It’s official. On 15 June, my home state of California “Opened Back Up.” So far, it feels like a mixed-bag response. At the gas station: no masks, people chatting — as though pumping gas was the best party they’d been to in over a year. But at my fav craft store, the masked guard was still at the front door, sanitizer at the ready. Masked-up customers glared at uncovered faces. It felt weird and intense, but I get it. After a year in isolation, many people are wondering the same thing. Is it really (really) safe for me to go back to living my normal life? More importantly, is that even desirable? Seeking ‘better’, not a return to ‘what was’
According to social stats in the U.S., waiting to be allowed to go-back — to whatever ‘normal’ was a year ago — hasn’t felt right for many people. Especially older millennials. The pandemic-pandemonium became an invitation — to question all of the status-quos in their lives. Work. School. Relationships. Health and well-being. Radical changes and risk-taking became the “Duh!” response to feeling stuck. Jobless. Clueless. Exchanging city-life for country-life. Or van-life. My own son lost his job in Tech and left for six months on the Pacific Crest Trail. YOLO on steroids, but with fears attached: “What if this change I’m making, risk I’m taking, turns out to be a huge mistake?”
It took me a minute to realize that I, too, was overdue for clarity about certain personal and professional growth issues. More than a minute, to embrace a total reset of what I was doing and where I was going. Just before the pandemic hit here in the U.S., I’d finished my doctoral degree. Phase Two of my plan involved a major career shift. I was totally jazzed. But in a few short months, my new ambition and purpose, like little bright-green shoots, shriveled up and died. Nuked by Covid.
I’ve faced some pretty big roadblocks in my life. Many of them self-created — by not understanding who and what was true and good for me. So it feels ironic that in my older, wiser, more centered stage of life, I’d hit this random ‘wall’. Which then caused me to seriously doubt, or second-guess, an important and expensive choice I’d made by seeking a new life direction. What I’ve Learned During the Pandemic
Sigmund Freud (“The Father of Psychoanalysis”) believed that only two emotions are behind any choice I make: fear, or desire. As I think more deeply about the attitude- and practical-adjustments I’ve had to make recently, it dawns on me. Every desire I’ve ever had – a personal goal, a new job, a new place to live, or a new person in my life – has been tinged with fear. Fear of risk; of change; of loss. Fear of making the wrong decision, with no easy way to walk it back.
Like when I quit a soul-killing but stable job (with amazing benefits), leaving family & friends to move to Los Angeles. To look for a job. Or, when I chose to put a solid relationship on ‘hold’ to travel the world; coming back to find out we weren’t as solid as I thought. Or, spending three years of my life on a professional degree that soon seemed pointless.
There’s only one clear way for me to move forward now, and I’m making peace with it. Whether it’s by choice, or by ‘pandemic’, Life’s going to offer me Updates. Whatever I choose, or don’t choose might have unintended consequences. But I’m going to ease up on myself. I’m going to stop referring to those ‘consequences’ as ‘mistakes’.
The only mistake I could ever make would be in not believing in my own emotional resilience. Contrary to what Freud said, my desires and my fears can and do co-exist happily; or at least, peacefully. Turns out, taking risks and facing fears — to fulfill a strong desire — is an important part of Who I Am. And who I always will be. How Was I Living My Life Before the Pandemic?