Zachary Styles

Breathing Through COVID-19

I feel that at times I have too much on my plate. I bite off more than I can chew, and recently I’ve been feeling the effects of that.

Alright, beyond my desperate play on words there, hear me out. This was what I was feeling as the lockdown was starting to be imminent here in South Africa. Bear in mind, the content in this was up to date as of posting this on my website on the 15th of March this year (about a month ago as of posting here on Medium).

A Current Situational Update

I’m not going to spend any real time talking about the current pandemic, other than that it has reached a point now in South Africa where the country is now taking it very seriously. Restaurants aren’t staying open as long, people are now washing their hands more than ever (and those that always washed them like this are enjoying rubbing that in — pun intended), and social distancing is about to become an official law-enforced policy (it feels like). I don’t have a problem with any of these things, don’t get me wrong, but do you know what’s really thrown a spanner into the works? The temporary shutdown of education.

As it stands, practically every school or educational institution in the country has sent their kids home in hazmat suits (probably a good idea) and are forced into self-isolation in their homes. I would be absolutely loving this if I was back at school. Who doesn’t love an enforced holiday? Well, they have to stay at home, but with all the online entertainment these days, that’s hardly a less enjoyable thing. My mom’s side of the family back home, are now all in isolation at the house; and being teachers, I have no doubt they are enjoying the peace and quiet! I wish I could be with them during this crisis, but alas, the show must go on down here in Durbs. That’s a conundrum for another day, however. Time to talk about the current situation I find myself in.

Breathing Through COVID-19

Because of the massive educational shut down, that means (you guessed it) that my honours program is on hold for a while. On hold, however, basically means we don’t have scheduled classes, but the work is still there. Oh boy, the work is still there.

With everything going on, Inscape has decided to suspend the current academic program until about halfway through April, with the hopes of continuing after that, should things get better. I don’t see them getting better, but here’s to hoping. I count myself fortunate enough to have access to the internet in this country, so if things go online-only during this trying time, then so be it.

The suspension is somewhat confusing at times, because all our due dates and classes have shifted, and I was only just getting used to them. As I spoke about in my second article on Pandora’s Desk (my first article here on Medium), the course has me massively overwhelmed with the workload and what is required of me, physically and intellectually. I’m still trying to get to grips with that, and in the past two weeks have been struggling. I don’t say that out of pity fishing, but rather to share with you that this is an ongoing battle, and I don’t see a short end in sight.

This led me to do some thinking around this academic suspension. Maybe, just maybe, it came at the right time for me. Now, if you’re about to get offended and think I am grateful for this crisis, then pump the breaks and try to understand it a little deeper. Of all the opinions flying around out there on the IoT, I try my best not to prescribe to any publically. That being said, I’m not going to kick a gift-horse in the mouth (easy does it).

I recently (this morning as I got out of bed, actually, while writing this) read a post by Mitch Goldstein, about the fact that as much you can use this time to focus on all those extra things in your portfolio and jobs you have to do, it’s okay to just chill the hell out for a bit. Sometimes it can take time to process these things, and maybe, just maybe, you need a break from it all. And I think that’s okay if you’re being honest with yourself.

So I decided to do that. To be honest with myself about this.

  • I’m tired,
  • I’m confused,
  • I’m feeling overwhelmed,
  • I’m…
  • I’m…
  • I’m…

Fill in all the gaps, because human beings are complicated things. We feel and we do and we feel some more, so it’s okay to try to take a break to try and understand it all. Wait, did that just rhyme? I’m gonna roll with it.

In line with Mitch’s post, I recently had a conversation with someone on Instagram after I shared a post by Sean McCabe about the fact that it’s okay to keep working during a time like this, within the confines of the contextual physical circumstances we find ourselves in. The world keeps spinning. And it’s okay to keep producing content (that also isn’t about the virus) and to promote your work like you usually would. I’m fortunate enough to find myself in a profession that it’s more than possible to work from home, and so I can continue to work. I’m currently working with someone overseas, and does the virus affect that workflow? Not for me, it doesn’t. So why should I stop now?

All that being said, I feel that at times I have too much on my plate. I bite off more than I can chew, and recently I’ve been feeling the effects of that.

The reality is that we’re here. Some of us are isolated and some of us aren’t. Some of us can be, and some of us can’t. All we can do is what we can do. I always enjoy that sentence because it seems silly to say out loud, but sometimes we really need to hear it.

We can’t necessarily change the circumstances we find ourselves in. All we can do is make the most of it. Right now, that means for me to take a few more moments (than usual) to breathe and reassess my mental and emotional state. We’ve got to take care of ourselves in times like these. Never before in recent history have we had to apply this simple measure quite as importantly: put your own mask on before you help someone with theirs.

A crisis is a crisis, but it doesn’t have to break us (another rhyme, goddamn). At least, it won’t break me. Instead, I’m going to use it to take a break and make myself stronger for it. What are you going to do?

Full-time designer, illustrator and lettering artist. Part time lecturer. Part time student. Experiencing the world through words, both written and drawn.