Lessons from Lockdown #1: I am a Misanthropic Maverick. Through reading the articles in this online magazine, you will have come across Judith Germain’s definitions of a Maverick (wilfully independent person) and then her sub-categories of Socialised Maverick and Extreme Maverick.
I think that I may have tripped over another definition, another sub-category, when thinking about my own response to the “lockdown” which is currently being applied in the UK to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a coach and professional people-supporter, I feel an inbuilt duty to help. My spouse reckons “She was only ever trying to help” should be my epitaph (personally I would prefer something a little less pathetic in its striving, but hey, I have seen worse!). During the UK’s halting and fragmented response to the virus, I have found myself offering support to fellow business owners (free – no one has taken it up so far … all too busy being stoic, or wound up); and becoming a key worker on an advice helpline. I have also been hosting webinars to help young professionals to handle remote working so that they can still be excellent at their jobs (free); posting online courses (not free).
I can honestly say, however, that almost NONE of this was because I actually like being with the people I am seeking to help. It is the help itself, the impact it makes, the improvement they seek. That’s my motivation, not the liking or needing of people.
Lessons from the lockdown …
My realisation of this then made me explore further. The answer became clear in a flash: I am a fully-fledged, self-identifying Misanthrope. I don’t like people much. I am self-contained, and am happy doing what I do in coaching and leadership development (see my article: The Maverick as a Coach). So long as my clients see the benefit they seek, I am happy.
So when it came to lockdown, this posed a problem. Everyone around me appeared to be feeling a sense of dread (whether that was isolation, fear of the unseen virus enemy, or simply having the kids at home and having to juggle that with work and the financial impact that would have). I completely get that.
So many people have had to take time off work because schools closed. So many more are losing money on furlough or, sadly, at the hands of unscrupulous employers who’ve used COVID-19 as a thin smokescreen to sack people.
And yet …
And yet? I have embraced lockdown as a time of complete joy on a strictly singular personal basis. Just for me, it has offered a time to focus on others for part of the week (key worker duties and the mobilisation of a voluntary sector contact centre from civic site to virtual in volunteers’ homes in under a week) and purely on my business’ clients for the rest of the week.
Lessons from the lockdown?
I am absurdly fortunate that my spouse is an academic so works from home (he and I have worked from home – separately (we tried sharing a shed once – it didn’t go well) for about 30 years) and my two children are adults and self-contained too. I have a garden so can get out and keep fit and access nature all in one. However, the “wilfully independent” Maverick in me has not been focused on the family or garden time. Not even on the cut down in emissions as I chug all over the South of England seeing clients.
My Misanthropic Maverick self has actually been rejoicing in seeing fewer people face to face.
This feels like an admission of a guilty pleasure, a dirty little secret. I “shouldn’t” feel like this. And yet, my Maverick independence manifests as choosing to be isolated, enjoying the total focus on the client and the end game, and being able to effectively remove myself from the mix. By not meeting people as much, my contact becomes via [online video platform of choice]. This offers me a much-needed barrier.
There is no longer the pressure of people’s physical presence.
The wilful pursuit of difference comes into play with my ability to divert energy straight to my clients and my business development. It’s almost as if I am free to become incidental. And that is liberating in a way that non-Mavericks will no doubt consider odd. It is, indeed, “other”. However, it is also valid.
My misanthropy is real, and not coming from a place of harm to anyone. It is about the task, the process, the outcome, not the people.
And that’s just how I like it.
So when “lockdown” here in the UK ends, and people rejoice at going back into their busy offices, being able to go out a little more, be able to be “sociable” a bit more, it won’t be great for everyone. Physical distancing has become the preferred term because “social distancing” was seen as in some way harmful.
My lessons from the lockdown?
I am asserting here that, as a Misanthropic Maverick, I think that “social distancing” has been just fine. And I will miss it when it’s gone.