For all people working in the culture sector, January is an especially exciting month. We write reports, summaries and anxiously wait for the judgements of applications, which we frantically wrote in November. For me it’s always the month of planning, reflection and answering the classic life question: what’s next? We finally said goodbye to 2020 and we hope that in this new year we will be a better version of ourselves. Unfortunately, the freshness and energy linked to our new resolutions usually falls down around Blue Monday. This year I think it will happen even faster: new COVID-19 mutation, confusion around vaccines, crisis of democracy in the USA. And the dark vision of lockdown which could last another six months or maybe longer? I must admit – just thinking about it makes me want to lay down. Working in the international environment and long-distance relationship are two things that in current conditions seem absolutely impossible. Or is it? I get a sense that right now we all are kinda in a long-distance relationship with the world, so I decided to write down my thoughts, because in terms of living a remote life I consider myself as a specialist.
–the role of communication.
Doesn’t matter if we want to keep good relations with coworkers, friends or family: I think the pandemic made us realize that we need to try a little harder in this area. Inability to meet offline is enforcing much more nuanced communication. Let’s avoid projecting our expectations onto others and not anticipate that everyone should know how we feel and what we need: let’s learn to raise these issues ourselves. Are you tired of long Zoom conferences? You have a feeling that you’re spending half a day on Messenger? Try to change your habits: despite the pandemic you can still go out for a walk with your friend, and instead of this wretched Zoom, we can propose a phone call or email (there is nothing worse than feeling: This meeting could’ve been an email). I don’t recommend that any video-conference last longer than 1,5h: let this magic border be an effective tool protecting us from digital burnout. If you like to take long phone calls and walks, you should have a headset – to keep your hands free.
–new relationships and support group.
I can assure you that you’re not the only person that found yourself trapped in a lockdown. The universality and repetitiveness of this experience is surprisingly boring. Try to find people who are reliving their isolation differently. The never-ending conversations with your best friends could lead up only to a long list of complaints, but speaking with not-so-close-friend-from-industry could get you inspired, bring new intercity project to a table or even: give satisfaction for being supportive of someone. It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to an old friend who just had a child, but you still didn’t have a chance to ask her how she’s doing. There is nothing better for someone in a long-distance relationship to speak to someone who is also in a long-distance relationship: that’s confirmed.
–The same, but online.
I already mentioned a few times that there is no point to be offended at the virtual world, because it’s the only one we have. Sure, an online date is not the same as meeting offline, but you could try to open up to the experiences which are possible thanks to the network and were enthusiastically tested during the first wave of the pandemic, but now we don’t feel like doing it. Don’t spend another regular evening with some TV series in the background: if you’re taking part in an online festival, maybe it’s worth asking your friends if they could lend a projector? If you’re meeting with Mom on Skype, maybe you could cook something together? Staying in the hybrid spirit, I would recommend: online games, sending each other packages and postcards, usage of online apps for learning languages together etc. In order to demonstrate our daily life to others, I would recommend not to be ashamed of sending to the closest people various photos connected to what you’re doing: your working space, food, new shoes. It’s definitely a better idea than posting the same content to all friends following us in social media.
–relationship with the world around us.
Ok, so it means that work + private life = 12h a day in front of a screen?! First of all, verify how you’re spending that time. I’m trying to monitor the screen time in the settings of my laptop and not exceed 9h a day, and in social media apps on my phone I’ve set up strict scrolling limits Ė 15 minutes a day for FB/Instagram. I’ve also turned off all app notifications and returned to look at the physical watch on my wrist, instead of each time looking at my phone to check the time. Sounds banal, but it helped me to quit the habit of reaching for my phone every 15 minutes. Less time online = more time for being outside of it and building healthy relationship with the world around us.
–plans for the future.
Long-distance relationships canít last forever! It’s worth to prepare a couple of scenarios of how we see our life after the pandemic. Are we going to be the same person? If any of our virtual contacts will survive? Are we sure we want to go back to the previous state? 2020 filtered all our experiences, showing plain as day what we are missing and absence of what things were met with surprising feeling of relief.
I want to leave you with that reflection, hoping at the same time that 2021 will be for you the year of stabilization and not changes, because I think we all are fed up with them. Make pleasant plans instead of painstaking resolutions and be good for yourselfs!