In September 2018, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Her death precipitated one of the most difficult stages of my life and and the most difficult of my wife’s life and we continue to deal with the fallout from this loss. On our second wedding anniversary, we buried her. In the following weeks, we packed up our apartment in Washington, DC, and moved to Buffalo, NY to be with my father-in-law. Things happened so quickly. We were confronted constantly by whiplash. One moment our lives were moving in one direction and then they weren’t.
I can’t help but feel thrown back into that state-of-mind as a result of recent world events. We are facing what may be the biggest global challenge in a generation. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake, perhaps more. The global economy is shuddering. Recent feelings of hope and excitement for the future — perhaps you were inspired by ongoing presidential campaigns, looking forward to a new job, or even asking friends about a great place for a first date — have been replaced by anxiety and fear. This is not to say that everything was going just fine before. But it did feel normal. And normal is manageable. Normal is understandable. Normal is safe.
When my mother-in-law died, everything that was normal became abnormal. The plans my wife and I had were put on hold. Our careers were halted. Our sense of security was taken away. It’s not like the normal life was perfect for us. But it did give us structure upon which to build a foundation. And to be honest, normal wasn’t really our life anyway. Our life was teaching in Colombia for six months after getting married and navigating the world as a mixed-race couple and learning what it’s like to convert from one religion to another and training for runs and trying our hand at home-made pizza and trying to plan for holidays in households in WNY/CO/DC/FL/Sweden/Pakistan and thinking about the prospect of kids and arguing over whether or not we need a cat (we did need a cat) and so much more.
A lot of people are scared right now and I get it. I’m scared too. I’m scared because a year and half after my mother-in-law’s passing, we finally seemed to have some stuff figured out. I’m in school full-time for an MBA. My wife is working her tail off as a data manager at Roswell Cancer Institute. My father-in-law continues to save lives every day as a physician. I’m scared because the news is crazyyyyyyy. I mean really, the news. Wow. Hard to keep up.
I’m actually also scared because I’m concerned about all of my friends and family members and neighbors confronting one of the things that I never expected could be so difficult: social distancing. I lived social distancing from October 2018-August 2019. My job was remote. I had no car. I lived in the suburbs of WNY. I didn’t have friends in the area yet. I watched a lot of Great British Baking Show. Jokes aside, this life can be lonely and it can be frustrating and it can be sad. I honestly mean it when I say to anyone reading this to reach out and call or text or message if you want to. I’m usually not the best at replying right away, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be better at it now given the circumstances.
Yet I can’t end this first blog about working remote (yeah, that’s right, this is a blog about working remote…I imagine it’s different than initially expected!), without also saying that there is still hope and there are so many great things to look forward to — if only we stay focused and together and strong. We all have the tools and the capability to adapt in the face of change. We actually do it every day, but not always all-at-once like now.
I still take with me the kindness and joy my mother-in-law exuded in every encounter she had with another person. She taught me to never just be normal. Be good. Start there and anything is possible.