It has been far too long since I boarded an airplane or walked up the gangplank to a ship. It seems like forever ago that I last hailed a cab in an unfamiliar city, or booked an excursion in a foreign land. It’s been longer than I’d like since I last threw an overnight bag in the trunk of my car for a quick trip just for the fun of it.
Don’t get me wrong. We moved to a new home in another state during the pandemic. That was an experience I had not planned. I have truly enjoyed forging a new life in a new community over the past six months. Moving from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to small-town Arkansas was the right decision at the right time, and my husband and I have no regrets. We are happy to be here.
We have made many friends, and we are busy with our new lives.
But I miss traveling.
Setting out on new journeys is not only a familiar lifestyle, it is part and parcel of my being, embedded in my DNA.
Staying put is not something I ever mastered. The old restlessness has returned in spades. Luckily, I have now had both doses of a vaccine that promises to get the world on the path to recovery from this virus and from the fear and uncertainty that have gripped us over the past year.
I know that others have dealt with far more important issues this year. I, too, grieve for the lives lost and the the lives disrupted by this terrible illness. But for a year now, as COVID-19 dominated each nightly newscast, permeated our waking hours, limited our activities, affected people’s livelihoods, and invaded the collective consciousness of the nation, it also had an effect on our well-being that had little to do with the physical pain or the threat of physical illness. It has taken an emotional and psychological toll that we are only now beginning to realize, confirm and understand. Those effects may be the most difficult to combat.
I am now quite certain that “normal” will not return — not soon, probably not ever. The melancholia I face centers around missing the sights and sounds of new places. I miss exchanging pleasantries with others who stand in line at airports to check in for flights and wait patiently at terminal kiosks to collect luggage. I even miss the cramped seats and the lack of leg room, because I know that they are only temporary, and they are the price of new adventure. I miss the the thrill of unfamiliar horizons and faraway places. I miss meeting new people and making new friends. Most of all, I miss the dreams, the expectations; the ability to pack up and leave the familiar behind at will has been a gift. I understand that. I yearn for those times to return.
I know that one day I’ll be back on the road. It will not be the same, and it’s long overdue. Because, after all is said and done, embracing the unknown is what life is all about.
I am curious about what this year has meant to others. What do you miss the most? The closeness of family, the ability to meet others and be a part of a crowd at a concert or a baseball game, the freedom to go and be and do what you wish when you wish? Or do you miss hugging your grandchildren and being with your parents, your classmates or your coworkers?
When the restrictions are eased, what is it that you will do first?
It’s time to think about the next step. Because the “new normal” will not be what normal once was for any of us.
As some restrictions are lifted, it’s now up to each of us to shape the future. Hopefully, your future will turn out the way you want it. I hope it will be good for all of us.