How It Feels Being Called Back to Work After Covid Isolation

Kristi Keller

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I just got the call I’ve been waiting for but dreading at the same time. I never thought I’d feel so conflicted about going back to a job, a paycheck, and people I love.

I’m going back to supervise a restaurant.

The thing about my restaurant is that it’s located inside a private athletic club so I’ve been merrily thinking we’d be one of the last places to open. Health clubs are playgrounds for moisture droplets generated by sweat, hence they’re at the bottom of the list for reopening.

Not once had I considered that our restaurant could reopen even if the club doesn’t, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Our members are wealthy, they have money to spend, and it seems they’re tired of cooking, so here we are.

My conflicted feelings don’t have a lot to do with health and safety though, it’s more about personal reasons.

Am I even ready to get out of sweatpants in exchange for proper clothing accessorized by gloves and a mask? That takes a lot of the fun out of the job.

I’m not at all entertained by the logistics of having to work in a restaurant under these conditions. Somehow it won’t seem fair that we have to parade around in masks while watching other people have the freedom to eat.

I know, these are first-world problems.

But I was geared up for at least a few more months of unemployment. This would have been the first time in history that I could have had a summer off while being paid to play with my dog. She has her own Instagram account so you’d better believe I’ve figured out how to occupy my free time.

But more than that, being recalled to work made me reflect on what I’ve done in the last 2.5 months.

Remember when you lost your job? Remember all the grand epiphanies you had about things you could accomplish if only you didn’t have to go to work? That’s where I’m at.

To be completely honest, I thought I’d either win the lottery or become a renowned writer somehow. Neither of those happened because A) I didn’t buy any lottery tickets, and B) because I didn't write anything profound.

Reflecting on what I’ve accomplished

I did a lot of cooking, which, if any of you knew me you’d know I detest being in the kitchen. But I bought a rolling pin, a hand mixer, and downloaded a bunch of recipe apps.

The results? I still hate cooking but at least I gave it an honest shot and I survived. I ordered a lot of take-out in an effort to support some of my favorite local spots.

I learned how to make keto chocolate mousse out of cream cheese, cocoa, and avocado. I also learned how to make carb-free tortilla chips out of literally just cheese and almond flour.

The silver lining? I haven’t eaten a french fry in two months because my kitchen guys weren’t here to shove a large tin bowl of them in my face. I should have lost weight by default.

Instead, I’ve been successful in gaining a few pounds, probably due to the fact that sweatpants don’t let you know when you’re expanding. My body is used to being on its feet for 30 hours a week so the instant shift to 80 hours a week on my ass, and another 80 being horizontal, was a big one.

Yes, there IS such a thing as sitting down too much. I will be glad to have a reason to stand up and walk around without doing laps in a 900 square foot condo.

I tried to get out for as many outdoor walks as possible but the weather hasn’t been consistently ideal for a pandemic.

I’ve been successful in learning how to survive R. Kelly, how to launder money in the Ozarks, and how to get away with murder. I also learned how plenty of average stay-at-home moms can commit murder and fraud and never get caught.

Thank you, Netflix.

The two most constructive accomplishments during my time off were completing a creative writing course and finally finding new direction from an old source. I have always known I wasn’t finished with travel writing but never knew which angle I wanted to tackle it from in the future.

Now I know and isolation gave me time to launch it.

Thank you, pandemic.

I’ve been successful in seeing certain things for what they really are and easing up on myself. I no longer obsess over mediocre writing every single day. Some days I say “screw it” and don’t write at all.

I’ve developed the surprising talent of hoarding money even while my income was cut to roughly 60%. I’m still perplexed over how large my savings account has grown during such an extended period of downtime.

Perhaps one of the best things about being out of work for so long is that I learned to appreciate my mother more. While I have always appreciated her, she became the only person I could safely come into contact with these last couple of months because we both live alone.

So, how does it REALLY feel being called back to work?

Although I’m looking forward to earning full paychecks again and hoarding even more money, this is a bittersweet time for me.

I desperately wanted to travel so it feels like a kick in the face that we’ve had all the time in the world, but travel was cut off.

I’ve been wanting to get in shape but just when I was getting into a nice gym groove at the beginning of the year, the gym was cut off.

I haven’t been to a gas pump in nine weeks and my license plates have been expired for months. Now I have to pay attention to real-life responsibilities again.

Aside from that, I’m not one of those who has suffered through isolation. I have thoroughly enjoyed this leisure and learning time. I’ve done alright financially, and I was able to realize that this has been a gift of time that I may never experience again. A gift I’m very thankful for.

Even though I truly missed the laughter and entertainment provided by my job, I’m on the fence about going back.

Shortly after I got the call to work yesterday, a flurry of text messages from coworkers began saturating my quiet space and it was nice. It seems we all have mixed feelings about it but generally, we’re happy.

During isolation, I’ve learned a lot about what’s truly important to me and I intend to carry those things forward as we ease back into life. It’s so easy to get sidetracked during the hustle of working for a living.

Getting back to work will be a good test of whether two months was really enough time to create new lifestyle habits in mindfulness and appreciation.

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I'm an old school travel writer who's been flung into another writing world through life experience. I have a compassionate eye, a different opinion, and strong words for this world we live in. I also know a thing or two.

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