The early stages of isolation

Here it is, May 1, 2020, shelter-in-place had been ordered. I had just left an extremely toxic work environment with no job lined up. I was plenty stressed as I had never quit a job intentionally without having something else ready to dive into. No one knew what to expect in this new pandemic climate we were in. It was new for all of us however it was early still. No one had to close their businesses yet. No one had been evicted because of it. Employment rates were still unaffected. It was pretty much business as usual for most of us.

I remember dusting off the resume again, trying to decide what to do next. I had gotten my first Director of Marketing role but I had only been there 4 months and in terms of the brand or company I really had nothing to show for it. It was a startup and there was so much work to do. I was literally building a marketing department from the ground up, yet we were hamstrung by an asshole CEO and a horribly dysfunctional work environment.

It was bizarre. It’s like someone had just hit the pause button on the grind of life for me. Without knowing how horrible the pandemic soon would be on so many personal, professional and financial levels, I was in a fairly inspired state by it all at that time. I had just bought a new synthesizer that I had always wanted and started making some music in our bedroom while my wife had just started working from home. For about a month I was in my pajamas until noon every day either making music or applying for jobs.

Something is very wrong

I remember heading downtown where I live in Santa Cruz, CA. It was so dystopian. I’m incredibly sensitive to human energy and when I took a walk down there, empty streets, no one around but the occasional homeless person every few blocks (there are usually several homeless in my town on every corner/block)….I was drunk on the levity that comes with the lack of human energy in large spaces, especially areas where there are normally a ton of people. However after a few days of this and the increasing panic and weirdness I was seeing in the news headlines, I felt like there was a bleakness coming soon in the future that no one was really prepared for.

I tried my best to dodge the internet headline machine as much as possible but it got to the point where you couldn’t avoid it. The combination of a very jarring and divisive US election on top of pandemic uncertainty was creating a vacuum of turmoil and we were all being sucked into whether we liked it or not.

Soon we started to hear about 1 or 2 local businesses shutting down, mostly restaurants at first. Then it was any company having anything to do with travel, in-person gathering or events which affected literally hundreds of different careers and so on. To give you an idea of the loss going on in OTA, one online travel service that did about $110M in bookings a month, closed within 48 hrs of the shelter in place!

So the impact of all this on my own psyche was me trying not to panic about being unemployed yet companies that were technically hiring that had a bunch of reqs open, just locked up, frozen solid like the proverbial deer in the headlights. They no idea how this was going to impact their business and they were freaking out, a CFO’s nightmare…..rightly so.

I could feel a very mild wave of hopelessness and depression knocking at my door that I denied was there. I’m by nature a constant optimist, hopeful and positive even in the darkest of times, probably a survival mechanism from childhood trauma. I had only been mildly depressed a couple times in life but having done a LOT of personal work in therapy over the years, in general my psychological house was mostly in order…but not as much as I thought as I find out later.

The funny thing about childhood trauma is you never know what else there is to deal with or face until the right combination of environmental circumstances – money, career, relationships, health issues, births, deaths – all lock in together in perfect synergy, creating the perfect storm, unveiling the next thing you never knew you hadn’t faced yet.

For me, it was associated with financial uncertainty and the monolithic wall of anxiety I apparently attached to it.

The rise of COVID was that perfect storm.

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