While the pandemic is a dire situation to be sure, blessedly, the deadly virus hasn’t taken anyone we know. And, with various accommodations, most of the people we know have been able to continue to forge ahead in their jobs and schools. That’s the good news.
The bad news is, for those fortunate enough to have not lost loved ones or their livelihoods, the lock-down accommodations created to keep everything from seizing-up entirely have birthed twin problems of their own: boredom and loneliness.
Under extended time at home, a petulant melancholy eventually settles in.
How could it not?
Who hasn’t felt disconsolate at being deprived everyday things that used to be taken for granted? Going to a movie, a museum, meeting friends at a restaurant for a meal, or even the simple act of hugging loved ones – all verboten.
If you work outside the home in a customer-facing job, you now interact with masked people in muted, wary exchanges that feel anonymous and even threatening. If you work from home, you’ve discovered the struggle to keep from feeling like you live at your office is a losing battle. Stuck, everyone putters around and checks to see whether it’s time to eat. Again.
Without the punctuation of the diversions you used to pursue, your days gradually melt together and start to speed past like an uninteresting time-lapse video of the sun rising and setting over and over again. A blur of monotony.
You’re surprised each time you look at the calendar and realize the year has come to an end, but you cannot recall any meaningful thing you did in that time.
Meanwhile, on the road, Glenn and I experienced minimal impact from the pandemic.
With every day filled with new sights and novel challenges, time moved slowly for us. Sure, we were a little disappointed when some of the places we visited had reduced services or other pandemic closures. Aside from that, however, we were able to continue on our happy way and pursue our sightseeing goals largely unimpeded.
With so many things jammed into each day, the time since our departure in September felt stretched, full to bursting with new experiences. Glenn and I kept remarking to each other that we felt like it had been more like nine months on the road. Time has moved slower for us – in a good way.
Well, that ride came to a grinding halt as we turned our calendars to December. That marked our unceremonious eviction from a public campground as California’s COVID lock downs dropped its hammer, smashing our ambitious itinerary. Concussive rounds of cancellation notices followed, informing us – with cursory regrets about the necessity – that refunds were forthcoming.
We scrambled and found a place to hunker and refactor our decimated plans – a quiet KOA campground where most guests live full-time. Surrounded by the repetitive cycle of their ordered daily schedules, we watched as they formed our own time-lapse video of December flickering through the windows of our 150 square foot teeny home.
During that month, refunds for our cancelled future memories trickled in. We too surrendered to ennui. We lost motivation to write or to engage in anything remotely productive.
Like everyone else, we had also begun to simply pass the time.
We indulged in the numbing pastime of online gaming and generally lazed about (in between a few excursions we pushed ourselves to take). Without consulting calendar notes to keep our heads straight, we would be hard pressed to say what we did the past many weeks.
Nowhere to Go but Up
That changed with the turn of the new year. Our emergence from our safe harbor campground and initialization of our new plans coincided with the beginning of 2021.
That hidey-hole was in the hills near the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail – a hiking trail between Mexico and Canada spanning 2,650 miles strung along west coast mountain peaks. That landmark set next to the Mexico border “wall” became a literal and figurative turning point as we turned north to head up the coast in January (check our map here).
The distribution of vaccines offers the first real prospect of an eventual return to whatever the new normal will be. Until that time, we continue to forge ahead.
We do so with renewed appreciation of the mundanities we once took for granted, even as we look forward to a time they can be taken for granted again. We will continue to practice patience with ourselves and others as we all do our best to find our new paths.
If 2020 taught us anything, it delivered a collective lesson that planning itself is an act of hubris. Hubris to believe that we can predict enough of the future to make it worthwhile to invest time, money, or emotion into anything that doesn’t pay off immediately.
Because it can often prove futile, planning is also an act of defiance … and hope.
And so it is with conscious hubris (tempered by the sting of recent experience) that we emerge from the mangled wreckage of our plans, armed with shiny new ones to take their place.
After our pause, we are looking forward to the new year. We even have the audacity to hope it will be a kinder one for us all.