Through the pandemic: finding –and nurturing a new hope within

Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

I am publishing this piece on a blog that, at some point this year, I was determined to either abandon or overhaul. Earlier this year, right in the middle of my “turning-40-so-I-should-get-a-stock-of-my-life” phase, I started questioning everything I was doing: a blog that is slowly losing its voice; a highly-stressful corporate job that makes me cry at night; the utter neglect of my health in favor of making sure I tick all of the boxes in my KRA, and a lot more of adulting plans that involved retirement, grad school, and a bigger space in the corner office somewhere.

I had it all mapped in my head and I was convinced that 2020 is the year that I WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Then, COVID-19 struck us: thousands of people losing their lives due to an unseen enemy; modern-day heroes sacrificing life to honor their duty, and a multitude of uncertainties that affected not only the routine, but the livelihood, physical and emotional well-being of every person out there.

Suddenly, in one silent swoop sometime in March, our lives as we know it have become classified into specific blocks in time: pre- and post-COVID. Where all of our greatest griefs and grandest plans became wrapped up and filed under the pre-COVID years; turning into constant worries and never-ending prayers for health and safety for ourselves, our families, our countries in a time wholly dictated and controlled by the pandemic.

Unconsciously, we all knew, the little worries we have back then were simply immeasurable to the uncertainties that lie before us.

My ECQ Life: Finding my purpose amidst the stress of corporate life

My day job is in corporate communications – we’re the kind of people tasked to excite and inform the workforce, and yes – plan and host the yearly Christmas party. Do I love my job? Yes. Does it make me cry? Double yes. Does it make me happy? Maybe.

Did COVID-19 gave me a clearer definition of my purpose within the company? Definitely.

Communications, in its most basic form, is often defined as the means of imparting or sharing information or news.

For two months, my team and myself did just that. We send out breaking news and health updates, corporate updates, and advice on how to best address the raging pandemic became a necessity rather than the norm. Suddenly, the health, well-being and safety of thousands of employees depended on the timely release of information, which came from my office. We needed to become more agile and tapped into harnessing social media to make sure we are delivering as much information as we can, given we have employees from the farthest point of Luzon down to the deepest corners of Southern Mindanao. From 6AM to 12MN, my team were churning out health advisories, developed breaking news posts in the community page in Facebook, produced multiple videos coming from the senior executives, which we then shared within the community

For more than 60 days of the initial ECQ, we were breathing and processing memos coming from HR, advisories from senior management and breaking down corporate speak into bite-size, easily understandable pieces that the rest of the work force can understand and appreciate.

To help keep the mind of everyone out of the ranging pandemic, my team were hosting Tiktok competitions online; producing mailers to recognize our very own frontliners – this is in between commiserating how stressed and tired we were, and that Work-From-Home is the bane of our very existence.

While we were all tired, we also knew that in the midst of ECQ, our purpose as a team and our role in the company has never been more defined. We are just not “doing our jobs,” we are making a contribution to the health and well-being of our co-employees. We were making a difference.

Finding little pockets of heaven in between the storm

A few days in at the height of the pandemic, I started looking for little pieces of happiness to take my mind off the situation happening outside, as well as a means of breather from the stress at work.

One of the best decisions I’ve done is to just step away from consuming every piece of news about the pandemic and the toll it’s giving the world. I listened to a few channels and read on WHO Health Updates, but that’s basically it. I only focused on the things that matter to me: my health, keeping the family healthy and well-fed (as a designated runner), and doing a good job at work.

After reading about displaced workers, I was given the opportunity to do my share through an online community supporting a group of displaced construction workers in Manila. The opportunity to be able to help out even in the comforts of my house felt really good, and remains to this day, one of the humbling experiences I had during the lock down.

Cooped up inside the house, with nowhere to go and nothing to do (aside from work), I rediscovered the things I used to love before work took over my life. I started painting again, went back to taking up calligraphy and brush lettering and had more time to journal. In between, I taught my niece how to paint and encouraged her love to draw – sacrificing her bedroom walls in the process, which now doubles as a permanent art installation of scrawls of crayons and markers.

Realizations and moving forward

If there’s something COVID-19 taught me is to recognize and value what’s really important in life. And that to me – more than anything – is my family. The fact that three months from the time ECQ started, and all of us remained healthy is a blessing in itself. I learned to let go of the worries I had early this year when I was stressing so much about so many things.

I also became more thankful for my job. Without stating the obvious, the pandemic has changed so much of the world’s economy and has affected the livelihood of millions of people around the world. The fact that I am still able to provide for my family, pay my bills, keep something for the rainy day, give to those in need, and even indulge in my hobbies meant that I have so much to be thankful for already.

The past three months taught me “not to sweat the small stuff,” – the little worries that I have early this year seemed light years away now. These days, I focused more on things that make me happy and value what’s really important, maintaining relationships with friends and family, and finding time for myself – either to exercise, read a good book, restart the blog, and build short-term and long-term plans along the way.

Socrates said that it’s about building the new – not fighting the old. And little by little, I am doing just that. It’s constantly being grateful for what I have and constantly battling through the odds, just bravely finding my way, finding a New Hope within.

This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet and Teleperformance.

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