Full transparency. Pandemic-life is hard for me. Arguably the hardest professional season that I have had to endure in my career (the ARE was very tough but I was blessed to make it through without failing any section).

We recently held our August Board meeting via Zoom. Prior to the pandemic, I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming our 26 Board members from all corners of Virginia to our sleekly designed space in Richmond. Many of these members I have known for a number of years dating back to when I was one of them – a practitioner and fellow volunteer Board member.

Our office’s open floor plan places the kitchen island with three elegant pendant light fixtures as the entry’s focal point. But it is more than just a kitchen island. It is where we gather as professional family. During our Board meeting breaks, this is the space where members congregate to refill coffee, confiscate seconds from the breakfast offerings, and build relationships with one another. The air is typically filled with chatter and laughter. And five-minute breaks would turn into 12-minute breaks requiring the President to slam their gavel on the table to restore a sense of focus. No one seemed to mind. It was a sign that we authentically enjoy each other’s company.

This kitchen island has been vacant for five months now. Our Zoom Board meeting breaks entail clicking the “mute” button, turning off the camera, and heading to the restroom.

Outreach, bringing people together, and presenting with my colleagues at conferences are some of my favorite aspects of this position (some of the best conversations happen at 10:30 p.m. at the hotel bar). My calendar has been wiped clean from meetings in Los Angeles, Omaha, Memphis, and Washington to name a few. I foresee it being this way well beyond the boundaries of 2020.

Now I realize this outlook is a personal one. My introverts out there are thriving right now – living their best life. And as I ponder what the future looks like, there are some bright spots.

I never knew I had so many neighbors. There are hundreds of homes in my neighborhood and prior to the pandemic, I might would see one person while on a morning run. Their duties outside had nothing to do with exercise, but more so allowing their dog to take a bio-break. Today, I habitually see nearly a dozen neighbors walking or biking on my running loop. My family time has increased dramatically which is allowing me to form a relationship with my three-year-old daughter that I never knew was possible. And in a sense, setting up virtual coffee meetings with colleagues around the country is becoming the norm on my schedule opposed to seeing each other at an annual event.

Take this opportunity, to strengthen your relationships with family, friends, and professional colleagues. Recently, a friend shared on Facebook that we should make sure we take a picture with all our siblings. Once you lose one, it is never the same. Let us not look back on these challenging days and have regrets about how we invested our time with and into others.

This is hard. But we are going to be OK in the end.

Be encouraged,

R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA
Executive Vice President