By Pieter De Wit
The run-up to and the start of the lockdown seems ages ago. I really had no clue about the effect this pandemic would have on my life, but listening to the news, I knew that the COVID-19 virus was not going to spare our little, usually safe country.
I experienced the lockdown in different waves. It started as a tiny ripple in the ocean, grew into waves of disbelief, euphoria and doubt. Then, finally, a big Tsunami washed away my comfortable life in Antwerp.
Friday The 13th
I vividly remember Friday the 13th of March 2020. I was still giving personal training sessions at my club, but the media posts about other gyms closing were getting me nervous. Disbelief soon turned into a reality and shock when my team leader confirmed that from the next day our gym would be closed for at least two weeks.
That weekend my girlfriend and I watched the news three times a day, trying to figure out the magnitude of this so-called pandemic. I was pretty sceptical about all the measures proposed.
A Free Holiday?
On Monday morning, I bought lots of sports gear for outdoor personal training sessions. But on my way home, the radio announced that this would be forbidden too. My business was on hold, and I couldn’t earn money.
I had to accept the situation and stay positive. Soon I started to enjoy my “staycation”. In the mornings, I took the time to have a nice breakfast, read some of the books on my reading list or go for a workout in the park. In the afternoons, I relaxed while enjoying the first rays of early spring sunshine. Life was not too bad.
When the government extended the lockdown, I began to doubt if purely enjoying my days off was a smart decision. I redesigned my website and my Facebook page and tried to motivate my clients into online personal training.
But this was totally new for me, and even more out of my client’s comfort zone. Unfortunately, the handful of clients that were interested couldn’t provide me with a sustainable income.
Social Distancing And Panic Buying
It was a strange time, one we will look back on and tell our children about. I was astonished by the impact of the lockdown when grocery shopping. The line of people waiting their turn to enter the store was like a scene from a war movie. You could feel the tension and people looked at me suspiciously like I carried the virus. Social distancing was widely accepted due to fear of infection. People were hoarding food and especially toilet paper. I couldn’t believe this was really happening!
Although it felt like time stood still, the weeks and months passed by. While some friends and family were very productive, showing off their home workouts and five-star dinners on social media, others felt lonely and a little bit depressed.
I was floating in between. I enjoyed the first few weeks off work and exercised every day, but slowly, I started to feel demotivated, due to the daily monotony and not seeing friends or family.
The Big Tsunami
Spending so much time alone with my thoughts, I was confronted by my living situation. Since 2017 my girlfriend and I have lived together in Antwerp, but she is from the Netherlands and always kept her business and social life there. I didn’t want to give up my work in Belgium, but after working 3 years in the same gym, I took the Corona crisis as a sign and opportunity to start a new chapter in my life.
Last month, I told my girlfriend I was ready to finally move for her to the Netherlands. Now, it is July, and I haven’t earned any real money since March 13th. I terminated my work contract in Antwerp, am leaving my apartment, selling my car and saying goodbye to colleagues and friends. In the slipstream of a crisis, I will try to build a personal training business from scratch in Den Hague. Sometimes I wonder if this is a panic reaction or a deliberate choice, but change is good, change brings growth.
Yesterday I was cycling and listening to a Rob Dial podcast titled “Are you stuck in a cage?” It got me thinking, and I smiled, maybe I was not caged at all, maybe my apartment was my cocoon, and I was contained there to grow.
A caterpillar does not become a butterfly until it goes through that stage of growth. And while I listened to his wise words, I realised what a turbulent time this has been for us all. But without this precious time, I would probably not have made life-changing decisions, so I am grateful and ready to crawl out of my cocoon and fly away like a butterfly.