This past week was a very strange time to take a “vacation”. I’ve always been in a believer in actually going somewhere when taking time off. That it’s better to get out of your normal environment to do a reset by exploring new places and experiences. Or, at the very least, relaxing in a hotel room in a comfy bed, stuffing my face with takeout, and watching HGTV with zero obligations. But all of that is pretty much impossible right now.
My boyfriend and I had a great trip planned to Portugal during my spring break before my last quarter ever of grad school. We were excited that we got great deals on our flights. One flight we booked with credit card points on Air France in business class after snagging a great deal as we were taxing out from our gate in Singapore to fly to Bali last year. Our return was supposed to be the first leg of a round-trip flight from LHR -> SEA on British Airways in first class, after we found an insanely good deal that would’ve made economical sense given all the mileage points we could count towards getting MVP Gold status on Alaska Air.
My boyfriend, having attended an aeronautical university for his undergrad and graduate degrees, gets really excited to fly certain routes. We were stoked to be able to experience one of the best first-class lounges in the world. It was something worth looking forward to after busting my ass in grad school AND designing and releasing so many features at work in Q1. I really needed a break, a reset, and something to look forward to.
So when we realized our vacation wasn’t happening, and that I’d probably lose $3000 I’d put towards the trip (fuuuuuuuuuu. I’m not rich, people.), I was pretty bummed but also at a loss for what exactly to do. My day to day life hasn’t changed that much at all, especially since I was working from home regularly before. Despite that, it’s still weird.
There’s this strange thing going on right now in a lot of parts of life where on the one hand, you kind of have to go on and pretend life is completely normal (as long as it’s a six feet distance from others). On the other hand, shit’s crazy and I catch myself thinking how can we possibly go on like normal when everything’s so messed up and so much about our society has changed already? How do you cope with that? No one knows. We’re all just trying to figure it out. And probably baking bread with our own sourdough starters.
One thing I knew immediately that the stress wouldn’t reset itself. I had to come up with some sort of plan to not let it all build and cause havoc on my body. So I decided to take my planned time off work anyway, scoped down to a week, because if there was something I could do and had control over, it was removing one source of low-level stress from my life for a short period. Seems weird. It was probably the worst vacation I’ve ever had, but it did give me a lot of time for introspection. In some ways, it was a reset. Maybe not the reset I needed, but at least it was something.
I’m sure a lot of people are also feeling the same way: wanting to get some social interaction, wanting to creating something, trying to feel productive, languishing their regular schedules and canceled plans, and possibly actually grieving. So what does this actually mean for a designing in uncertain times? I’ve decided that it doesn’t mean saving the world through design. I’ve decided instead to try to help ease stress a little for everyone by continuing to focus on making tools for remote work and creative expression easier to use. Even though that was my mission before, it doesn’t mean we’re all carrying on like everything is normal. It’s not, but we still have to work and need to create (hopefully something other than thousands of loaves of bread) as a form of our own self-care, and hopefully it’ll help some people destress and not worry about at least a few things in this crazy world.