Kat reflects on her time so far as a furloughed member of the Rambutan bunch.
On Wednesday 1 April I found myself (like so many other people) furloughed from work.
It came as no surprise… several clients had postponed projects already in the diary and the daily news on TV and social media was unfolding at unprecedented speed and with a bizarre storyline. The world as I saw it was all becoming a bit strange. I saw no other option for the foreseeable, as indeed, neither did my bosses. So, how was this going to pan out for the next few months? How did I feel? How did my workmates feel? Everything seemed a bit surreal, and my mind was working overtime, even if my physical ‘body’ of work wasn’t.
For the first few days, even the first couple of weeks, I think my brain went into a bit of bravado-slash-confusion, carried away by the ‘stay at home and help save lives’ messages being drilled into me day in, day out, wherever I looked. Physically, I became obsessed by every news bulletin, understanding it was only temporary and happy to oblige with the stay in, keep busy with ‘self-development’ message, and let those who were trying to keep the country/organisation/world keep turning and alive, get on with it.
But my emotions (and I tend to be a tad emotional at the best of times) went into overdrive. Not a day went by without tears, feelings of utter disbelief and despair, anger at various things (I won’t go into politics here), and loss of my normality. I say MY normality… everyone’s idea of ‘normal’ is theirs and theirs alone. But mine meant I no longer had structure, I no longer had freedom. I couldn’t visit my loved ones or my friends. I couldn’t look after my work colleagues with their requests for design help, purchasing requirements, banter… or heck, I couldn’t even make them a cup of tea in the morning!
I’ll be honest. I felt like a fish out of water. My whole life regime, structure, purpose, whatever you want to call it, had become compromised. Adjusted. Taken away even. I felt redundant. Everything I got up for in the morning had been put on hold. The world had stopped. I needed to find another purpose to feel legitimate and useful. What to do now?
I believe it took me at least three weeks to fully adjust my mindset to the place I’m at right now. The weather has been a real up-lifter for me. When in the office I craved the great outdoors whenever the sun was shining, and now suddenly here I was with time… plenty of it, sunshine (I am lucky enough to have a garden), and a free, blank template to be able to do stuff I’d never found time to do previously. I did a lot of gardening. Planted a lot of seeds. I have an online course that’s been sat on the back burner, so I’m also lucky enough to be able to devote some attention to that. I’ve been for long walks. Shopped sensibly (what an experience that is!), eaten healthily, slept in and turned around a quite fearful, negative and insecure mindset to work in my favour.
For someone who has been in work for many years (it’s been a long, long time since I was unemployed), I think I found myself losing my purpose in life. And, it took a period of adjustment to adapt to my ‘new way’. I now feel that I’ve adjusted enough to realise that I’ve actually been given a gift. I have my health… too many at this time don’t. I’ve been given the gift of time. To step back. To watch, learn and decide what to do with my future once this whole awful episode is over. I’ve been given the opportunity to seek a way of helping the situation. There are many options for getting involved with helping organisations deal with this pandemic.
I’ve developed more of an appreciation. I generally only cry every Thursday night now, at 8pm. I cry with admiration, love and a feeling of ‘togetherness’ with all those others who stand outside our doors clapping for our key workers. For me it was never JUST for the NHS; it was and is for the carers, the binmen, the shop staff who still serve me when I need to buy necessities, and all the other underappreciated workers who are keeping our world turning). And, I cry with pride. Pride that I’m dealing with this as best I can and pride that I know many, many others who are dealing with this in the best way they can, against all the odds, and helping keep everyone else going.
This is temporary. If I have a job to go back to after this I will feel so, so grateful to those who have kept it alive for me. But I know that whatever happens, I will adapt. The world will keep turning. And I will turn with it.
Above all, my sentiment, as is the sentiment of my co-workers (we all regularly stay in touch); my friends and my loved ones, is to be kind. And, kindness to ourselves is as important as kindness to others. Stay safe, be kind, care for each other.
I’d love to hear how you’re getting on if you’re a furloughed worker. I’d also love to hear your story if you’re a worker who is continuing to keep the business alive! How are you feeling right now?