Most who know me well know that I am introverted with extroverted tendencies. The introvert has a time limit on being out. The extrovert in me does not hesitate when it comes to invitations to a great meal, conversation, museum, cultural event, or random activity. I love being around people, socializing, enjoying family and friends. However, the pandemic altered life as we know it and me as I knew myself.
I have never been afraid or concerned about change. The unexpected is exciting and refreshing to me. There is a beauty about change and how it enters your life. It is scary, uncomfortable, mysterious, and wonderful simultaneously. I began with Kinesso in January 2020 and was ecstatic about the new position. The energy and environment of the office was fresh and exciting. My first project was a significant company initiative, and I was ready to dive in with the team. Unfortunately, the pandemic reached a crucial point in March, and the offices shut down.
When we were told we would be working from home, I was initially excited. I could be working in my own space, no thought about what to have for lunch or wear to work. My early rising and morning commute transformed to early morning meditations, workouts, and walk into my living room office. But over time, I began to feel that something was missing. My routine became monotonous, and my working days longer. I interacted with my family and some friends, but it wasn’t the same. I missed the spontaneity of speaking to colleagues, making coffee runs, casual meetings in the common areas, and the socialization in the office.
Behind the screen, the introvert in me had to learn how to integrate my social “extrovertness” with friends and family with my new, secluded environment to communicate and create opportunities in the virtual office. What would be a walk-by desk conversation became an email or additional five minutes before or after a meeting to engage with an executive or team member. In-person lunches or coffee runs became virtual social breaks and impromptu fireside chats to get to know people professionally and as individuals.
I discovered the real people behind the “resources” in these conversations. In addition to being brilliant in their respective areas, they were musicians, mothers, entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, philanthropists, and even fellow introverts. They also had an opportunity to know me, a foreign concept. Who would want to know about “Salaama” outside of my role? I found out that people did. We were collectively maneuvering through the shutdown the best way we could. There was value during these times, even if just for a moment.
The pandemic has created this new sense of “normal” in our personal and professional lives. In the last two years, I have learned that regardless of who we are, where we reside, or what we do, we ultimately desire the same thing; connection and collaboration. We may manage it differently, but the goal is the same. I learned how to integrate my introvert and extrovert to create change for myself—taking more risks, talking to people, stepping further out of my comfort zone, and enjoying the joy of both. I still savor my me time, but I am also comfortable striking up a conversation when the opportunity arises.