Back in Time

Do you ever stop and think about decisions that you made in the past and if they were the best choices? As we head into the third year of dealing with COVID-19 and all of the variants that are showing up like unexpected guests, I think about decisions that were made and wonder what it would look like if different decisions were made.

Let’s pause for a moment and return to the year 2019, would you make the same decisions if you could return to that time, knowing the future? It’s a difficult decision, but I would probably change many of my decision-making outcomes. There is also a flip side that has shown me that many of the decisions made three years ago were wise moves.

In 2018, thinking about the future made me smile a lot. I can remember hanging out with friends as we shared information about what we each planned to make 2019 a spectacular year. It was a time filled with laughter, good times, celebrations, and so much love. When I announced that my goal was to move to a new country that may welcome and appreciate me more than my country of birth. Everyone screamed and cheered as they raised a glass or a cup to show their support. Immediately, they all pulled out their mobile calendars to book their vacations to come to visit me in Melbourne, Australia. I was excited to get away from a country that supported one of the worse Presidents in history. With lots of hesitancy and many discussions with my partner, we decided to put our beautiful live/work loft on the market to be sold. We were torn between keeping the property as a business venture or a place to return to live in San Francisco one day, or to cut our ties and start all over again in a new country for me and a return home for them. With lots of debates, reviewing the pros and cons of the situation, we agreed to sell the property, telling myself that it was the best decision. The property sold in less than one month, causing a bit of stress and urgency to find a place to live until our departure. Thanks to wonderful friends and neighbours with an empty loft for rent across the hall, they offered us the space until they were ready to rent it out. I am still eternally grateful to them for their kindness and support during a chaotic time in my life.

My partner left San Francisco in May 2019 to return to Australia. Because of my obligation to complete a project management contract, in late December 2019, I jumped on a plane and headed to Melbourne after working hard to pack and ship many of our belongings via a cargo ship. It was hard work, but a great experience with a wonderful team of movers. I landed in Melbourne, exhausted, but excited to start a new chapter of my life.

To my surprise, I retrieved my N-95 mask from working in public health, that helped me to survive the heavy smoke from the massive bush fires in Australia. As soon as the fires were under control it was announced that something called COVID-19 was starting to have an impact on the world and that masks were mandatory. Initially, I thought one of my friends from government or the media had designed a trick to be played on me to get my reaction to their welcome to Australia. It didn’t take long before I realised it was all true. We were all thrown into a state of emergency. It felt like I was back working in risk management and crisis communication. Without stopping to think, my project management brain took control of me as I started to develop a strategic plan. Coming from America, I silently worried every time I walked into my bank to conduct business, fearing I would be mistaken as a robber.

If I would have known in 2019 what I know today, would I have relocated to Australia? Not one day passes when this question does not enter into my mind and each day the answer is different. If asked today, my answer would be a definite, “No.” Tomorrow may be a clear, “Yes.” Yesterday, I spoke with a friend in Australia, and we agreed that moving and living here may have been a better decision since COVID didn’t hit this part of the world as hard as America and other countries were impacted. I agreed with the observation. However, today, I am overwhelmed at the thought of not being able to see my true friends for the past two-years without certainty of when I will be able to travel again to visit them. Many of my friends are all over the world. I also miss my family, and knowing like me, they are getting older. To my surprise, I also miss working on contracts in San Francisco with so many friends and colleagues. Although I am doing some virtual work there, it’s just not the same. The opportunities in Australia have been stagnant, if not impossible as a result of the hit COVID has on all businesses.

Other friends are struggling with their rental properties because tenants have refused to pay their monthly rent because the government supports them during this time. That’s great for tenants that are genuinely facing difficult times, but several of my friends are going into bankruptcy or default with their home loans because they are receiving no income from tenants. Many of them will file lawsuits or bankruptcy which may destroy their assets. Between now and March 31, 2022, a landlord who seeks to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent or other financial obligations that came due between March 2020 and March 2022 on a tenancy that began before October 1, 2021, must apply for rental assistance before the court will issue a summons in their case. Unfortunately, many of the tenants are savvy enough to know how to work the system to their advantage. CA state laws on eviction cases were amended in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide protections for residential tenants. Overall, I think that this is a great protection if tenants are really in need of support. Every day, I think about how difficult it would be if we had rented our property instead of selling it.

When engaging in conversations with friends, and even strangers in the local shops, the stress of the past couple of years is taking a toll on them, too. Early on I thought it was my own personal depression of ups and downs until people shared, they are feeling the same way every day. We are all struggling to survive and to stay positive for ourselves and for others It’s not easy, but most of us are doing it. The most challenging part is learning how to write the next chapter of my life. It’s a struggle to plan ahead for anything, regardless of what the occasion may be. But I continue to push myself to plan for future courses that may be cancelled or moved to online venues, work events, birthday dinner events, or jazz concerts.

So, is there really a ‘right’ decision at all? Often, I have made a decision that felt was a bad choice, but with hard work it turned out to be a great decision that pushed me to change my life or reach goals that I didn’t believe were possible. The hardest part in this game of truth or consequences is just making a decision to do something as opposed to sitting in the same place for years afraid to make a choice about anything. It can be something as simple as ordering a cheeseburger or a plain hamburger, buying $2 solar lights for the back yard, or something as simple as talking a walk, but fearing that it may rain. That’s why umbrellas are available in all sizes to enable us to walk or dance in the rain. The lesson in life for me is to stop wasting time overthinking a decision that must be made and just do it and move forward.

So, if you could step back in time to January 2019, what would you do different, knowing what you know today in 2022?

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Mikael Wagner is a communications project manager with focus on health promotion, public relations , marketing and focus group facilitation.

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Mikael Wagner

Mikael Wagner

Mikael Wagner is a communications project manager with focus on health promotion, public relations , marketing and focus group facilitation.

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