you already booked? Or do you run back home to stay with your family at this time? Do you wait the results and then go? Oh, wait, something else is happening! There is a virus going around, is coming from China they say, but there are few cases in Italy too… and you think: “nahh, it is just a flu! They are making it much a bigger deal than it is! This is how media creates panic…”
Then, a couple of days go by and all of a sudden you wake up to a reality that you could not even imagine, and you feel like in a movie, asking yourself: is this true?
You start calling family and friends back home to make sure they are ok and the worries about your father have to go on stand-by, because he is no longer an urgent case and therefore his results will have to wait. You start hearing about people you know that are unwell, people all over the country falling like flies, a city where you have spent most part of your adult life and that has one of the most advanced hospitals in Europe collapsing, members of your family with all the symptoms of this foreign virus fighting for their life in their homes because there is not enough space at the hospital…
One day you were telling your family off for being so dramatic whilst you go to have dinner with your friends trying to live your life as normal, the next you are hit with a bitter reality of a killer virus that everyone seems to be underestimating, including you… one day you wake up and start wondering why anybody should feel released that the dying seems to be elderly and people with underlying conditions? Who gets to decide that this is ok? Day after day the numbers creep up and the world starts closing borders, applying drastic measures to fight this virus, locking down towns, cities, countries.
You call a friend, you call another, you call your cousin, you call your parents, you call people you have not talked to in a while… they all tell you the same thing: Do not underestimate this! This is different, this is serious! They all describe a surreal reality they are living in, where the silence of an empty city is only broken by the sirens of the ambulances and the bells of the churches who mourn their dead. They all tell you about how they have run out of coffins and they are struggling to keep up with the numbers of people dying every day. They tell you about your country that is coming together with the most amusing but emotional responses to something that is bigger than us all.
That’s it, you understand now the severity of this pandemic and you start “social distancing” yourself before it is an official thing, so that your parents don’t worry too much. You also try to warn your friends. But they are too worried about possible football matches being cancelled or the next concert they are not able to go to. So, they don’t take you seriously enough. Because like you, only one week before, they see this as a mass media exaggeration, and they make the same comments you once made. Like you, they do not see it as something that touches them. Until something goes wrong, until the first case starts appearing, until the first person around you dies.
Only two weeks in and the UK goes in lockdown, as the virus escalates quicker than expected. Only two weeks in and the country is frozen, everything is put on stand-by, pop-up home offices are arranged, and life is no longer what it was yesterday. Without warning you find yourself trying to live a normal life in the walls of your house, confined for the greater good, you realise that things you gave for granted yesterday are no longer a priority today.
In all this you need to keep working, to be productive, to make sure your team is ok, that they maintain the motivation to do well, that they have all they need to be efficient, that you come up with ideas to keep the work up at times when the market and the economy is taking a deep dive into the unknown. In all this, you keep a smile and keep going because complaining does not resolve anything but makes things worse, complaining is a slap to all those that have lost already their jobs, to all those that are working day in and day out in the front line risking their life, to all those that will not make it alive. Complaining to be sat in the comfort of my house and have the luxury of the possibility to work from home does not sound so bad compared to so many other things that in the world are not going so well right now.
There are two ways of facing this unprecedented situation: you can feel sorry for yourself, for all the things you are unable to do, feel miserable for not having all the tools to be 100% productive, for having to sit on a bench or on your bed instead of a comfortable office chair, for having your family far and in the middle of the worst outbreak so far, for not knowing how your father’s health is deteriorating in the meantime, for not knowing when you will be able to hug your family again… or you decide that you are not going to be defeated by this, that you wake up every morning being thankful of being safe, of having a job that will keep your mind distracted of all the worries; you decide that it is better to put a smile on your face and accept that this is your new lifestyle for a while, that your house is not so bad if compared to how less fortunate people are living right now, that you are going to see your family at some point and that it will be a big happy party, you decide that it is better to hope and pray that your father will be ok, you decide that resisting this will only making you stress more. You decide that faith and hope will give you the strength to face every day until this bad dream is over, one day at the time; you decide that all you can do is keep motivated and motivate your team each day to not give in and instead be at our best with what we have, because one way or another we are all facing the same giant and is better to fight it together, with honesty and hope.
So, the only choice we have, my friends and colleagues, is to be aware of the seriousness of this and to acknowledge that it will change and impact so many aspects of our life, but also to not go in panic mode. Please stay positive, use all you have to remain active and to keep your brain sane, be the ones who keep the boat from sinking not those that put more water into it. And keep smiling, please keep smiling…