Earlier this month I finally reconciled a conflict that challenged me since COVID really crashed our shores in early March. Basically that it’s ok to both feel fortunate that we’re staying-at-home together as a healthy family with more resources than the average American, while at the same time acknowledge and honor the anxiety the situation is causing me.
Wanting to get my daughter back to school where she is able to learn, develop and explore. Wanting to support the founders we backed as people (not just investments) who are confronted now by market forces for sure, but also needing to knit a social and emotional infrastructure to help their teams. Wanting to sit next to my partner Satya at Homebrew HQ, not just Zoom from my dining room. Wanting to not hold my breath when someone walks by me, even if there’s six feet of separation.
For a few weeks any time those needs came into my head I pushed them aside, embarrassed that this was where my mind was going while people lost their jobs, suffered from a horrific virus, or any number of other more substantial dislocations than we’d encountered. So we gave to different charities (support FrontlineFoods) and checked in on friends with difficult situations, because those were good legitimate things to do.
But I wasn’t sleeping well. One night I fought vampires. Then Thursday it was some weird scenario where I left early from a friend’s wedding and couldn’t get back into the venue when I felt ashamed to have ditched. Then there was that one with the tentacle porn… nah, not really that one, just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.
When people would ask “how are you holding up” (or whatever basic inquiry you’d start with before jumping into the meat of the Zoom), my standard response was bravado and apology. “Great, really lucky. I know there are so many people suffering.” And it was true but only a half-reveal. So in one particular conversation I didn’t stop with that explanation but added on, “…still at the same time I don’t want my kid to have a childhood shaped by this experience. And I want to be giving great advice and counsel to our CEOs but in some cases we’re just going to have to figure it out as it evolves. And my puppy peed on the floor and I don’t know if she’s just mad at us or if something is wrong. And…” Well, it didn’t go on forever but you get the sense.
Then my conversation companion paused and shared his own version of what had been troubling him. And it was just as messy, and dumb, and serious, and trivial. And he was happy to be able to shed the “I got my shit together. Wartime CEO.” suit for a second and just be human. And I started having versions of this conversation with more people. And I was no longer battling vampires or missing weddings in my sleep.