Let’s Not Go Back

Was it only six weeks ago when I’d fill my coffee mug and walk over to a co-workers desk to discuss curriculum? Five of us all crammed in one tiny office, we knew what each other ate for lunch, and how to diffuse almost any situation with humor. I’d head home in the evening, deal with congested freeways, casually glancing at all the homeless encampments along the expressway.  Larry and I would grab dinner at Tomato Time, split a plate of pasta at the bar, catch up with friends doing the same thing.

Those times are over. Suddenly I’m confined to my house and spouse, flagging our territory with computer screens, and charging stations. I’m day caring my grandkids, constantly washing my hands, attempting to teach students with spotty wireless connections, and accept I will never be able to find everything on my grocery list. On top of that, we’re worried about getting sick, economic disaster, and running out of much-needed supplies. We’re still under the same expectations to procure flex learning plans, lead teams, deliver results. It’s challenging to say the least.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I miss, but also about the things I’d prefer not to return to after this blasted quarantine is over. Jim Goudreau sent me this quote by Dave Hollis who asks, “in the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to?” Just because something was part of our past does not mean we need to drag it into the future. Chinonye Chidolue says it is mental slavery to cling to things that have stopped serving a purpose in your life.

For one I don’t miss mass shootings. I don’t miss hearing about some horrific bombing at a beloved marathon. I don’t miss students practicing for live shooter threats on campus. Today I was browsing through old blogs when I stumbled on a piece I wrote after the Las Vegas shooting at the outdoor concert and I wrote: “I’m so tired of increasing body counts.” Across the globe, we are not gathering at churches, schools, concerts, parades, marathons, bars, and cafes. The shooters have been completely thwarted. Let’s not go back.

It seems clear we have the ability to clean up the environment, almost overnight, if we work together. Who wants to go back to wasting precious time sitting in traffic jams, paying exorbitant gas prices, and auto insurance rates? Remember all the bad air quality days we used to have? According to a recent study, more air pollution means more deaths, even at low levels of air pollution, and short exposures to it. Let’s not go back.

Do we really need to commute to work every day when working at home at least some of the time is sufficient? Do we have to fly across the country when a zoom call is enough to share information and strategize cooperatively? Can we accomplish just as much working remotely as we did before sheltering in place became our new normal? I think we can make compromises that allow for spending less time commuting to offices and more time with the people we love. Let’s not go back.

Maybe we don’t need to fill in every minute of the day with tasks? We seem to confuse busy with important, busy as a morality, busy with our self-esteem, but now that my life has powered down, I’m sort of enjoying the pause. Time to sit with my thoughts, a warm cup of coffee, a good book – and not feel guilty. I’m so leaving the guilt behind. Roy Bennett says if you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down. Let’s not go back.

I’m not worried about spit polishing my appearance every damn day (not that I ever gave it a lot of thought). I’m sort of loving these new minimal grooming requirements and knowing that no one is going to stop by! I admit I miss the drop ins, I always enjoy a surprise visitor, but there is something appealing about the simplicity of not having to do it all. Maybe it’s time to reassess my grooming standards? Make-up, contacts, clean hair. Who needs all that?

We know a little more about educating on-line, attaining student buy-in, and challenging our current educational system. Could this be our chance to revamp an antiquated system of tests, scores, grades into a genuine desire to learn, an enthusiasm for our own development, an education driven by individual needs instead of outcomes? Let’s not go back.

I’m seeing leaders rise up in places one would never expect, small restaurant owners offering a roll of toilet paper with take-out, because their bathrooms are no longer in use. Grocery stores partnering with hotel chains to hire laid-off workers as grocery store staff. Hardware stores hiring construction workers to help assist customers with supplies for home improvement projects which have quadrupled.

Thousands of people are donating time and money to help organize and supply food distribution centers, establish emergency shelters, and counseling services for those in need. Let’s return to a time when we didn’t waste resources, people, skills, and our greatest asset ~ ingenuity. We’ve become complacent, let’s not go back.

Zoom has become my go to forum for communication, other than unexpected drop-ins, they have kept pretty good pace with all the demand. Disney plus is releasing children’s movies and programs ahead of schedule as a way of helping beleaguered parents entertain kids while working remote. Praise be to God. Retired nurses are putting on scrubs and returning to work to help out with all the COVID-19 patients.

Even though it feels as if much of life is out of my control, I still have free will, I can still make choices about the things that matter. Steve Maraboloi says, “incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

In many ways, we are going to have to start over once all these restrictions are lifted. This is when choice is going to come into play. Are we going to slip back into our old ways of being in the world? Or are we going to hang onto these hard-earned lessons and refuse to return to “normal.” There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Terry Pratchett says balloons are designed to teach us this. I love that.

Life will most likely never be the same, we can’t return to the past as if Michael J. Fox, because everything we do matters. It took a virus to wake me up and open my eyes to the ways in which I was settling. Haruki Murakami says “most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through is now like something from the distant past. We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” This is our Corona.

Of course, I miss stupid things like having my nails done, my hair cut, my ergonomically designed office chair. I miss important things like eye to eye conversations, engaging with organically inspired topics with my students, reaching out when I know you are hurting or troubled, and offering a hug.

I miss being able to plan for my future, this includes trips to see the kids, walking the El Camino, celebrating milestones, staying at the villa in Italy with our gang, family dinners on the patio, spending time with my sister, meeting downtown for margaritas, playing games with the neighbors, wine tasting in SLO with Marta and Ken, standing shoulder to shoulder with 600 students singing the alma mater, holding on to that which is most important – each other.

Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.

– Doc Brown

What do you miss? What will you leave behind?

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