I have been at home for 57 weeks. I haven’t traveled farther than a three-hour drive in over 60 weeks. My last time on an airplane was early March 2020, so long ago, it doesn’t even show up in “Past Trips” in my travel app.
This stasis was nothing I could have imagined in January 2020. Now I’ve sat in the same chair for over a year. I stare at the same two screens. I stare into other peoples’ homes. I take my meetings via Zoom. I cover my ears with headphones to keep out background noise. I balance my webcam on a pile of books. Even though my face pops up in that little square all day, I keep a mirror on my desk to find out if I have food in my teeth before I get on camera again. I’ve never seen my own face this much. I scrutinize my lack of eyelids. I learned that only the left side of my mouth moves when I talk. I learned that sometimes it’s hard to know how loud my voice is when I am wearing headphones or a mask.
I was used to traveling over 125,000 miles per year. I was used to taking the train into the office. I was used to walking from my office to a conference room, or a restaurant. I was used to decompression time on the commute. I was used to Saturday brunches alone. I was used to feeling like a citizen of the world. I had favorite places to visit in various cities. I had favorite restaurants and even bartenders all over the country. I have friends and acquaintances across the US and in other countries. I have family out of state. Being in one place felt so foreign.
I’ve traded airport Starbucks for lunches and card games with my kid between their e-learning. I’ve spent former commute time pulling weeds in my yard or scrubbing sinks. I moved homes. Being gone so much before, I didn’t realize what a difference having a home with a little yard would make. I didn’t have time to worry about keeping my condo organized. I was living out of about four different suitcases. Now, those suitcases sit collecting dust in the closet.
I’ve learned a lot during COVID. I’ve learned plenty of statistics about women leaving the workforce. I’ve learned about the CARES Act, “Zoom fatigue,” mitochondrial DNA, COVID statistics, how to lead remotely, the issues people are having with childcare, how to wash my hands for 20 seconds, how a mask should fit properly, what real authenticity means, how to confront bias, what it means to be a good ally, and more.
I’ve had a lot of accomplishments. Iron Galaxy has seen a ton of growth. We have hired over 75 people in the last year. I have given many speeches and interviews. I have helped solve countless problems. I have mentored. I have educated myself. I have attended a myriad of virtual workshops. However, there was not the usual celebration of achievements nor change of scenery when the audience changed. There were not people there with whom to celebrate. No physical pats on the back. These were traded for virtual thumbs up and emoji responses.
Even though the last year has been tough, there have been plenty of positives. I joined a women’s executive group that hosts amazing workshops and discussions. I see more talk about gender equity in the home now that spouses previously unexposed to childcare and housework see it firsthand. I see people modeling vulnerability and compassion. I see flexible leadership. I see a willingness to explore new ideas. I see great new initiatives getting rolled out. I see new departments being formed. I see remote coworkers being embraced. I see new and different voices being heard. I see resilience. I want to see a future where we can integrate and support these positives and live fuller more authentic lives.