Lounging is not my thing; I charge my batteries by meeting other people. I immediately signed up at a “care hotel” when COVID put my volunteer work in terminal care on the back burner. I’m also a hostess at the football club, where I welcome visitors, apply bandages, do laundry, and so on. Variety helps me relax.
It is in my nature to keep people together. When COVID emerged, and people in the department started to drift, I started to watch over them like a mother hen. During online meetings, we did ask how everyone was doing. I frequently noticed that “I’m fine” wasn’t the whole story. When I sent them a follow-up message, they were often quite willing to share their struggles.
I also notice that COVID has led to people working more and harder, especially when it comes to researchers. Apparently, it gives them something to hold on to in these uncertain times. Let it go, is what I think, don’t overdo it. Do something completely different, follow a dream, go on a journey, go by yourself if no one cares to join you. And connect with other people. This summer, I hope to make a long-planned journey to the Baltic states and Russia, together with my husband and teenage son. I will certainly be chatting with locals, using hand gestures if I must.
There are people that joined our department whom I have never met. Others have left after many years without having had the chance to say goodbye. I do hope that COVID has taught us that there is a lot of joy in small things, like having a coffee with someone, and that we won’t forget this lesson as soon as the restrictions are lifted. People suffer when they don’t connect. When working in the care hotel, I easily recognise those who have led a life filled with strong bonds – to their parents, children, and friends – and those who haven’t. Foreign students are having an especially tough time. I immediately signed up when the Delft University Chaplaincy invited us to share a Christmas lunch with international students. Next week, they let me know who my guests will be. Bring them on!