If you have an Internet connection and live on Earth, chances are you heard about New Zealand’s M7.8 earthquake last week. That’s right, little old NZ was in global headlines. But that’s not why I’m writing this post – I’ll leave nationalistic-inferiority-complex bragging to our mainstream media.
I live in Wellington. Not very close the epicentre down south, but I sure felt it. And I’d like to share some things I learned that I will be applying to my personal life.
I had just published last week’s post, done some site maintenance, and had headed to the shower.
1. The universe doesn’t give a shit about your convenience – be flexible and deal with it.
There isn’t really a more impolite time for the ground to start swaying than when you are stark naked with soap in your eyes. Maybe an earthquake while you’re under your car draining oil from it while it’s propped up on jack stands would be marginally worse.
But the universe is full honey-badger when it comes to your personal convenience. Sometimes things work out serendipitously, and that’s great. But there is literally nothing that you can do about the ground shaking when you are showering. So you have to manage what life throws at you.
This is true with earthquakes as well as when life throws uncertain or unfavourable circumstances towards you.
So, confidently reach for a towel, wipe your face off and get to a safe location to ride out the moment of misfortune.
Or, drop to the ground and curl up in the foetal position while your inner voice interrogates no one in particular why this misfortune has to happen to YOU and NOW (like I definitely didn’t…)
2. Some people are really awesome (and some are really crappy).
There’s an old saying that suggests people are like teabags, in the sense that their true strength only comes out when they are placed in hot water.
That is true, but it is double-edged sword. Stressful circumstances amplify people’s personalities, which is why there were a lot of amazing, helpful people working at places like the civil defence centres and helping with the clean-up in the more severely damaged towns.
I received Facebook messages from people overseas who I haven’t spoken with in years, who just wanted to know that we were alright. There were business owners who allowed their employees a couple of days to de-stress, take care of their families, and catch up on lost sleep while the aftershock sequence played out.
But it was also an opportunity to see the dark side of others. From the societal scum who took advantage of the evacuations to rob others, to the managers who demanded that their people re-enter an unsafe CBD the very next day, it has been an event that has separated the wheat from the chaff, not just in my experience, but within the wider community.
3. Trust your gut instinct.
We waited far too long before we evacuated for the possible tsunami. I think we knew that given the size and the location of the earthquake that we should have evacuated, but we hung around to see if there would be an official evacuation warning. I can’t really explain why, except that no one else seemed to be evacuating, and without an official evacuation warning, we didn’t want to seem like we were over-reacting.
It’s silly, I know. In hindsight, it is so glaringly obvious.
Fortunately, the tsunami didn’t eventuate to anything significant, but I can guarantee that next time, we will be some of the first to go.
This applies to other areas of life as well. Just because the majority of people are (or aren’t) doing something that you feel differently about, or there is no official announcement to take that action, it is not a valid reason for your inaction.
If you have a gut feeling about something, particularly if it is a potentially life-threatening scenario, follow your own instinct above all else.
4. I can drive really fast.
Just kidding. I already knew that.
But the prospect of an approaching tsunami certainly brings out some phenomenal cornering speed.
5. Always plan for the worst case scenario.
We’ve already established, and you have probably experienced, that challenging circumstances arise out of nowhere sometimes, and that there is no empathetic supervisor ensuring that these occur at the most convenient time for those experiencing it.
So given the above, doesn’t it make sense to be prepared for the worst?
That was a horrifyingly obvious realization that I came to. I have lived my entire life living in a city that is bisected by several historically active fault lines. So, of course, I would have a grab bag with essential first aid equipment and food rations, right?
I hadn’t organized any of that stuff either. Like many of the people in my city, the reality of a major earthquake happening just never really hit home. The most recent quake that caused any significant damage in my city was in the 1850’s, so I had sort of sub-consciously brushed it off, and viewed the idea of preparing an emergency kit to be a bit of an obsessive activity reserved for those who lived their lives in fear.
But there’s nothing wrong with planning for the worst. In fact, it’s a damn good idea. Not just for natural disasters, but do you have a plan for if things go wrong with your career, your health, or your relationship?
I’m not saying that you should become completely OCD and miserable, so don’t spend your life worrying about it. Do what you can to prepare for the worst, and continue giving 100% to your best.
6. Working from home is fantastic.
One of the best things to come out of this earthquake is that almost everyone from my company is working from home.
I always liked the idea of working from home. Mostly so that I could play my own music while I work (or go fishing).
My productivity is much higher than when I was working in the office, despite not sacrificing quite as many hours as I would have in the office. Without commuting time, an endless queue of nonsensical office meetings, and that one guy who stops by my cubicle to “catch up” for an hour or so, I have achieved far more than normal.
Better than that, I have had time to write. I dusted off an old book that I started writing a couple of years ago and continued writing it in what would have been my 2 hours of commuting time. I might even launch it on here once it is completed.
It has been a huge win for productivity – both personally, and for my boss. I am actually quite disappointed that I will need to go back into a cubicle at some point, but since that may not be until next year, I will see if I can get a few more posts published on here.
And no, I haven’t abandoned work to go fishing (yet).
7. My “insomnia” was self-inflicted.
It’s quite funny how the insignificant things that usually kept me awake at night didn’t even get a chance to enter my mind, after a certain level of sleep deprivation in the midst of an aftershock sequence.
Which begs the question – if it didn’t matter when there were other things going on that were taking up my attention, did they ever matter at all?
Even now that the aftershocks have quietened down, I am still sleeping like a baby. Because if I start stressing about something I just ask – if the was a massive earthquake right now, would what I am worrying about matter?
Nine times out of ten, the answer to that question is no. And if it wouldn’t matter then, why let it matter now?
8. Sometimes bad experiences are a catalyst for good.
Even though most of us would have preferred for the ground to have stayed in its normal, unwavering state that we are used to, a lot of good can come from experiences that aren’t fun at the time, including this one.
If it wasn’t for the earthquake, I wouldn’t have gained all of the insights that I have written about above.
If it wasn’t for the earthquake, I wouldn’t have this post to share with you.
Be shaken, not stirred.