For those of my readers based outside of the solar system colloquially called Sol, and away from the planet unimaginatively named Earth, you should know that those of us stuck here on the old homeworld are currently living through a global viral pandemic. This is, understandably a stressful time for everyone, as hospitals are overwhelmed by patients, businesses are closed, and people are forced to isolate themselves at home to try to reduce the spread of illness to a manageable level.
Those of us who reside in the United States can breathe easy, at least until the virus turns our lungs into forbidden water balloons, knowing that our nation will definitely make all the right economic and healthcare decisions in a timely manner thanks to the astute leadership of That One Illiterate Guy Who Was A Reality TV Star And Whose Businesses Went Bankrupt Six Times, and The Other Dude Who Is A Religious Zealot And Thinks Science Is A Hoax Perpetrated By Satan. For those of you in other countries who DON’T have leaders so highly qualified to shepherd you through such scary high-stakes times, I’m sorry.
The best thing for all of us to do at the moment is take a deep breathe, while we still can before the virus drowns us from the inside, post up at home, and chill the fuck out for a few weeks. The Covid-19 Coronavirus is so dangerous, not because it kills everybody who gets it, but because it doesn’t. The virus is highly infectious, and has a fairly long incubation period. That means it’s easy to get, and you can have it for a relatively long time before you even know you’re sick, giving you ample opportunity to spread it to everyone else you come in contact with before you begin to show symptoms. This, obviously, is leading to a massive amount of secondary and tertiary infections as asymptomatic carriers Typhoid-Mary around town breathing their hot plague breathe all willy-nilly. Yes, Typhoid-Mary is a verb now, civilization is collapsing and the old linguistic rules of the Before Before no longer apply here in the After Times. Since this dangerous illness proliferates so rapidly and so easily, the most effective measure we can take to curtail its spread is to bunker down at home and wait it out.
Now, to many of you, this is understandably a cause for major stress, whether due to financial worries while you’re not working, or personal angst because you can no longer avoid your families by working long hours in the office, and are forced to confront the fact that you resent your children, those soul-sucking leaches who stole the final years of your youth and greater part of your financial freedom for their own selfish needs without contributing a single thing of tangible value in return, or that the last fitful flickering spark of love, respect, and contentment you had for your hideously aging lazy nag of a spouse is now inevitably and irretrievably gone as you’re forced to witness them slime around the house like a malodorous slug in the same pair of raggedy sweatpants for the thirteenth day in a row, staring in slack-jawed bewilderment at the glowing screen of the smartphone held six inches in front of their stupid hairy fat face by clasping claw-like hands covered in cracked and fissured skin that has been dried to a dusty Paper Mache-like consistency by their compulsive hand-washing in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus that you almost wish would hit your household because you’re starting to look forward to a few days of painful suffocation, gasping for air on an uncomfortable National Guard cot in an overcrowded triage tent set up in an empty Wal Mart parking lot while a tired dead-eyed physician frowns and stares sadly at her clipboard before resolutely moving on and leaving you to slip silently into the sweet embrace of death alone and forgotten.
Of course, that’s not what home quarantine HAS to be like, at least not entirely. It’s also a time of exciting opportunity! Now that we’re all home, life is either:
1) Business as usual – maybe you are retired, or a housewife or househusband, or you were already working from home before this pandemic.
2) Working from home for the first time. Or;
3) Not working because you’re stuck using paid time off, or unpaid time off, or furlough, or you’ve been laid off due to the virus.
If being home is business as usual for you, like it is for me, you’ve probably got nothing to complain about. You’ve already got an established routine, you’re a pro, you’ve got this.
If you’re working from home for the first time, you can be thankful that you’re still receiving an income, and that modern technology allows you to avoid infection while still remaining productive. Sure, there will be some growing pains as you ease into a new routine with potentially unfamiliar or insufficient software and hardware, but those pains are more than offset by the conveniences that those of us who were already working from home have long since discovered. First, you have more time. Even if your productivity and efficiency take a hit while you’re working without all the conveniences of the main office, you shall soon find that your efficiency can still receive a net increase because you can finally work however -you- work best. Maybe it’s in complete silence, something you could never achieve while manacled to the desk in your waist-high cubicle in your crowded office. Maybe it’s with pounding death metal riffs cranked up to eleven on your surround sound stereo keeping your blood pumping and energy up, something that would never be tolerated in a public office environment. Maybe it’s naked as the day you were born, unconstrained by restrictive business casualwear and societal pressure. I don’t know what makes you work best, but I bet you do, and when you’re working in the privacy of your own home, you’re free to indulge.
Even if it turns out that working from home doesn’t help your efficiency and productivity, and you actually have to work a little longer to complete your assigned tasks, you’re still saving time during the day that would otherwise be spent getting ready and commuting to and from work. All that time normally spent sitting in traffic ironically listening to Rage Against The Machine on the radio as you dutifully creep into the office to toil for your corporate overlords like a busy little worker bee in their underground sugar caves is now your own again. You are suddenly reminded that there is such a thing as a work/life balance, and that they are separate things. Work is work, and life is life, and the less time you spend stuck at work, the more time you have to actually enjoy life. When you’re at work, you’re not living, you’re existing. Once you gain back even a little of the time you used to lease to your bosses for too little pay and too much stress while they sit fat and happy in their golden towers drinking cognac from blood diamond decanters fondly reminiscing about last season’s human hunting trip on their private death island, you begin to realize exactly how valuable time for yourself actually is.
If you’re not working at all due to this quarantine, the same applies to you, but even more so. There’s only so much worrying you can do about your reduced income, so try to get that out of the way early instead of dwelling on it throughout the entire quarantine. Try instead to think of it this way – for the next few weeks you don’t have to work. You can’t work. So you might as well spend this time working on yourself.
The United States has a very unhealthy work culture. It’s not quite as bad as say, Japan, where salarymen are expected to literally work themselves to death, but America has plenty of that same attitude, where if you’re not working overtime, putting in extra hours above and beyond what you were hired to do, you’re somehow doing something wrong, and if you have the gall to actually take time off, you’re definitely thought less of. Even in companies that provide generous paid time off benefits, actually using that paid time off and taking time to enjoy your life instead of just constantly slaving away often gets you more than a few stink eyes, and not just from management. This pressure comes from your peers too, which is preposterous when you think about it, because they know exactly how stressful and draining and unrewarding the work you’re doing really is, so it would make more sense if they all agreed that HEY, we SHOULD be compensated more for this, and we SHOULD get more time off to relax, or travel, or spend time with our families, or work on our hobbies, or do any of the countless things that are actually more important than working. Now that a significant portion of the American work force is unemployed and stuck at home for the foreseeable near future, we might as well take this time as an opportunity to remember that life is more than just work.
Let’s reignite or discover our passions, people. Write a book. Knit. Paint a painting. Learn to cook. Build a desk. Learn a musical instrument. Get fit. Do something that you’ve always wanted to do, but have simply never had the time for. You have the time now. So no more excuses!
If I wasn’t working, and I couldn’t travel, I know the things I would do. Please allow me to try to convince you to do them too.
If I was homebound and suddenly found myself with a notable increase in free time, I would do projects around the house, I would write, and I would work out. So basically, I would do what I already do in my free time, just more of it. To me, work has always only ever been a means to an end. I’ve always sought the highest pay possible for the least effort possible, because that’s the only equation that makes any sense. I care about work only as much as necessary and not a tiny bit more, because work for me is not my life, it is only ever an inconvenient but necessary distraction that I would not do at all if it wasn’t needed to fund my life.
While this probably doesn’t ingratiate me much to upper management in any of the companies I’ve worked for because they prefer to think of their lower and mid-level employees as mindless drones and autonomous assets dedicated solely to building wealth for the glory of the corporation, and any empathetic sonder the corporate aristocracy may feel from being reminded that even poor people have hopes and dreams and inner worlds equally as rich and vibrant as their own is uncomfortable and unwelcome, I like to think that my immediate supervisors are generally satisfied with my productivity and willingness to do my assigned activities. Even if that is not the case, I’m not overly bothered by it, because work is not what is important to me. At least, not working to increase someone else’s wealth.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not afraid of hard work. I just like to focus that hard work on projects I’m passionate about. Like the aforementioned house projects, and writing, and working out. If I had all the time in the world I would complete more house projects because I like tinkering, I like puttering, and I like making the home where I spend most of my time more pleasant, and I take pride in doing the work myself instead of paying somebody else to do it. So while you’re stuck at home not working, perhaps you would enjoy doing the same? It can be something as simple as cleaning old clothes out of your closet, or something as complex as building an addition to house all the babies that are going to come out of the quarantine humps we’re all enjoying. Either way, I promise you that the simple act of doing something productive will make you feel better, and will provide you with a much needed sense of accomplishment during this trying time. If you’re not “handy” or you feel overwhelmed, don’t be! There are so many useful resources available online that can walk you step by step through doing any project you might think of. We may as well get the most out of YouTube University while the internet still exists, and learn all sorts of useful skills now that may prove valuable once civilization finishes collapsing and we’re back to drawing buffalo silhouettes on the back walls of caves.
If I wasn’t working, beyond my constant puttering around the house, I would also devote my copious free time to my writing. I write because I enjoy the process nearly as much as the result, and because I like the thought that something I create may be consumed and enjoyed by another human, especially after I am dead and gone. The thought that I can create something, and leave a little bit of myself behind as a lasting legacy, is very reassuring. While you’re not working, why not do the same? For me, I make words good, so I write. For you, maybe you can paint, or sculpt, or create music. It doesn’t matter what medium you use, just create! Gift the rest of us with a little sliver of your soul, so that you can say – I existed! I was real! – and future generations can look upon your works and tremble in awe of your glory. Most of our lives, we consume more than we produce. We consume the media made by others. We consume space. We consume resources. In taking the time to create art, we can tip back the scales, and give of ourselves to balance that equation. So go ahead! Write a dumb poem! Draw a stupid drawing! If it sucks, who cares! Do it with joy! No matter how it turns out, you’re creating, and there’s a certain immortality in that.
The third thing I would devote myself to if I was not able to work for a month or two is getting absolutely fucking shredded. Just fucking enormous. Not all weird and lumpy like a body builder, that particular sport has never interested me because I’ve never really been motivated by the aesthetics of it. I’m just interested in getting as strong as possible. As fit as possible. As fast as possible. Because, why wouldn’t I be interested in that?
I’m sure when you think of the brilliant Greek philosopher Socrates, you think of a wispy haired older gentleman hobbling around the symposium debating great and lofty ideals with an adoring public, but what you might not know is that the great scholar was also a raw natural deadlift world champion, squatted more than the mighty Hercules, and could bench press the moon. He is well known, not only for his thoughts on the nature of man and reality, but also for this interesting quote:
“It is a disgrace to grow old through sheer carelessness before seeing what manner of man you may become by developing your bodily strength and beauty to their highest limit.” – Socrates
I mean, the dude isn’t wrong. We only get one life to live. Why wouldn’t we want to find out the full extent of what we’re physically capable of? Obviously we’re not all going to be Olympians, or even especially good amateur athletes, but how could you not want to know your fullest potential? It’s not about achieving some arbitrary level of ability. Every body is different, everyone has different limits. But to never even try to find out what your personal limits are? What a waste that would be.
I like working out because I like getting stronger. I like staying fit so that I can experience everything this world has to offer. After this pandemic fades away and we’re allowed to leave our houses again, if my friends or family want to go on a hike, or ride bikes, or play a game of ball, or explore the black catacombs of the Elder Things beyond the Mountains of Madness where we may all be consumed by feral Shoggoths, I want to be able to join them. I never want to miss out on the opportunity for a new experience or adventure because I spent too much of my free time slowly sinking into my couch cushions watching reruns of The Office. If you can choose between being a fat lard, and being the most capable version of yourself, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t choose the latter.
Also, this Covid-19 Coronavirus hits harder if you’re unhealthy to begin with, so it would be wise to reduce our blood pressure and increase our lung health while we still can, because if you think this is the last global pandemic we’re going to be dealing with as the Earth gets more and more crowded and people continue traveling all over, you’re a silly goose.
Six weeks off of work might not be enough time to turn anybody into world class athletes, but if that time is spent productively by exercising hard and eating right, it absolutely can produce notable, noticeable, and long lasting physical results. We don’t need access to a fancy gym for results either, HIIT videos streamed online and body weight exercises can provide surprising benefits if you devote enough time and effort to them. If we all come out of this quarantine healthier, yoked beyond belief and ready to take on any adventure, I’ll consider this break from employment to be well worth it, economic repercussions be damned. If we come out of it fatter than ever, we might as well let the next virus finish us off, because we’re wasting our time here.
We’re all stuck social distancing in quarantine or self-isolation for the foreseeable future. We might as well use it as an opportunity to work on our projects, create art, and get healthier. The rest of the world will still be waiting for us when we get out the other side.