By Catherine Rolley

COVID-19 is to our lifestyles what Uber was to Taxis; there’s no denying the virus has wholly disrupted our collective existence. While trying to #flattenthecurve, we’re witnessing a scarce moment in history: what happens when you hit pause on Capitalism. It seems asking people to stay home is a fail-safe way to immediately shut down industries like entertainment, travel, and hospitality. It makes sense, but it’s still a shock to the system. According to my Instagram feed, there’s now a scary number of Australians who’ve had the redundancy call up and are left wondering, “what the f*ck just happened?”

Until last week I worked at a marketing agency with many global entertainment brands as clients. Just days after ScoMo banned gatherings above 500 people, my role as a social media manager was gone quicker than Quilton 3 Ply at your local Coles. Through no fault of mine or my employer’s, I was unemployed for the first time in my adult life.

At first, I burst into tears. Then, I was in panic mode and felt very victimised by Regina George Coronavirus. How the hell was I supposed to quickly land another full-time gig in the middle of a global pandemic?! The past five years spent building my life in Sydney flashed before my eyes. I imagined my partner and I packing up our beloved apartment for the next flight to Cairns to live rent-free in my childhood home. Yes, there are worse places to live than a tropical paradise, but the thought of the life I worked hard for being taken away was heartbreaking. As most Sydneysiders know, renting here feels like giving up your first born every time that direct deposit hits, so I thought the panic was justified.

Thanks to a socially-distanced Google Hangout with close friends and wine, I was able to focus on what was really at stake and separate reality from panicked thoughts. Luckily, my partner still had his job, and we live in a country with unemployment benefits, so we’d be able to hang onto our apartment for a while. I also wasn’t the only one. Thousands of Aussies were and still are losing their jobs daily, not to mention the parallel situations in China, Italy, America, the UK, and more. Somewhat terrifying, but with no control over the scenario, I had two choices: feel terrified or surrender to the present moment. I chose the latter.

I then began to see this as an opportunity for humanity to (frankly) wake up to what we’ve done. In a world where being busy and rich are status symbols, people are overstimulated by work, schedules, digital devices, and an abundance of “stuff.” There is little time left for essential human experiences. Things like dinner with loved ones, reading, playing, meditating, creating, exercising, passion projects regularly end up on the back burner. Arguably, these simple acts make life worth living. Maybe Coronavirus is our generation’s kick up the ass to refocus on what feeds our souls instead of our wallets?

After being stuck on Capitalism’s hamster wheel for some time, I’ve been aware there was a problem but never found the time to figure out how to course correct. Well, I believe some call this “divine intervention” as I’ve found myself with nothing but time to reflect and plan a new way of living.

I’m not saying I’ll never work again; Mama has to make a living! I’m also not saying I don’t like working because I enjoy what I do. But now that it’s abundantly clear our routines have left us and the planet in desperate need of rest, something has to change. If you need more proof, look at the exponential rise in China’s “good quality air days” since factories had to close to contain the virus. That’s enough to motivate me to live a slower, more intentional life where I am in control.

So this is my opportunity to work smarter, not harder, and keep time for the human experiences social isolation is helping us to rediscover. I am finally working on my freelance business, offering social media and content services. Something I’ve wanted for a while but have been too scared to leave a stable job to do.

At the end of this, I think society can reset. I genuinely believe we can innovate a way of life that’s less cluttered, more sustainable (veggie patch anyone?), and more peaceful. It’s going to be uncomfortable for a while, but we can’t have creation without a little destruction.

This article was first published in PopSugar