Coronavirus BRIEFING

How Do I Choose to Look Back? Painting the Future

Jennifer Trakhtenberg, Senior Talent Leader for ClearVision Optical wrote the following article about her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a New Yorker, a mother of two, and a leader of a human resources function at ClearVision, her perspective is thoughtful, captivating and unique. She captures the sentiments that many of us are feeling right now during this moment in time,” according to Lauren Candela, PR and marketing content manager for ClearVision.

Throughout the past two months, I have had this unusual sense of going and doing, while simultaneously envisioning how I want to look back at this period of time. It may be a byproduct of my optimism, which encourages me to contemplate “an after.” It likely has something to do with my personal and professional responsibilities—leading an HR function, while being a mom of two. I keenly recognize that each day I get to choose how I want to show up, and in doing so, I am painting the picture of how I will recall this unimaginable chapter.

In the early weeks, there was a need to gain our “sea legs”—to get my crew situated with home schooling and my work team operational entirely from home. I was pitching in to help our organization get strategically set for success. The days were blending into one another and we were all very much hyper-aware of the importance of executing effectively on all fronts. I paused at one point and realized I was just doing and not experiencing anything. As many are now fond of saying, it felt like Groundhog’s Day.

A slight tweak in perspective has encouraged me to be a bit more intentional on how my time is spent. If I call upon my love for yoga, I am reminded that energy flows, where intention goes—I needed to harness my days and make the most of them. Truthfully, the world around me has taken to chaos. I am speaking daily with employees who are grieving lost loved ones, navigating elderly family members who need care, parents of special needs children who struggle to receive extra support, and those impacted financially who are ridden with worry.

My kids miss their teachers and friends, their routines, and all of the places we usually go. My nephew was born, but I have only met him on FaceTime. The list continues. With a caring persona, I absorb how others feel and of course I have concern for the health and safety of all that I love. I could stop here, and the story would be quite typical. Except I have decided that this is not how I want to look back at this time.

The phrase that keeps cropping up in my mind is the same one said by teachers everywhere and brings me back to my younger days as a camp leader, “all eyes on me.” The current reality has challenged all of us to make choices on how to proceed in this directionless world. Our children are looking at how we receive information and what attitude we have toward constant change. Our colleagues are seeking guidance on how to navigate without a road map, and our friends observe us looking for social cues. If I stay in a state of despair, I risk bringing down others. If I make this time unremarkable, then I may have influenced how others will recall it too.

Some of you may have seen that there is a children’s COVID-19 time capsule that is circulating across the internet. What a brilliant way to make a snapshot of a truly memorable era. In my virtual time capsule, I have added some new routines while fine-tuning others. I have repurposed my morning walk to include a podcast, which used to accompany my commute. I have capitalized on the countless free fitness classes available during many evening hours helping me stay sane and hopefully setting a positive image about self-care for my family.

Yes, the kids…I have honestly cherished having them near more often, even if they do poke in during Zoom meetings. Without our need to run to every activity, we have been playing board games, riding bikes and watching movies. We have been finding the most stunning parks to hike on weekends and savoring simple pleasures like sharing hot chocolate afterwards. Recreational activities have taken on a new flavor as we participate in bingo, paint night, family trivia and a dance party with our favorite summer resort, while safely at home. My husband and I have enjoyed spending more time together; likely more than we have since our college dating days.

When I visualize this timeframe and replay the pictures I have been taking, I see gratitude for our health, our love for one another, and our ability to adapt. I’m reminded that how I approach these opportunities speaks volumes to others and that I have the chance to help them reframe challenges in a small way.

Understandingly, my story is not shared by everyone and I do not want to discount the difficulty we are each experiencing. It has taken heroic measures to get my children through each day of distance learning and I have wiped many tears as we canceled our big family vacation and learned that a physical return to school will not happen. I do believe though that in order to cope with the chaos that surrounds us we need to each call upon what does bring us joy and savor simple pleasures.

I grew up hearing the phrase, “look for the doughnut and not the hole.” Like many others, my house is now often filled with baked goods as we gather around to enjoy them together. When my family’s eyes look to see what I think, it is smiles all around, as I want their look-back memories to be filled with positive moments too.