Today marks the completion of my 42nd journey around the sun and the start of my 43rd.
Perhaps more than any previous January 21, I feel as if I’m optimistically standing on the verge of a turnaround. I feel this despite the ongoing pandemic that has ground our existence down to the confines of our homes and callously tossed normalcy into a bin of memories.
We all remain a long journey from our post-pandemic aspirations. This tempers the hope and optimism, keeping it mostly to green upshots in the soil.
Clouds, though, don’t retreat all at once. Sometimes when the sun doesn’t shine directly on us, it’s enough to see patches of blue in the distance. And if those clouds are moving in the right direction, that welcomed sight of blue will be over top of us soon enough. Patience. Just a little more.
Has the pandemic changed me? I don’t know and may not for some time. I can say my marriage remains the strongest part of my life and being Dad to my three children is the mission that continues to drive what I do day by day.
If anything, those have remained constant. Those have steadied me, and I hope I have steadied them.
There is work ahead, things still to accomplish, stories left unwritten, photos yet untaken. They’ve been the subject of daydreams and, in some cases, broken pieces of past efforts that I never followed through on. I thought the time isolated at home would afford the chance to finish them. I did not.
As I enjoy a bowl of banana pudding my wife made for me today (a little something different for No. 42), I can choose to be excited about the blank canvas rather than be consumed by bleakness.
It’s true that like many of you I’ve allowed the anxiety, stress, and confines of the pandemic to sweep away ambition, drive, and the endeavors that used to make the commute to work and day-to-day grind of a job bearable. I had books I wanted to write. Places and people I wanted to photograph.
My wife and I dreamed of travel. We imagined our children at play in different locales (beaches, cities, and mountains) reachable by means of long car rides, plane tickets, or movement by passenger train. The pandemic stole many of those dreams away.
The stay-and-work-at-home lifestyle has left us exhausted with no break. When we’re not tethered to laptops and responsibilities that provide the necessary compensation to remain in our wonderful house, we’re trying with varying degrees of success to be good parents to our 9-, 6-, and not-yet 2-year-old sons.
I’ve had bouts of insomnia. I’ve been too easily short-tempered. My jeans fit a little tighter, the beard grayer, the pleasure I used to take in hobbies like collecting vinyl records dissipated a little. My wife wrestles with a restlessness that cannot be satiated with endless hours of looking at Airbnb properties and Pinterest travel boards. Our kids’ eyes look lifeless after six hours of school on an iPad, and the only way they can spend quality time with their friends is by way of playing video games while keeping an iPhone nearby for FaceTiming.
The mother of a T-ball player I once coached wrote to me today. She let me know her son was interested in whether I was coaching again and that I had been his favorite. I lost it. I mean shut it all down and go hide in a closet lost it. Ten months of pent up emotions and the longing for human connections, to teach young baseball and soccer players like my own sons, to enjoy the broad community of friends we had, to sit by a backyard fire with a glass of gin-and-tonic and swap stories with neighbors, it all just rained down.
But I feel the mold beginning to crack.
There’s a palpable frustration out there about the pace by which the vaccine has been distributed, but it’s worth noting that there is a vaccine worth getting frustrated over. That’s worth something, more than perhaps we’re ready to accept because we all want it now.
A new President and Vice President who refers to the political opposition as his fellow countrymen and women took the oath of office yesterday. That’s worth something.
COVID-19 case counts are falling, and while they are not yet at levels to make us feel comfortable about how safe it is to go to a grocery store or play at a park, they’re moving in the right direction.
January’s nearly done. That’s a big chunk of winter already past. As Simon & Garfunkel once sang, “April she will come” and “May she will stay.”
Warmer weather. More vaccine. Schools reopening. Kids at play again. Destinations reached. New stories to discover. New images to make.
None of it is here yet. And yet, for the first time since March, perhaps naively, I get the sense that it’s all ahead of us and closer than perhaps we know. A long way to journey, still, but increasingly our hopes become more and more plausible.
And by the time we get to your birthday, we’ll probably be even closer.
Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. He lives with his wife, Alison, and their three sons. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.