I’m no expert.
Really, I’m not.
The industries and skills I’ve established expertise in have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail sales, operations management, customer service; none seem as appealing as they once did.
I look into employees’ half-covered faces during my sparse visits into stores. I think about the tense interactions those workers will face throughout their days, the stress they’ll feel going to work in a world where people have to wear masks to prevent the spread of a deadly virus to one another. And I think of all the people who will refuse to do what they should and expect to be served anyway.
I consider the new protocols and restrictions, and the fact they’ll barely scratch the surface toward making anyone feel safe.
So what do I do, being unable to return to my previous job due to that entire industry is still closed?
There’s no telling when it will come back. What will it look like when it does?
I won’t feel comfortable working in a store, or in some office indoors. Conditions will be suspect at best. Additionally, it’s all too obvious the number of people who don’t know how to act in this age of coronavirus. Those same people will be my customers and coworkers.
I barely survive twenty minutes in the grocery store without wanting to kill some asshole who isn’t wearing their mask correctly. In all probability I might get fired within the first few hours if I attempt to put up with that.
But I must become flexible, or I’m doomed to fail. I have bills to pay and a family to support.
I think back on my uncle. He used to work in the banking industry during pre-internet times, when they still used pens, carbon paper, and adding machines.
My uncle was successful in his career. Surefooted, he always felt secure with his job, and of a future within his company.
But eventually technology adjusted his industry similarly to how a tsunami adjusts a beach-front lifestyle. Despite being tech savvy for the time, he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, keep up with the advancement of the future.
My uncle never adapted and ended up retiring well before he planned to.
Thankfully, my uncle showed himself to be financially responsible and resilient. He had made good investments and set aside enough to live comfortably until his passing some years ago, but not everyone is as smart or lucky as he was.
Look around at all the fantastic locally-owned businesses that closed their doors during mandated social distancing measures. Many haven’t reopened and never will due to being unable to survive the many months without income. And those are just the easiest to notice. . .
There’s no telling how many families are no longer financially stable. How many out there risk not making their rent or mortgage next month? How many can’t afford food, their utilities, or clothing for their growing children?
My family is currently struggling with the difficult decision of what to do for our elementary-aged child’s quickly approaching school year. They are set to return next month. The school district’s plan sounds about as much fun as going to work at a grocery store right now.
Schools, and society on the whole, are not prepared and even more importantly, not safe at the present time. Still many plan to open for in person learning, including our child’s. The reason schools are feeling compelled to reopen is the fact that many parents cannot work if their children are unable to attend.
It’s difficult not to empathize with the many parents in this predicament, but equal efforts should be shown in empathizing with teachers, essential workers, and the high-risk within the community. They will be the most endangered by a premature return to business and in-person learning.
The former needs to become more flexible in order to protect themselves and their families, as well as the others within their communities., or many more people will contract the virus, become sick and die.
The novel coronavirus has shaped much of 2020. It’s not concerned with parents’ needs. It won’t skip infecting one of those parents’ family members because money is tight. Knowing this, families, communities, and local and federal governments have to learn some flexibility.
I’m no expert, but I am embracing flexibility. I’m saying yes to opportunities I may have previously turned down. Currently I’m installing a French drain for a friend’s home remodel. Who knows what I may learn how to do next?
It’s time for some new hard skills, especially those that will translate into non-customer facing jobs. It’s time to try the difficult and dull jobs I previously didn’t want to do and never tried. Maybe I will really enjoy something and it will become my new career path? Either way I’m bridging the ever-present gap of uncertainty.
Flexibility is the planks I lay to make it across.
I’ll continue to look for novel ways to become more flexible during these novel coronavirus times. I’ll add value in myself as a person. I hope others, particularly those with school-aged children, do so as well.
Eventually human ingenuity will get us out of this COVID-19 mess. I hope a similar measure of ingenuity manifests itself in all the people who currently have to choose between the health and safety of their families and their financial security. And I’m no expert, but I believe it all starts with acquiring some much-needed flexibility.