Standing in the airport I looked at my ticket, wondering: ‘Should I really go home?’ What if I took a break and disappeared somewhere, spent a month learning a new language, reading books in a small cafe and drinking red wine after sunset. I could wear a Panama hat, a poncho, maybe grow a moustache.
This was late-February, when the world was clearly changing. I had just holidayed in South America. Like most of us after a break, I didn’t feel that happy heading back to the office.
I also worried about the scale of the work ahead. Clearly, most industries would be heavily disrupted. My publishing business organised events and conferences - what would we do instead?
Reinvention is a funny thing. It relies more than anything on a good team. Once I was mostly over my jetlag, I set it out straight. Our lives were going to be tough for a good while to come. We’d have to work harder than ever, some weekends too, and try to launch new ideas quickly. We’d do our best to stay ahead - otherwise, we’d fall too far behind.
Managing over video is also strange. There’s a temptation to want constant updates when you can’t see your colleagues, and sometimes don’t see the results of their work for days. But staring at these screens can be not only a waste of time, but also drain energy and morale - and compromise the creative benefits of being at home.
Home is where the coffee machine is, the plants are, the books and pleasant thoughts that spark new ideas. We should make time to sit quietly, ideas percolating without the hum of office life or the demand to feel constantly productive.
The team and I know how lucky we are, compared to poor souls locked in their dormitory bedrooms, some of whom don’t appear to have mattresses. We don’t work nearly as hard as them - I know my body doesn’t ache as I lie exhausted, hoping for some cool air as nine nearby bodies heat my already humid room. And we’re luckier than the current student generation, whose freedom of young adulthood has been wrenched away by this disease. When it finally leaves, they face the looming spectre of climate change - threatening half their lives at least. Doesn’t the new blueness of our sky, the freshness of our air, really show the damage we were doing as a species?
Covid-19 reminds us, more than anything, of the compassion we’ll need in the coming months -- not just in the online events we organise, but also how we live our lives. We are all humans; we all struggle, worry, and fear for health, family, friends, and life’s necessities. Scientific precision will help us finally eradicate this virus. But these other problems will require a vaguer disposition - a general positivity, energy, and a willingness to sacrifice some comforts for the sake of others.
As Albert Camus once wrote: “It could be said that once the faintest stirring of hope became possible, the dominion of plague was ended”. I’m glad my team and I aren’t evading the challenges of the present, and I have hope for what the future holds.
Joshua Chambers, Journalist