Twice in the past week, the mayor of Alexandria has announced days with no new COVID-19 cases. My family is entirely vaccinated, except for the final shot for my 14-year-old. I have a half-dozen trips planned for the rest of the year. Even as I acknowledge that there is a chance I will need to cancel, it feels like a slim chance. My weekends are filled with gatherings of friends, mostly outside, as we all celebrate our vaccinations.
It’s a time of celebration. And yet, I have a strange set of mixed feelings.
Part of this, of course, is my worry and grief over the headlines from elsewhere. (Here’s a list of places to donate to nonprofits helping in India).
But I know it’s more than unease at the uncertain future. It’s also a complicated set of emotions around this time of profound adaptation. “I miss waking up and doing my meditation in the morning,” one friend told me. Another remembered what it’s like to lay in a hotel room bed, having eaten and drunk too much at a work conference, high heels kicked off swollen feet, flipping through the channels.
“I didn’t miss that,” she said.
Me, neither. I do miss, now, the sense of closeness I felt with my daughters last spring, and the discovery that people seemed more human when all you could see was their eyes. And the discovery of the hummingbird that lives in my neighborhood.
But I welcome this new phase, too, and the unexpected moments of joy or near-euphoria. Like when my coach at Orangetheory flipped on the fans in the gym, which a corporate dictum had turned off more than a year ago. “I think we’re past this now,” he said.
And the first hugs with my friends!
Mixed feelings bring on an opportunity to know yourself better, as you experience so many unexpected and sometimes powerful emotions in a short time frame. I see signs of movement all around me. One of my friends is going back to finish a long-delayed dissertation; another is applying for a fellowship to help African entrepreneurship. I’m going to use the energy and awareness generated by this time to allow myself to change — with one place to start being public speaking. I’m the most comfortable on the page, but it’s time to step off it, into opportunities created by The New Builders, which I released with Seth Levine three weeks ago.
Ten years after 9/11, I wrote a story for Crain’s New York about how that day changed people. Some people took up new careers; some found their faith renewed or destroyed; some fled the city in the following years for different lives entirely. Most of the time, the pivotal moments in people’s lives are individual. Sometimes, the pivots are shared. 9/11 was one. The pandemic is another, albeit a slow-motion pivot. My sense is that many of us will be changed, most often as we explore new ways to connect to other people.