In January 2020, I looked warily at my slew of summer commitments and braced for impact, anticipating another crushing season of too much activity and not enough time. Such was the case the summer before when I had landed in a new city and hired an Uber to explore. I asked the driver to take me a good eatery that only the locals know, and we went straight there. By summer evening I rendezvoused with friends for pizza and gelato at an outdoor cafe. We hung out for hours, laughing and sharing life stories as the dusk cooled into an electric summer city night. I enjoyed the people-watching of city dwellers leisurely traversing the boulevard. At closing time, we piled into shared cabs and made our way home.
This all transpired without an afterthought. Moments of such unremarkable casualness, the best thing that happened is that nothing happened.
This summer—the summer of the COVID-19 pandemic—has been different, for sure. It’s been a summer without blockbuster movies that became a summer of deep reading and filmmaking at home. A summer without the mad rush of activity, traffic, and deadlines that has led to the creation of new daily rituals. A summer of no sports for new outings with kids. A summer without international trips that would give way to hidden gems of local trails and scenic state parks just a short drive away. I had forgotten that any simple excuse for sunlight and fresh air can be just as refreshing.
Although I had hoped for a little more downtime, I did not expect a summer of seclusion.
In an effort to recall normal times, I have scrolled through pictures of summers past. I found photographs of people sitting leisurely side-by-side at concerts and in baseball stadiums. It almost made me exclaim, “Look at how close we are!” Except, there is no one with me to exclaim to. Yet, I miss these casual moments as much as I miss the music festivals, or the booming voice of baseball stadium workers yelling for “hot dogs, peanuts, and beer”. Not that this was a normal occurrence for me, but I liked the option.
This season of the pandemic is also very special for the connections deepened with friends and loved ones. Yes, we are linked remotely through technology. No, I don’t know when I will see them again. Yet these events have clearly and profoundly reshaped my value of time. Time is the most precious resource I have: easy to lose and impossible to make more.
When “normal activity” does resume, I know exactly where my time and activity will be prioritized. I will never again become too busy for people I love.
Thank you, COVID-19.
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