January 2019 was a winter to remember. An ice storm hit that closed schools in mid-Michigan for a week. With the roads a glare of ice, I decided to work from home. My husband and I tried to get work done while sharing our home office. No one went anywhere, not even the store. We remained home together with our two daughters for an entire week. Can you imagine? I couldn't, and I wanted to be prepared for another crazy winter in 2020, so we upgraded the office that allowed for more than one person to be productive at a time. I was ready for the ice storms and snow days that would leave us sequestered at home for days at a time. That's right. I was ready for days.
You likely see where this is going. The winter was not a problem. There were very few snow days in mid-Michigan in 2020. We arrived in March and I hardly used my office. Then, it happened. We all found ourselves sequestered at home the beginning of March expecting it to last three, maybe four weeks, tops. I was ready for it. I had my ergo chair, keyboard tray, and mouse to connect to my laptop. A beautiful map of the world with pins in locations I had visited could be seen behind me in video conference calls.
There was all of this expert advice shared online about how to work from home and be professional. There were tips on waking up, getting dressed and making oneself presentable as if you were actually going to see people in person. There were lists of what to do and not do in a video conference, and pointed suggestions to think carefully about your background. I kept it going pretty good for a while. Occasionally I would wear silly hats to keep spirits high. I put signs on my door so the kids knew when not to interrupt. Things were neat and orderly. After all, it was only going to be a few weeks.
Well, guess what. Life is not always neat and orderly and my husband and I swapped work spaces so he could have a better set-up due to his vision challenges. I happily took over the basement and made it ergonomically friendly and Feng shui. Except now, instead of a professional map of the world that would make the experts on professionalism proud, I had a punching bag, numerous pieces of exercise equipment, and a mannequin wearing my Wonder Woman costume. It was still neat and orderly, and it was a great conversation filler while waiting for people to join video conference calls. 'Yes, I do punch the bag regularly. Yes, I do work out. Yes, I do dress up like Wonder Woman.' I was very happy with the space, and based on professional advice, people want to see the room you are in. Life was good.
A full day of rain caused groundwater to seep into the basement. It was nothing serious, just annoying. We moved everything to the dry side and proceeded to vacuum and haul out many pails of water. Unfortunately, my professional background was ruined. In addition to the exercise equipment I now had a Lego table, piles of plastic storage bins, and Christmas decorations, including a narwhal wearing a scarf, all balanced behind me in my video calls. It wasn't pretty, but it was my reality and it didn't mean that I cared less about my job or the people on my team.
We often let others set unrealistic expectations for us regarding things that ultimately don't matter when it comes to being happy and healthy. We have acknowledged them as experts for some reason and let them set the bar and judge anyone who doesn't meet that expectation. I'm here to tell you those "experts" aren't living your life. You are. Be yourself. You decide what is a realistic expectation and where to set the bar. You are the architect of your life. Set your own priorities. That may mean showing up to your first meeting in a sweatshirt and baseball cap instead of a suit jacket because you had a morning work-out. It might mean that you don't have your dishes in your dishwasher or the laundry put away because you had quality time with your family instead.
You are going to be most effective when you can be your authentic self, working on what matters most to you. That is why I do what I do. I love helping people thrive and live the life of their dreams. It doesn't matter where you are on your journey. There is always something that can be learned, and a new experience waiting for you. It might not be visible yet. I am curious what the fall will bring with more changes as we navigate this pandemic. My goal is to do all I can to cut through the noise and judgment of the world and focus on what matters most. I encourage you to join me.