2020 never looked so bright compared to the year of political strife which preceded it.
We were celebrating in every sense of the word, from online deliveries being shipped out for gifts and trinkets, to getting caught up in newly released planners. People eagerly drew blueprints, detailing agendas like an exact science—after this day, it’s the beach; then on this month, a party and a reunion; and then before the quarter ends, we have to treat ourselves to the latest smartphone model.
No day would go to waste, and every moment would be lived to its absolute fullest.
It’s difficult to imagine those halcyon days as more than just a distant memory. As I write these words from the confines of my own home, you are no doubt experiencing the same anxious situation brought about by our shared, invisible enemy. The 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 for short, is tyrannical and unforgiving. It has upended every facet of our lives, from the way we’ve been working, to the way we approach integral sectors of society, such as primary education, basic trade, and commerce. More tragically, it has also left an indelible mark in the healthcare industry, endangering the lives of millions of essential workers across the globe. COVID-19 was the indiscriminate curveball nobody saw coming, drastically ending any sort of plan—big or small—before it could even begin.
Suddenly, we find ourselves critical of the very lifestyle we aimed for at the start of the year. Instead, we champion its complete opposite: stay home, be pragmatic, and practice physical distancing. Eventually, we may just #FlattenTheCurve as we discover how to move within this unexplored territory.
There are many things in this prophesized new normal that we can’t outright change—from the flows and ebbs of our international economy, to the fluidity of data covering audience and consumer behavior on almost every channel. But as the world keeps turning, so too should we. The burden and responsibility of moving the future forward is still ours to carry.
As countless webinars rush to cover the different ways we can upskill our employees, proposing a framework of total digital convergence and transformation to avoid crowding offices and conference halls, very few have actually sat down with the idea that we have also begun to change our personal perspectives outside of work.
For a moment, take a breath and remove yourself from your job title, your LinkedIn profile, your KPA’s and KPI’s. Stripped down to our barest selves, we are all, first and foremost, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, or sisters and brothers. COVID-19 may have forced us to change in unprecedented ways, but it has also cast a magnifying glass over the things we have taken for granted; various aspects of our lives we pushed to the periphery because we “didn’t have enough time.”
Now, time is all we have.
For Katapult Digital’s CEO Albet Buddahim, the subject of having versus being comes to mind. While he has not let up since March, making sure every employee under his care was reassured and well-compensated for the long haul, he also discloses a more candid realization about his life outside of the office.
“This quarantine has put into perspective a lot of things for me,” he says one afternoon, during our alignment call. “I think I may have focused too much on the material.” And don’t get him wrong. Rewarding yourself after hard work isn’t bad at all—especially when you know you’ve earned it. But Albet reflects that he was wrong to prioritize the accessories instead of the necessities. Do these validate a successful life? Or is there more to have?
Albet’s retrospection is poignant and insightful. At the end of the day, this digital native with a resume decorated with marketing recognitions and awards knows immediately, what’s truly essential.
During this pandemic, where we are all faced with a stark reflection of our interior lives, Albet knows who he is. He is a family man at heart, one who cares deeply for his two children, both under the age of ten. He is the other half to a wife he lovingly gushes over every chance he gets. It was never about the things he needed to have. It was about the person he needed to be; a better leader, a better father, a better son, a better husband.
Atty. Lelen Berberabe, one of Katapult’s Board of Directors, echoes similar sentiments.
She is by no means a stranger to the grind. Atty. Lelen has served as PAG-IBIG’s former CEO, became a Senior Counsel at P&G Philippines, and is an Asia CEO awardee—a true expert in governance, finance, and operations. Her tenure is nothing short of extraordinary, but at the end of the day, where does she go for strength? What keeps a superwoman flying high, no matter how rough the headwinds?
“[This] has validated what I have always held as very important values, which is to stay in touch with family,” she writes. “I cook to express my love for them, I push us to exercise every day, and I make sure we have sufficient time to unwind and relax the mind.”
A testament to this promise is the fact that her own home has been built like a sanctuary. Long before the season of COVID-19, Atty. Lelen already knew that her home space had to be designed as a loving abode, with spaces that exist to keep her family safe and secure. She has created a space for a small gym, there is a designated area for cooking and baking, and if work needs to be done, there’s a room for that too. Her priority has, and will always be, the well-being of her family. Her day-to-day has changed only in a sense that she keeps her loved ones ever closer, with a renewed sense of responsibility for how they should act as citizens in a time of constantly moving parts.
She plays the role of protector and nurturer masterfully, but Atty. Lelen is also an educator at heart. She has taught in the University of the Philippines for many years, but away from the four walls of the classroom, she is still teaching us life lessons—be aware of your movements as it affects others around you; be cognizant of your connection to the outside world. Wearing a mask is anything but comfortable, but she knows it is a necessity to protect the greater whole. Her heightened consideration has led to needs outweighing wants, to the point where monthly expenses have been reduced approximately 30% less than before.
Such musings are mirrors of an earlier sentiment. Which colored lenses should we see our world through, now that so much has been taken away and made simple? COVID-19 can remove the harried schedules and constant meetings from her life, but she is still the same woman—the same family matriarch and leader—who chooses to look at the world through her viewfinder of unadulterated love.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf. “And so do all who live to see such times. But it is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Chapter II, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
This brave new world full of mystery is scary, but the most frightening thing of all is when we have to deal with the sudden tides of change. There is no mistake that the pandemic has caught everyone unaware. It will leave behind a dark legacy of uncertainty as we write the annals of our history. However, let this season also be a chronicle of our unbreakable spirit, and a mark of our indominable power to shape the future filled with hope and better days.
COVID-19 can take away and change things we never expected to budge, but it should not have the right to take away from you what matters—or as a wise man once said, the time that is given to us. The time we’ve been granted to be present with the ones that matter.
The calendar still reads 2020, after all.
So do not let a day go to waste. Live every moment to its absolute fullest.