Last year, at this time I was on my way home from a (last ever?) business trip in the far reaches of Virginia. Heading home after a day of meetings, I stopped at a local Target to pick up some Clorox wipes and Emergen-C. From there I headed to Shenandoah National Park to watch the sunset.
I remember standing there, watching the sun go down by myself. As the sun sank behind the Blue Mountains, I had my own sinking feeling that that might be the last time I’d be that far from home for quite a while. There, in the serene quiet of Shenandoah, I made my peace with the fact that the world was about to get turned upside down.
It was a strange time because I was already doing things like sanitizing after filling up on gas before getting in the car. But the next morning I went to a Waffle House for breakfast and then Ariel and I went to a Knicks game the next night. That Sunday my son Jacob’s daycare had a huge carnival with hundreds of people!
And then boom! A few days later the daycare closed. Then the sports leagues starting shutting down. And then the general closure a week after that.
It was the beginning of a lost year, when getting away was the least of my concerns, but still very much on my mind. Truthfully, we did make the most of this miserable time, really exploring the areas around us, and even taking our first true adventure-style trip with Jacob, to the Catskills. I hadn’t blogged about that trip before now because frankly, I haven’t felt very inspired to write during this miserable time. Furthermore, last year was (somewhat ironically) the 10 year anniversary of my solo road trip across the United States, and so I used our “unplugged” time in the mountains to get caught up on a series of memories I’d intended to write about since I started this blog in 2016.
Normally, I would have gotten caught up on our pictures and experiences on a different getaway, but… there was no other getaway. It was actually a lovely trip filled with hikes through forests and daily road trips with Jacob through the mountains of upstate New York.
But it wasn’t what he had in mind for 2020 at all. And the Catskills, nice as they are, are a poor substitute for “real mountains” as Bilbo would say… Throughout this year of loss and disappointment it’s been easy to get lost in the misery and define ourselves by it, thinking about our “normal” lives as the “before times” – with everything that happened before the virus taking on a dream like quality.
This is doubly true of the short period of time in 2020 that preceded the the shutdowns. As I look back on 2020 it’s very easy forget – indeed it’s almost impossible to wrap my head around the fact – that Ariel and I were in Turks and Caicos just as the virus was beginning to spread through Wuhan. That is mind-boggling to me. And then in January I went to Washington, DC! In mid-February our entire family celebrated my aunt’s 80th birthday at a crowded restaurant in NYC after going to a Broadway show! We found an amazing deal in March to go away for Ariel’s birthday weekend to an NYC hotel with a balcony and a river view! We even had a babysitter lined up and everything… which of course we had to cancel.
All of these events feel like they happened in an alternate universe. The whole period before the virus feels unreal.
But I remember that moment in Shenandoah very vividly though. Knowing the inevitable was coming. Unsure when it would arrive or how bad it would be or how long it would last or how it would end. In many ways I knew that the sun was going down on our old way of life and a new way of life was about to emerge.
Now here we are a year later, and the “new way” is about to give way to an “even newer way” – will it be exactly like before? Like it was in this moment? Will it be better? Will it be worse? I think it will just be different in some very subtle ways. But we will have to wait and see.
Much like the moment in Shenandoah, we are now very much in an “in between” time. When we know things are about to change but we aren’t quite sure how.
The difference is that unlike a year ago, the overriding feeling is not dread, it’s optimism.
Things will be better in a few months, and just as much of our pre-Covid lives were unrecognizable just a few weeks later, so to is the life we are living now going to be almost unrecognizable maybe as soon as weeks from now, but certainly within a few months of now.
The sun is setting on the Covid world. It is soon to rise over the post-Covid world.
And as bad as pretty much losing a year of our lives has been, I’m thankful that we made the best of it – and this it was just that… a lost year. It could have been a lot worse.