Lately, I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands, as have likely a lot of us in this year and a half of the pandemic (no, it isn’t over just yet, and also, thank you essential workers), and I’ve been thinking a lot about life, about how fragile it all is, how drastically different our lives have become as the weeks and months have dragged on, and what those lives might look like in six, nine, or even twelve months’ time.
2020 was utter hell (except for those of us introverts who actually enjoyed being shut in our homes and not required to make public appearances), and 2021 hasn’t been a whole lot better (although I have been fortunate enough to find someone in the midst of all the chaos with which to share many beautiful adventures). It seems obvious to most of us now that covid may be here to stay, so what will 2022 even look like as we navigate this new covid-infused landscape? Many of us have had to adapt to a new way of life – using masks when we go out, only attending outdoor events or not going out at all, sanitizing everything we touch, getting vaccinated regularly - although some still insist it’s all a hoax (it isn’t). So how do we gather safely, or attend concerts, or travel without putting ourselves and those we love at risk? There are so many variables at play in any of these scenarios, and no one seems to be able to agree on what, if any, they are.
I recall my last visits to Savannah, Los Angeles, New Orleans, the cruise I took to Cuba, and even the last time I ventured out around my home city of Tampa, all before the word “covid” became a household name. And while I enjoyed strolling through the oak-covered Savannah squares, breathing in the fresh Pacific air along Venice Beach, touring the cobblestone streets of Cuba and Hemingway’s home there, even dancing at The Castle in Ybor City, I also recall how easily I took them for granted, that I assumed I would return to them sooner than later, that I assumed I always could.
I’ve also been thinking about all those places I’d still like to visit and wonder if I’ll ever get to see any of them now. And not simply because of this virus, because I’m sure, given enough time and the proper precautions, that life will resume its perpetual flow and we will all be allowed to travel once again, but there are also the economic aspects to consider. Many of us have lost jobs, homes, or even worse, loved ones, and so the idea of travel is a luxury we simply can’t afford to even dream about. Food on the table, a roof over our heads, and staying healthy (both physically and mentally) are the only priorities that (should) matter.
And of course, if the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s this: life itself can be an unpredictable beast, tricking us into illusions that everything will be okay when it won’t always, allowing us to think we’ll get to attend that concert until it’s cancelled, that we’ll get to see our friend again until they’re no longer with us. By now, we should know better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “It’s the not the destination, It's the journey.” And I believe this to be true. Many of us rush through our days, weeks, and months in anticipation of a particular date or event we’ve been looking forward to – that upcoming vacation, a friend’s party, the concert you’ve been dying to attend - and we rarely pause to cherish all those moments that pass in between. We’re so preoccupied with “getting there” that we fail to enjoy the scenery along the way. How many times have we uttered the phrase “I can’t wait” when thinking of a holiday or concert or some other event on the horizon? Part of the beauty of life is in the journey, in the people we meet along the way, in the clear blue skies and the mountains and trees and cityscapes, it’s in our laughter and tears and the silent moments in between, and we shouldn’t ignore those in favor of whatever destination awaits us. We shouldn’t take them for granted, because they may never come again.
And if we’re lucky enough, we get to explore, discover, feel, laugh, love, cry, and just be utterly amazed at the brilliance of the world around us. The people who know this are the ones who have finally figured it all out. The rest of us, well, we’re still trying to catch up.