What topic but coronavirus is on everyone’s lips; regardless of country, time zone, social status or job profession, this pandemic has sucked the air out of most other conversations.
We are in unique times—in the history of the world, what we are experiencing has never happened before. Think about that…cities and entire countries are shutting down private business in the hope of saving lives and preventing an overrun on hospitals. The daily habits of billions of people around the globe have drastically changed. Many can work remotely but many have lost their jobs. Our community small businesses are struggling with uncertainty about when they can re-open, and when they do re-open, when will their patrons re-open their wallets. In this turmoil, as in the past, there are heartwarming stories of neighbors helping neighbors and community-support floating businesses and employees in the hopes of a return to normalcy at the end of this crisis.
These experiences are not unique to a culture or race, they are nearly universal. I am weathering this crisis in Auckland, New Zealand where project needs have resulted in an extended stay. Though not wholly unexpected, the New Zealand lockdown occurred faster and will last longer than I anticipated.
The call by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a few weeks ago for the country to go into a minimum of 4 weeks of isolation within 48 hrs meant all project stakeholders had to rapidly adapt to accommodate inevitable changes to the schedule, rethink achievable tasks, and creatively work toward remote progress so that when the country does re-open, we can hit the ground running with minimal time lost.
In addition to juggling project changes and uncertainty about loved ones back home, this lockdown also necessitated a location change for me, as my hotel decided to close in response to the lockdown. Reflecting on the many demands on my attention last week, I am acutely aware of how important it was that I listened to and followed through on the advice of a wise counselor, and did not let fear of appearing ungrateful dictate my well-being and ability to be productive for the next month. Decisions were made on my behalf regarding alternate accommodations, with the best and kindest of intentions, but also during a flurry of activity and in a time crunch. Had my boss not advised I visit the new lodgings before checking in and had I not asked to cancel when I did see them, although they were pre-paid, I would be living in a dreary apartment for the next month instead of a lovely Airbnb “home”. Circumstances can put you in a difficult place, but sometimes it only takes you asking and looking for an alternate path for that path to present itself. This is a life lesson I’ll continue to ponder through these trying times, and I would encourage you to consider as well: what circumstances seem to box you in and what decision can you make to move outside of that box? For me, the first step was talking to someone even though I had no thought that anything needed to be changed; and then, even more importantly, I acted on the advice I received which made all the difference.
Coming full circle, these unique times are challenging to so many, in so many ways. However you have been personally or distantly affected by the coronavirus, the choices you make within your circumstances today will have an impact on your immediate and distant future. So, choose to go for that daily walk, or read that book, or listen to that continuing education seminar, or participate in that zoom meeting with your professional network. Don’t let the outward difficulties wholly dictate how you will improve yourself in this time of shrunken social interaction. And when businesses restart and life moves toward resuming its previous pace, don’t forget the lessons you learned in this time of trial. Make the choice to strengthen your professional and social network, and increase your knowledge about engineering capabilities and projects in the greater Houston area. Those connections and that knowledge will help carry you through the next of life’s challenges, though hopefully those challenges won’t be fighting another global pandemic.
Be good and stay well.
President, SEAoT Houston/Gulf Coast