On Being Human

a person sitting on wooden planks across the lake scenery

The global pandemic hit me while I was visiting my spouse’s family in Udine, Italy. At that time we were expecting a baby and we decided to stay put near our family, rather than going back to Vienna, where we used to live, and being on our own for the following months.

In 2020, Italy went for a full lockdown, and some of the restrictions are still in place as of today (November 2021).

In the last two years, I have had a rollercoaster of emotions related to the consequences of a tiny little ball of genetic material coated in gunk, trying to kill us. 

Most of our habits have been impacted and for many people, the most visible change happened in the workplace. To me, it was quite the opposite.

I have been working from home since forever. With the exclusion of a few years in Vienna, all my professional life has been office-free. I never needed to go somewhere in the morning, to get my stuff done.

For the last 8 years, I have been working for Automattic, a fully distributed company that counts almost 2 thousand employees. We all work from wherever we happen to be, living in more than 70 countries. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was already used to leaving the house only for primary necessities. I actually had to push myself and leave the house every now and then to avoid self-isolation.

For this reason, the first part of the lockdown was awkward for me;  I was already fully adapted to working from home, while the people around me were not. 

From that time, I remember my social channels being filled by people recommending the best video conferencing tools, the best chat apps, the best tutorials on Youtube. Welcome to my world, I had been living that way for 25 years already.

Furthermore, my job did not change a bit during the global pandemic. I used to manage a team of engineers across 4 continents long before the virus became part of our life, and I kept doing so during the following life-changing 18 months. We used to make software back then, we make software now, and most probably we’ll keep making software tomorrow. And the day after too.

My friends, instead, as soon as they were forced out of their offices, felt lost. Many of them had little to do, their days grew endless, and they started publishing links to online museums, streaming services, and online yoga classes. To be honest, Youtube was already full of that content before the pandemic, so it was not novel to me. I simply don’t have time for that. I have little to no interest in watching the sourdough rising in the fridge of a random baker in Vermont. 

I’m not impressed, nor interested in such content.

Before the lockdown, I used to work from home, but my home was anywhere in the world where my spouse was. I didn’t have an office, but I had my backpack, filled with all I needed to get my work done. I used to take about 60 flights, spending 200 days traveling every year.

The pandemic put a halt to it, and I’m not sure I want to go back to that traveling schedule. I few things have changed for me in the meanwhile, because life cannot be put on pause.

Regardless of traveling the world on a constant basis or not, I still consider myself a citizen of the world, and I was disheartened by the nationalization of the global crisis. 

Every country went on its own, offering different solutions to its citizens. A few countries went for full lockdowns, others offered free tests for the population but were not pushing enough for getting people vaccines, other countries let the people decide about their destiny, taking little to no responsibility for the outcomes.

Many countries tried to raise the bar against free circulation and put a halt to immigration; in the end, it really didn’t work out. This virus has no passport but moves fast across borders. Actually, there are no borders anymore. There is just one planet, and just one human species.

Being born in a specific country is just the result of the geographic lottery, but being human is something that each of us decides to be every day.

Published by Luca Sartoni

I lead a team of engineers across three continents at Automattic. I love hiking, photography, and 3D printers.

One thought on “On Being Human

  1. I wonder if your response to this all was because you traveled so much and are a bit introverted to begin with? I, too, have worked from my home and computer for the vast majority of my life, but was impacted by the lockdowns. Normally a bright person, I went the darkest I’ve ever been last year.

    My extroverted self struggled with the fact that I could no longer work in public spaces feeling activity around me and meeting new people. My nomadic soul mourned as I settled into one spot for months at a time. I embraced the opportunity to see expanded content offered by churches and museums. Being able to join dance classes from my living room (never an option for me before) was a highlight. Before the pandemic, I had to travel an hour each way for that class.

    Work did change for me. I do customer support, and it was emotionally exhausting. Our queues expanded rapidly, filled with people who had to cancel plans they couldn’t pay for since they lost their jobs, people who had to create online stores ASAP since their brick and mortars were closed, and people who reached out just to talk to another human. Heartbreaking.

    You are right. The logistics of work were the same, but at least for me, it was not the same and was difficult to come to terms with. But I learned a lot in the past year. How to go with the flow more. How to be happy working in one spot, alone, or co-working viz video shares. How to create emotional space so I didn’t max out to a point where I was unable to help others, etc.

    And you are so right about the fact that life can’t be put on pause. What we see is super disheartening. I truly hope we can all evolve and learn from this to become better global citizens.

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