On Being Non-Essential …

It happened sometime between mid to late February 2020. Like millions of people across the world I have suddenly become non-essential and was told to stay home. That’s a strange feeling after years of getting up every morning and going to bed every night knowing that I am contributing something important to the organizations and to the communities I was part of.

What’s non-essential? What’s essential?

Right now essential seems to be what protects and saves life, and what preserves a minimal sense of order. No frills.

I want to scream — “but I am essential and relevant. I have been so throughout my adult life.”

When I’m told that I am non-essential it is as if my life lacks meaning.

Right now everyone who is laid off or furloughed regardless of their age , health, or social status may also experience lack of meaning in their life.

Before COVID19 it was primarily the domain of those who entered retirement.

People who faced sudden and unplanned retirement felt completely unprepared for the loss of meaning that was so tied to their work identity. Even those who thought they had a perfect plan for their post-career stage were often taken by surprise in this new reality.

One of my close friends has just sent me a note about the physical-distancing experience: “well, well, a bit bored and feel like a leper. Everything moves very slowly, no hurry, no visitors. Cooking is getting old, doing clean up even more annoying. I am ready to tell all the younger folks, hey, this is what retirement is like. Still want to retire?!”

Whether a preview or reality, now is the perfect time to craft a new vision for post-COVID19 life and start paving different ways to get there.

Here are a few questions I have been asking myself and you could too:

  1. What has changed for me during this recent COVID19 pause in life?
  2. What regular activities and structure now depend solely on my internal motivation? (e.g. gym 3 times a week, be at the office every morning, etc.).
  3. What am I missing the most? (Social contact, café latte, deadlines, etc.)
  4. How have my priorities shifted? Why it is important?
  5. What can I let go of?
  6. What new choices could I start making?

Write the answers down, share with a trusted friend; come up with your own questions — this pause may be the rare opportunity you’ve been waiting for to make a difference in your life.

If you want to start your own process of guided reflection and action, contact me here for more information.

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Through my work and interest in life beyond midlife, I come across meaningful stories on what impacts this chapter of your personal journey.

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