Being in Quarantine is Traumatic

Kunduz hospital air strike 2015. Not comparing quarantine to war, I just know people feel like this picture. I sure do some days.

I’m a person who’s heavily focused on productivity and growth, and the quarantine is constantly grinding against my willpower. It’s been 27 days since they closed nonessential businesses, so that’s 27 days I’ve had no steady income. We’ve canceled every order and every account that isn’t essential. My amazing wife has spent weeks on calls and online contacting creditors, lenders, and account managers, digging endlessly through city, state, and local guidelines and websites, deciphering baffling legalese to try to find any assistance possible. Like many small business owners, we’re skating on thin ice.

Despite all of that, this isn’t the time to panic. This also isn’t the time to stay positive and reflect on life either. The fact is, the business closures and quarantine is traumatic. We’ve all had our daily routines completely disrupted, with no promise when it will return to normal, if ever. We’re in financial limbo. We’ve been stripped of our livelihoods and I’m basically forbidden from practicing the craft I’ve practiced for 22 years. It’s a 180° shift from what we’re accustomed to.

I don’t say this to pound negativity at you, I say this to outline the reality of the situation. Recognizing it for what it truly is is the only way to be able to learn to cope with it. Any effort that isn’t grounded in the severity of this truth will only be a mask to cover it. You can’t cover up trauma, you have to confront it and reconcile it. And the truth is, a lot of trauma can’t be reconciled until it’s over. This is ongoing.

Look, I’m not trying to say people need to give up hope, or stop trying to find the good amidst the bad, because doing those things is essential at all times. I’m saying we can’t abandon our real time experience in favor of an idealistic concept of the growth we will experience, or the opportunities we will find. We can look toward growth and opportunity as a result of what we’re going through, but we can’t skip the step of experience.

That means you need to let yourself feel this, and process it. Don’t indulge in it, but feel it and process it. Sometimes that could mean you cry, maybe a lot. Or you are angry, maybe all day. You might be irritable, depressed, anxious. You could be feeling abandoned, helpless, frightened. These are normal feelings right now.

Getting through this isn’t about filling your head with catchphrases. It’s about existing within this framework you’ve been forced into, and doing your best through it. Whether you’re feeling highs or lows, experience them and remind yourself that as long as you try and you don’t give up, it will improve at some point.

Look, this is likely far from over. There will be ups and downs as we move forward, and it will probably feel like there’s no going back at times. In a way, there is no going back. Things will fundamentally change. Don’t long for how things were, or spend time wishing, because that’s not reality. Stop thinking about how your plans for the year are messed up. There’s no choice but to roll with the punches and reevaluate our actions as we go.

I had a lot of plans this year. We were finally recouping from a rocky 2019, both personally and professionally. I had finally started revisiting major business plans I’ve had on the back burner for years, and had been getting side projects in order. It’s all been completely derailed, and now I’m just in survival mode. All that while still trying to think of my employees, family, and friends.

But I’ll roll with the punches. We don’t really have a choice, because this is what we have. Damn straight I’m going to have some breakdowns, and lose my temper, and air out my frustration and sense of disappointment. We’re entitled to that, and we don’t have to shove it down to show how hard we grind or hustle, or how the strong don’t do that or some other macho bullshit. Shove it up your ass. These are hard times, and we are allowed to admit it in full, and how it’s affecting us on a personal level.

And then I’ll get up and do what I can. Some days it won’t be much, and I’ll be kind and forgive myself. Because right now, we all need kindness and compassion more than we need motivation.

Sometimes we face challenges not because we’re capable of overcoming, but because we have no choice.

It’s never too late to make a change

I used to think I was a man set in his ways. Hell, I still try to pitch that idea when I’m being stubborn about something. The truth is, I’ve made multiple drastic changes in my life. My father showed me that change can happen at any time, and when I was in my early 20’s watching my dad get his degree, I knew it wasn’t just lip service. He had turned his entire life around when he was older than I am today.

Speaking of how old I am today, I just turned 40. That’s me and my kids after I blew out my candles. It’s funny when I thin about it, because at 30, sitting home and eating cake with a bunch of kids wasn’t my idea of a great birthday, and I HAD 3 kids. That speaks to the idea that we can continue to reinvent ourselves and make changes as we age.

When I look back, it seems like I reinvent myself every decade. You can even take that back to childhood, and say that my first reinvention was when I was around 11, and decided I wanted to draw comic books. The second came when I was around 20, and embraced my new role as a tattoo artist. The third was at 30 and I opened my studio, launching my role as business man and entrepreneur. It looks like it’s time for that to happen again.

Now this isn’t overnight change. These are natural progressions as I navigate my situations, clarify my intentions, and commit myself to moving forward. The last 10 years has been total fucking madness most of the time. I waded through chaos for the majority of it, scrambling just to hold onto threads of sanity to keep me going. Through divorce, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, suicidal ideation, marriage, kids, mortgage, life, death, loss…it’s a rollercoaster.

That just fucking life, though. I’m not a special case. This is the same bullshit millions of other people have to go through every single day. I haven’t been given a shit hand. If anything, my life is amazing. We all have to deal with pain and loss, and huge numbers of people have to deal with addiction and mental illness. It could be so much worse, and I should be grateful I even have the opportunity to deal with my struggles. The struggles of others can be so much more difficult by comparison.

The only thing about me that’s special is that I am introspective enough to understand how my own thoughts and actions have brought me to this place. That’s not even that special, either, because that shit can be taught and cultivated in anyone. It’s the entire catalyst of making changes in your life. Without self awareness and reflection, you’re bound to get stuck in those patterns of thought that keep you exactly where you are, in that dead end job or lonely marriage or those friendships that only offer drama. If you can’t look at yourself with introspection and see what’s happening now, yo won’t be able to change what happens later. You’re just blowing in the wind of circumstance.

Which brings the circle right back around to me, and turning 40, and what that means for my own personal growth. I’ve talked a lot about how tattooing doesn’t hold the same fascination that it used to, and how I want to do other things with my life. I’ve also been pretty open about the fact that I don’t know exactly what that means, or how change is going to manifest itself.

All I know is that there’s other things I love. Other things that make me happy, other things I thoroughly enjoy for no reason whatsoever. I’m just going to grab those things and squeeze the fucking life out of them, and hope that I stumble into the satisfaction we all deserve.

For now, that means I’m going to make a lot of art. I’m going to write, vlog, go to thrift stores, hang out with my family, and take midday naps. I’m going to eat delicious things and then feel guilty about it. But most important, above all else, I’m going to use these experiences to help other people.

I don’t know what help looks like from one person to another, but I do know that no matter how different we are, we go through life the same way and experience many of the same things. We feel the same emotions and ask the same questions of ourselves. We wonder “can I even make changes in my life?” We often don’t have an answer.

Lean on each other in support. That’s what I’m here for, if I’m to be completely honest. Hopefully you can see me fuck up and feel like shit, and then maybe you won’t feel like shit when you do. We’re all human. The happiness and contentment isn’t in our destination, it’s in the journey.

All that stuff, and whatever other cliches you’d like to add in, ad infinitum. You get the idea.