2020 almost ends and I am writing this as a look back through the year. 2020 deserves its own essay in my life, written through my point of view without disregarding the hardships that other people may encounter during the year. How was your 2020?
Disclaimer: Please note that this essay is my personal account about going through a pandemic as a freelance transcriber. I’m trying extremely hard not to be insensitive of what other people going through during these challenging times.
Warning: This is a long damn post
The 2020 Pandemic
While dealing with the aftermath of the flood, I started hearing news about some dangerous illness originated from China that wrecks human lungs. Great—what now? Every news feed was filled with Wuhan, coronavirus, disease, infection, blah blah blah. Little did I thought that it’s becoming bigger and bigger, and we ended up with a pandemic. I won’t bore you with the details. I’m sure we all remember how it all started respectively to wherever we are located.
We got our confirmed case of COVID-19 on 2 March 2020. The “epicentre” was in Depok, nearby my old campus. Things went downhill from there, and by the end of March, I found myself voluntarily isolating from the world. No one in the house was to go out for whatsoever reason. The official state of the country was “no lockdown”, but there are limitations set up for several public spaces and offices. Some establishment did shut down completely.
2020 presents me (and millions of other people) with a weird style of Eid. I kind of like it, though. I don’t need to put on my make-up and just do some Whatsapp calls with the relatives. Nevertheless, the pandemic pushed me to make some changes. There are privileges that I couldn’t do anymore due to COVID. But my prevented privileges are nothing compared to what other people encounter out there.
The pandemic hits hard for everyone. People lose their jobs, houses, health, and some—lives. I don’t know how to proceed and process the information or the changes needed to be made. At first, it seemed too complicated to remember bringing and wearing masks everywhere I go—I mean, if I go out. And that is a big if. Of course, I looked for comfortable and safe masks to wear. I found this one shop headquartered in Bandung who makes awesome 2-ply and 3-ply masks. It was a little bit expensive but very much worth the price! I love my masks.
Depressing. It’s depressing to see nobody on the street. It’s depressing not to be able to go out whenever I want. But it’s all for the good of the humankind. In the middle of our mini-lockdown, I realised that I need to view life differently. Tolerance and understanding must be expanded and extended to a higher degree, and this comes in handy in my work life. I lost a friend to the disease and several acquaintances who contracted the disease hopefully with progressing recovery. While the world outside scrambles through to handle the pandemic, rampage with disinformation and ignorant people, I am hunkering down in my own little corner.
Freelancing in 2020
I practically didn’t work during the two weeks following the flood. I got back to work on the third week of January, I think, but it wasn’t a full-time slot yet. I was still worried that the flood will happen again because the dam wasn’t fixed yet. But when the reality of the pandemic hit, I began to worry about something else, my job. Freelancing online is new to me, and I don’t know what to expect at all. Buzz words like unprecendented, unusual, and high unemployment haunt me since the beginning of all this.
Worrying about being a part of the statistics is not healthy. I decided to pile on and observe the pool in my work field. The worries began to decrease when I saw the behaviour of my clients and the job feed in Upwork. Up until June 2020, it shows no slowing down on the job posting feed—I kept on seeing new job posted there. There was a slow flow of workload within the agency I’m working with. So then, I decided to use my Upwork Connects and submit proposals to prospective new clients.
I managed to secure several new short-term contracts in Upwork. It’s a great variation from the usual topic that I’m dealing with, so it’s always an upside. It takes a while for people to readjust and rearrange their methods of data gathering through interview. I’m guessing, especially students were waiting for new policy and news from their respective universities or schools.
It wasn’t until August when the avalanche of audio files came through one of my active contracts. By September, I realised that transcription has become necessary for people who need it. So far, I don’t see any shift happening in the transcription industry. Yes, the existence of AI is still looming over my head. But I also still believe that nothing beats the human ears, really.
One thing I noticed is that the quality of audio files I received became much clearer and great to work with. I love it and enjoy it very much working with Zoom audio/video recordings. I also notice that I work a little bit faster because of the awesome audio qualities that I received.
Dealing with the Burnout
Like millions of those working during this pandemic, I find it really hard to deal with symptoms of burnout because usually, I can go somewhere to relax. Currently, the options are the kitchen, the balcony, and the bed. The urges to complain and whine are palpable, believe me, you. But I can’t. It’s a pandemic. I can’t whine now.
I don’t easily get burnout at work, on or off the field. I thought that having been working from home since pre-pandemic won’t get me thinking about unnecessary things. But I was wrong. That thing called cabin fever, it’s real. If I am not sensible, I might have done something considered as unnecessary travelling, which can expose me or expose someone else to the disease. Nothing can be done about travelling at this moment, so I’ll try to let it go.
As a continuation of the painful wrists story that led me to write about tips on keeping your hands healthy while transcribing. I’m happy to report that I no longer suffer from repetitive strain injury. I tried so hard to keep on track with the frequent breaks, the hot water soak sessions, and the wrist yoga. Since the pandemic hit, I can no longer have my massage therapist coming to the house. Plus, I heard she’s hunkering down at her hometown with her family until all of this is over.
HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THESE?
1. Taking frequent breaks
2. Stretching or yoga routine
3. Create an ergonomic workspace
4. Massage therapy
5. Apply Pomodoro method
Transcription workload has been—thankfully—pretty much consistent during this pandemic, and that reminded me to keep maintaining the pattern that I have established. I’m still trying to make this pattern into a habit. But gosh, it’s so hard—I’m too lazy sometimes to get up and do the yoga routines.
Come to think of it, it’s been a year that I didn’t get a whole-body massage therapy. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have one in the near future?! Anyways, no symptoms, no pains, no spasms at all during the entire 2020. So, apart from not being granted freedom of movement due to the pandemic, I don’t have the wrist injury anymore, and I intend to keep it that way. Remember, wear your mask and take a break!
In line with my no-more-wrist-pain program, I managed to keep myself doing the five easy tips. I have also rediscovered yoga, not only for the wrist, but I began to do yoga again when I don’t feel as lazy. I guess, there’s no straightforward recipe for dealing with burnout apart from being kind to myself, and not overexerting work. Yes, the workload can be a pain. But I guess, my time management system is quite burnout-proof.
Reflecting on 2020
If I can be honest, the pandemic has no direct impact on my life (yet), because I have been working remotely since 2018. So, all the hubbub about working from home is not taking over my attention whatsoever. I am grateful that I still keep my current transcription contracts active with never-ending tasks. August came and went, our “lockdown” was eased off, and I’m still stuck at home mostly due to work demands.
I’m lucky, or we’re lucky, that everybody is still maintaining their health and safety right now. For me, 2020—the pandemic year—brought several positive things. I got to rediscover yoga, I have more time to redesign the website, and I rekindled my once-forgotten hobby: reading. All of those I can retain for years to come.
We all wish that the pandemic will be over soon. News says that a number of vaccines have been rolled out to the population, though they’re now focusing more on the more vulnerable ones. I don’t doubt for one bit the advancement of science in the 21st century. We’re not in the position of when the Black Death or the Spanish Flu happened, and I’ll gladly follow any health measurements that are required.
Am I looking forward to 2021? Perhaps. I mean, I don’t know what to expect in 2021. I don’t see a point to have a new year resolution anymore, cause the one I made in 2020 crashed and burnt right in the beginning of the year. I think I’m still going to be in the riding-the-year mode in 2021 as we all look out for updates and progress with the vaccines. I seriously want to get it as soon as I can and then off to a beach somewhere.
So, how was your 2020?