“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Francois (our resident designer and lethal GIF user)…

It’s day [lost count a while ago] of national lockdown and it’s my turn to write a blog. A blog which has been haunting me for… lost count on this as well… but let’s go with ‘a while now’.

My knee-jerk reaction towards the procrastination to just write this blog was because I am EXTREMELY self-conscious about my writing in general (this coming from someone who won a national playwriting competition… [INSERT IRONY HERE]). Although, I’ve come realise what makes the writing of this specific blog especially difficult – and it is this: I simply cannot write a blog about any old topic or life lesson or words of wisdom I read on the back of a Hullets sugar sachet. No, because, try as I creatively may, there is no tiptoeing around the current COVID crap-show we find ourselves in. Miss Rona decided to tenaciously hog the spotlight, and while watching/reading/listening to every new development of her daily prime-time reality show, you realise: “Shantay, she gonna stay!”.

Therefore, dear reader, this blog post will not be about one single thing, but rather a few things, or rather thoughts I’ve thunked about over the last (I think) 6 or 7 weeks. Thoughts that evoked a definite and deep sense of “I wish someone told me…” regret. So, here it is, the “Top 5 ‘I wish someone told me’ thoughts” that I (you guessed it) wish someone told me.

ONE: I wish someone told me to be more mindful

Primarily this thought lingered when Covid-19 started making news, and the urging of washing hands and how one should absolutely avoid touching your face with dirty hands was every second headline. The latter really made me realise exactly how much I touch my face during the course of a day and how I do this (for the lack of better words) disgusting act completely mindlessly. Suffice to say I am more mindful of this now to stop myself in allowing this mindless act to happen. But, furthermore, the thought got deeper and I’ve realised that the praxis of mindfulness needs to stretch beyond only that of personal hygiene. Be mindful of others and how your actions (of being too lazy to wear a mask or not sanitising properly) will affect them directly (well in 14 days, #godforbid).

The latter even spills over into being mindful of your own and others’ emotions. Try to listen with your heart and respond with it – not your ego. Be mindful that everyone around is going through this crisis and is impacted by it, so listen to their stories and allow them to speak their truth and vocalise their stresses. And even if you can’t give any practical or emotional solution, the act of being mindful and being present with others allows them to feel heard – and that is sometimes all we yearn for.

TWO: I wish someone told me to stop looking at my phone so much

Now, by choice, I am not that active on any social platforms. The act of displaying a carefully curated depiction of one’s life has lost its appeal the closer I got to my 30’s (which is in less than 3 months). But trust me, I do find myself to be a “scroller” on social media, often browsing endlessly to the point of feeling slightly depressed because I’m not , quote: “…living my best life”.

The following is old news, but studies have shown how social media has impacted our emotional health and caused a significant spike in depression in our current e-hungry epoch. And this is primarily because we constantly compare our lives to those of others who are “…living their best lives”. We see this and we subsequently feel we don’t and, even worse, we feel less than when we don’t reach a certain amount of likes on a post that was intended to display a moment where you were “…living your best life”.

That said, we are fortunate to have technology that gives us immediate updates on current (COVID) affairs so we don’t have to wait for it to be sent via pigeon.

I intentionally use my phone for work and news updates only – and I’ve consciously tried to limit my interaction with social media (even more). I already feel crap about the current situation, don’t need to feel more crap because I’m not able to quarantine at a holiday home.

THREE: I wish someone told me this is the time to be brave, but it’s ok to be scared shi(r)tless sometimes

On the evening our president announced the implementation of the nationwide lockdown, my internal house of cards was kicked over, stomped and spat upon. After the announcement I immediately phoned my closest friend (a hairdresser) and we both sobbed. Now, as a non-crier, the uncertainty of what the future may look like, of not being able to just pop-in and see each other and whether we would survive financially – all of this made me crumble and UGLY cry. But, after the cry, I went to bed and I woke up the next morning accepting this new challenge and realised that I am in a far more privileged position in comparison to my fellow citizens. I decided to stop the b#tching and be brave.

Now, this bravery has been in constant process of ebb and flow and ups and downs. During the downs I’m scared shi(r)tless. But I’ve come to realise that it’s completely fine to have moments you feel the bravery is dwindling and scary reality sinks its teeth into your consciousness, because, as writer Simon Holt puts it: “…if you don’t learn how to be scared, you’ll never really learn how to be brave.”

FOUR: I wish someone told me to enjoy really… really… REALLY enjoy that G&T

In the current liquor ban, I deem the old needlepoint philosophy of “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” really encapsulates the realisation and struggle of not having access to a gin with pretentious condiments… Hell, I can kick myself that I ever considered the condiments to be pretentious. I miss you rosemary, I miss you peppercorns, and I especially miss you precious pomegranate pips. But G&Ts aside, I really wish I never took advantage of the all the small things we are now not allowed to do like high fives & hugs. And it’s only now that you realise that a video call and a kissy emoji will never suffice in transporting love or positive vibes like a hug or a high five could ever do.

I guess the obvious point here is that in times of crisis it’s the once habitual and ‘goes-without-saying’ acts in a day that we never thought would become close to impossible, these are the things you end up missing. You realise it’s those small things, the peppercorns and the pomegranate pips that give life zest.

So next time you can give a high-five, a hug or have a G&T just enjoy the moment…really, REALLY enjoy the moment.

FIVE: I wish someone told me a crisis could feed my creativity

A few weeks ago one of our dearest CN&CO team members, the legendary Penny Hickinbotham, quoted Winston Churchill in her “I wish someone told me…” blog. The quote is short, simple and speaks volumes: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Her blog encapsulated this idea, of using a crisis and allowing it to spark creativity and seek new opportunities in dire circumstances. As stated in one of my previous blogs, we’ve experienced great challenges since COVID-19 injected its worldwide abject terror within our beautiful country and its citizens. In short, all our live events for 2020 was cancelled and we found ourselves feeling absolutely helpless.

Thankfully, having Carel Nolte at the helm of the CN&CO mothership helped to alleviate some of our stresses. Carel guided us to conceptualise and implement our now ‘virtual’ event services.

Over the weeks we’ve allowed the fear of the current crisis to fuel us in looking for various new and exciting opportunities and implementing even more exciting “virtual” events.

These include assisting Easy Equities in hosting a week-long webinar series on all things investment related, to the virtual launch of SATRIX ETFs on the JSE and then, of course, our InsureTalk online insurance conference, which has seen such amazing growth and support since we launched the first of these just a month ago.

All things considered we started off with the crisis with no sense of hope or idea what to do next. But, after taking a step back, taking a breath and applying a creative outlook to this crisis, things have been looking less grim. I think the psychological purpose of any crisis is to instil fear and uncertainty to those it affects, but a crisis can also be fixed and how you fix it needs nothing more than good ol’ creativity.

Final notes

So there you are, some of the thoughts and realisations I wish someone had shared with me a long time ago. Although, I guess these realisations and thoughts come up as we all make our way through life’s ever changing cycles. The one thing I can tell you is when these realisations occur it’s amazing. But the real trick is to let these not only change your perspective during troubling times, but to allow them to become your new normal.

So, once this episode of “Keeping Up With Corona” ends, remember to continue to be mindful, remember that your bravery gets stronger every time you conquer your fears, don’t compare your life to what the your social feed wants you to be, always see moments of crisis as moments for creativity to possibly take sprout, and please… the next G&T you’re allowed to have… Don’t gulp it down, take your time and really… REALLY enjoy the condiments and its delicious aroma.