In Indonesia, death is widely believed to be fated, so it is seen as an unavoidable and natural part of life. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, comedians appear uninvited at funerals and put on a show to earn tips from the mourners. In New Orleans, after a funeral ceremony, family and friends march to the cemetery to the beat of a brass band playing jazz music. Although death has felt omnipresent over the last year and a half, it is important to remember that we all react to it differently. Our reactions stem not only from our distinct personalities and experiences, but also from the cultures in which we grew up. But there has been one nearly universal reaction to the pandemic, at least in Western cultures: people, when faced with such widespread death, are reassessing life. They are re-examining how they behave, how they consume, who they spend their time with, and how they want to be remembered.
There has been quite a bit of data published about how workers are valuing flexible work-from-home policies after they got a taste of it during the pandemic. This data does not only reflect the physical location preferences of workers, but it also reflects a newfound prioritisation of family life. The fabled “work-life balance” continuum has forever shifted, and people are, rightfully, realising that they need to focus on their private lives. That’s because the pandemic was an extremely harsh reality check. Lockdown was tough for most, but it was miserable for those who had not invested adequate time into their private lives. Relationships get tested from time to time, but most tests are never so profound and extended. Superficial relationships had the chance to deepen, and not everybody liked what they found lying beneath.
While realising how alone you actually are was a tough pill to swallow, many people took time to re-examine their careers and are now committed to extracting much more meaning from their professional lives. Although the sentiment is not universal, work does give many people a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, or at least the right kind of work does. Coming to terms with a work-life balance that functions for you has always been integral to self-fulfilment.
My priorities have changed based on the pandemic. Before 2020, I did not spend enough time appreciating my loved ones, or, even if I did appreciate them, I did not do a good enough job at showing it. On the work side of things, it took the pandemic for me to accept that my greatest strength is my greatest weakness. As a jack of all trades and master of none, I have finally recognised that I must spread myself a little thin; I must take on a high number of projects, because if I have to be the master of one single project, I will not execute to my fullest. I know that my professional legacy will not be that of a great creator, but at least I can be a great facilitator, and there is deep contentment that comes with knowing my place.