[OPINION] What I encountered during quarantine and how I dealt with it

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Most would probably say I’m privileged enough to get myself together; but in reality, it is difficult for me to accomplish even just the bare minimum.

Ideally, college life should allow the outgoing to cooperate with the meek, permitting each other to unleash one’s uniqueness while talking about personal and professional goals, not to mention even making plans for late-night outings to build meaningful bonds. Then it’s a continuing cycle.

The moment COVID-19 appeared on the headlines, I forecasted it could be mitigated within weeks. I lurked on social media as if it wasn’t a concerning matter, comforting myself that it’ll cease before the end of the month. Still, I maintained my vision that nothing was going to stop me from making the most of my college experience.

But events did not turn out the way I had hoped.

Seeing the rising number of cases and deaths in the news helped me grasp the magnitude of the issue and figure out how to protect my family from the virus.

It then marked the beginning of the community quarantine. There were few resources at our disposal. We had little money to spare. My mother was forced to terminate her work contract since her job involves face-to-face interaction.

“This wasn’t the right time,” I thought. We weren’t prepared. I bet no one was even prepared for this pandemic.

I became concerned when stores and restaurants in my area stopped operations for a while. Our city appeared like a ghost town.

Classes were soon put to a halt. I could only use social media to communicate with my peers and watch the news for COVID updates.

In an attempt to temporarily relieve my worries, I installed a number of social networking apps, talked to strangers on Omegle and Reddit, and followed TikTok trends.

But that temporary happiness was not enough to address my family’s problem: having insufficient resources.

As the health crisis continued, I instantaneously understood that I needed to work online to sustain our needs.

So in spite of being consumed with the negatives, I also took the time to maximize my skill set during the quarantine period.

Life as a working student during Covid

I was in my second year of college when the pandemic started, pursuing a degree in Communication at one of the most expensive schools in the province.

As funds were scarce, I soon found myself expected to fund our basic necessities; however, my mind lingered over one doubtful thought: Am I in a position to work and study at the same time?

Regardless of my hesitation, I hastily applied to numerous job postings that did not require a bachelor’s degree. The idea of being a virtual assistant for start-up foreign businesses appealed to me.

After a few days, I received several job offers from the recruiters who interviewed me, and I happily accepted most of them.

Going through the on-boarding process and meeting my employers virtually was already sufficient to get through the day, even if that meant working late at night and not being able to understand what was going on.

A month later, online classes were introduced. Since it was mediated remotely and I assumed I could handle anything, I became complacent.

To fulfill my academic requirements, I had to write a speech, interview a non-government organization about enforcing pandemic-related projects, and do quantitative research, to name a few.

In the six terms following the completion of my degree, I was finally granted a 100% academic scholarship. It seemed that I excelled so much in my academics without neglecting my work as a virtual assistant.

Come mid-2020, I became aware I had hit rock bottom and was losing motivation.

I doubted my competence. I questioned my abilities. Debts loomed over me as if they were demanding my attention. Despite working with a great deal of clients and earning more than a typical fresh graduate, my monthly earnings couldn’t pay them all off in an instant.

Several times, I even considered isolating myself from my friends just because I was ashamed of being a working student. I also felt that I wasn’t clicking with some of them anymore. What made me feel this way?

I developed this mentality due to the pressure I had to deal with. I’ve been the breadwinner of my family while trying to do well academically and write a thesis with my groupmates.

Then I realized I needed help.

Once in a while, I started checking up on my friends. Although we talked almost exclusively through messages, I enjoyed it.

Then we set up late-night Discord calls, sharing our day-to-day experiences under quarantine and thinking about what we might have done if the pandemic hadn’t happened. 

Among the many solutions I contemplated to ease my negativity, this was one that I believed could be effective. I was reminded all throughout that I was always with a support system and developed the courage to move forward in life.

I also took free courses, ranging from topics about sexuality and gender identity to media ethics and governance. This learning opportunity helped me enrich my knowledge and grasp the importance of contributing to societal welfare as a citizen of this country.

Learning is fun, but the fact that I’ve been saddled with plenty of responsibilities as a student and eldest child in the family has led me to have fears, but has also allowed me to thrive.

Sleep is for the weak?

Juggling school, freelancing, and completing a thesis was on my plate full-time.

Considering my many responsibilities, my mind could go on and on for hours at night, overanalyzing the tiniest of details.

While I stayed up late thinking about my debts, I mulled over how I would get them paid without missing any deadlines. When I was short on money but had to meet a deadline, my friends covered my fees and I paid them back as soon as my salary was received. This must be the “pre-adulting” stage?

Grogginess followed. I had concerns about showing an unsatisfactory work performance and exceeding my clients’ expectations, loathing my situation.

Unlike my friends, I haven’t even had time to stream TV shows & movies and read books as I originally planned to had I not choose to work. This made me feel like I was left behind, resulting in a deep sense of FOMO.

As my intention of achieving that “work-life balance”, I decided to sacrifice some sleep hours to devote them to the above-mentioned activities. Though I was finally feeling able to relate to my friends’ discussions, my sleep was compromised.

Did that result in any long-term satisfaction? Not at all.

A TikTok video I stumbled upon explained that it is okay to take a little break if needed and that one’s pace isn’t a valid measurement whether or not they are on their way to their goals.

After all, I finally figured there was no rush, and I could take things at my own pace.

Although I still struggle with getting enough sleep and waking up early, I am more aware of taking care of myself to avoid health problems.

Source: ELMENS

Pursuing my interests

This article could go on and on about how the pandemic left me dumbfounded as to what was to come in the next few days.

Yet one of the most memorable comments I’ve been told by some of my clients and those who’ve interviewed me for a job offer was that, because of my work ethic and determination, I can go far in life.

Only that remark encouraged me to continue what I had left, pre-pandemic.

Initially, I had no intention of becoming a virtual assistant. I dreamed of working in the media and entertainment industry and was sure I’d do well there. I owe most of my influences to my parents who both worked in the media.

Photography, writing, media production, digital marketing, and journalism are my top interests, and I figured I could gain experience in these areas. This, however, would be too overwhelming if tackled all at once. Later on, I followed social media accounts related to these subjects to stimulate my intellect every day.

As August drew to a close, I only had two clients left. My workload seemed menial and I began to feel underwhelmed. While I still had the mission of providing quality service to my clients, I had been a bit loose and was not sure if I would develop professionally.

It was then I feared whether it was time to step away from work that had served as a temporary means to survive this pandemic and not practice my passion for media.

Come the last week of October, I stumbled upon on Facebook an internship opportunity offered by Verafede. Without a second thought, I eagerly sent my application with expectations of understanding the digital marketing scene.

I also gave myself the opportunity to apply as a volunteer for a prominent online news company in the country to study journalism ethics and be a vanguard of truth.

Both companies selected me, and I knew I’d be busy in the coming months considering the part-time jobs that I have. “Can I manage this?”, I wondered. Eventually, my career-driven nature made reaching a decision easy, so I opted for both.

My first project with Verafede was to pitch marketing strategies for Froneri’s Oreo Ice Cream. During a conference call with three of my co-interns, it became apparent that they were well-versed in marketing. While the discussion was ongoing and I took a preview of our Google Doc, I was quite intimidated by the marketing objectives.

Nevertheless, I did not feel inferior despite my inexperience in pitching brands—instead, I felt compelled to work with them.

The multitasking Derek never flung. In some cases, I work on my part-time job, where one of my tasks is posting giveaways to groups during the holiday season while attending a meeting with my co-interns and thinking of campaigns for Oreo’s Ice Cream line.

There was also a time when I had to present a proposal to my client and attend a webinar, both to happen simultaneously. I had to prioritize and temporarily set aside the webinar to attend the proposal; afterward, I entered the Zoom call for the webinar discussing how to promote a business using TikTok.

We won the business based on the results of our pitch. The general manager of Verafede congratulated and compensated us for indulging in a tub of Oreo Ice Cream.

Positive changes do happen when one makes good choices; so far, I’m able to slowly make progress toward my career ambitions. It is true that a staggering amount of work must be done, but if a conscious effort is made, the results will always be in one’s favor.

I have a lot on my plate, yes, but I love what I do. To date, the experience I gained from Verafede, among other passions, has been sufficient to find my way back to following the profession I’ve always dreamed of.

In which direction am I going?

RESTART. RESET. REFOCUS. My mother wrote these three words in an email pitching her training and consulting services to companies with the hopes of regaining employment.

By reflecting on those three words, I was able to ground myself in gratitude throughout the quarantine. I am thankful that I still have a roof over my head. It’s now easier for me to evaluate myself and to see what I could’ve done differently.

I also learned to stop seeking validation from those who aren’t relevant in my life. Whenever I felt challenged, I had the tendency to explain myself to avoid negative reactions. Now that I feel empowered like never before, I can’t be shaken.

My experience as a virtual assistant may not have been a hundred percent fulfilling for me, but I am happy that I absorbed a lot about how social media works. There’s definitely a pro and con for each situation.

Even though I’m not sure where I’ll end up with my current career path, I’m certain it will lead me to a position where I’ll have the opportunity to do what interests me.

Most would probably say I’m privileged enough to get myself together; but in reality, it is difficult for me to accomplish even just the bare minimum. However, as the saying goes, “Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation.” That quote alone helped me deal with what I thought would be the end.

Related Reads:
Creating an Ergonomic Workspace at Home

Dealing With Work From Home Burnout

The Verafede Journey: From Designs to Experiences

 

Don Derek Rodrigo

Don Derek Rodrigo

Don Derek Rodrigo is a senior studying Communications at Malayan Colleges Laguna. An enthusiast of all forms of media and communication, he is passionate about writing, reading, social media, journalism, digital marketing, and photography, among many others!

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