In the advent of isolation and staying home from the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems more likely that people would take the time to start (or finish) projects they’ve put on the backburner. However, with the uncertainty of the duration of quarantine pending, many struggle with being productive in a globally affected atmosphere. There’s plenty of admiration for those who can remain productive during these times, but for many, the social climate is only deprecating the pressure to be productive, to do what we now have ample time for.
Realistically, the pandemic has granted us an excuse to do whatever we want—as long as it’s indoors, or outside, within the parameters of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Perhaps “excuse” is an insensitive word: because this would implore that without work, there’s no reason we can’t fulfill the projects we’ve set out to do in the past. Write that novel we’ve been mulling over. Start a garden. Re-decorate the apartment. Learn a new hobby.
All this pressure for creation and circumventing our lifestyles around isolation isn’t exactly a positive environment. People have better things to worry about: specifically concerning work, bills, food, debt, medication—name it. We have to pay for things somehow. The last thing we should be worrying about in this idyllic reprieve from everyday life is how to remove ourselves from Netflix and get started being productive.
What’s noteworthy to dwell on is that the stigma to be productive is multifaceted. Being productive might mean simply reading a book or finishing a television series. It might just mean making sure we disinfect everything in our home regularly. It might just mean we spend more time with our pets.
Ultimately, we don’t need to embrace this tension toward the productive, especially if it harms our mental health, and especially because we don’t need other people telling us we’re living our lives wrong by not being inventive with our time. Spending free time with ourselves can be just as important as interacting with others.
Regardless if the pandemic is contained within the coming months, the world has already undergone a traumatized climate shift. We can’t expect a return to the normal because the pandemic has displaced light onto other eminent problems society faces. It just took a global catastrophe to make them recognized.
There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with being productive during these times, though. But when the craving for productivity and activity overtakes us, we need to remain cognizant that this is an illusion of safety, of an innate desire for normalcy. Of course, no one is going to feel “normal” during global catastrophe—keeping our sanity is a kind of privilege, and so is the ability to be productive. We don’t need others rubbing it in with the finished product of their handiwork. Although seeing other humans functioning copacetically might be a glimpse of hope and brightness, not everyone can carry it themselves.
Ensuring our mental and physical safety is the best thing we can pursue while we’re isolated. We’re not being selfish by focusing on ourselves; it’s a natural human thing to do so, to take care. Social connectedness is still crucial, and now more than ever we need to communicate and be conscious of the safety of others. It’s a cliché to say we’re all in this together, but we also need to understand no one is taking this crisis easily. People are struggling in ways both seen and unseen. Rushing to obtain our idealized image of personal security is unreasonable, unrealistic.
We need to feel free to take our time, ignoring where others are at in their experiences with the pandemic. Turn off social media if we have to. We’re not doing nothing. Every little thing is paramount to our mental health. Even if we miss that live stream concert, if we procrastinate on homework, if we don’t rake the yard for a week.
There’s nothing wrong with any of it.