The Muselet #23: The end is nigh’

Likely 2020 is a year in (soon) history we’ll want to forget quickly. It started out ok, but quickly escalated from there. And no, I’m not just talking about my plans to lose a bit of weight. If you read this in 2021 or later and wonder what I’m talking about: excellent.

Let’s pretend 2020 never happened, but still magically take some learning from it anyway.

Here’s are a few take-aways.

Appreciating the Little Things

Having been in various levels of lockdown and quarantines, some of the things we always took for granted all of a sudden became special again: the ability to go outside, take a walk in the park, meet people in person, have office space and a desk. We all of a sudden very much appreciated our tiny little balcony, and turned it into a tiny little garden. 

The sad thing is that whenever we get the things back that we lost, we get used to having them back super quickly. So this appreciation is short lived.

Isn’t there a way to maintain this appreciation?

In fact, there appears to be in Stoicism. The Stoics made it a habit to purposefully take everyday conveniences and luxuries from themselves regularly. They would walk outside without shoes. They’d walk outside in the cold without warm clothes. They’d eat only plain bread. If you do this consistently, you can maintain the appreciation of what you have.

What’s the Point?

As we all sat at home more of the time, this gave us more time to reflect. And it showed. Especially after a few months into the pandemic, I saw a shift in focus in myself, my colleagues but also in job applicants. The trend was to focus more on purpose: our time is limited, the amount of energy is limited, what do we decide to spend it on? Especially in the context of work: where is the value?

I think this is a good thing.

Remote Work Ain’t All That Bad

The first three years after moving to Poland, I worked remotely. First for an Amsterdam/San Francisco-based company, then a Atlanta-based one. I had an office in my apartment dedicated to this. It worked fine, but after three years of living in Poland, with a job outside the country, a wife who I spoke to in Dutch — had I really moved to Poland?

That’s why I decided to make a change, and switched to working in companies in the city where I lived. The options were a bit more limited, but the trade-off was worth it. 5-6 years later I feel much more integrated into the country and culture (and language to an extent, but boy, it’s a tough one). 

When COVID hit, we all moved to a forced remote setup. Even though for quite a few months I wasn’t able to replicate a very productive working environment (we still live in the same apartment, but have since added three more members to our family that all claimed their space). However, still — somehow it worked. And barriers that existed before started to fade. Who cared if this was something you needed to work on with somebody from Poznań or Lisbon, we’d all dial in from Zoom anyway. That’s actually cool.

Perhaps — I realized, being a bit more connected to the country I live in, there’s value in the remote setup again. Location always used to be a significant barrier for work, but many companies have discovered it needn’t be. I think that’s a big win.

Bonus: at some point during the summer I worked full afternoons from the lake-side. My wife and kids would be playing, and I’d be working from the beacnh from my iPad, connected to LTE, headphones on. Not bad.

The End

However, the vaccines are coming. Sadly, that doesn’t immediately mean the problem is solved, but there’s a good chance that in the course of 2021 things will move to a “new normal” that in various ways will look less like 2020’s version of “the new normal” and more like 2019 normal. I’m looking forward to it.

Have a good last few days of 2020, and see you in 2021.

Stay safe, stay healthy.