My last post here was published on January 31st, the Friday before the Super Bowl. That morning I tackled the subject of what low carb snacks to consider serving during the Big Game, this seemed like an important topic in those days. That weekend I also shot, edited, and posted to Instagram a whimsical video on the same subject. In the time since those posts, everything – the whole world – has changed. I’ve always considered myself something of a wordsmith, but I’ve struggled in the time since March to cope with and grasp what was happening well enough to put coherent thoughts on paper. Since the pandemic came to the States in March I’ve bought a home, postponed my wedding and honeymoon, moved, transitioned to a completely work-from-home lifestyle. Everything, like for so many others, is different. Here, finally, are my collected thoughts on three and a half months of quarantine.
Control and Flexibility
If the quarantine has taught me one thing it’s that the view that we are in control of our lives is an illusion. Think about it, even in The Land Before Covid, would you have agreed that the weather, traffic patterns or train ride delays, the songs your favorite radio station played, the actions of your co-workers, and your boss’s attitude had generous impacts on your day? I know I would have, they make HUGE impacts on five out of seven days a week. Yet, we’re in zero control over these things. The virus has magnified this reality. Crystal and I had been planning our April wedding and honeymoon for over a year and we were weeks away from both when, with much agony, we had to postpone.
The additional lesson that this reveals is that life and love demand flexibility. Things worth having are worth waiting for. I remind myself that, in the scheme of living together another 50+ years, an additional five months won’t seem like so much looking back. But time isn’t, of course, the only factor: the collective weight of being so close to one of the biggest days of our lives to see it fall into uncertainty is devastatingly traumatic. One cannot help but ask “What did we do to deserve this?” The inconvenient answer: Nothing. Things like these are out of our control, like with so much else in our lives.
We can control, though, two things: How we prepare and how we respond. If we are merely paddlers in the river that is life, we can nevertheless make sure we have a sturdy canoe and a strong paddle.
One of the first things Crystal and I decided to do, in the wake of working from home and postponing the wedding, was to – temporarily – indulge in a little careless eating. Taking some control back from the virus and diving into snacks and foods I hadn’t eaten since childhood brought nostalgia in waves sufficient enough to help me cope with what was happening. Reese’s Peanut Butter cereal, grilled cheese sandwiches, grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, chicken tenders, Pop-Tarts. It was a culinary trip through simple, non-satiating carbs. For all the reasons I shouldn’t have made that choice – for all the reasons I should have doubled down on my healthy habits – it was fun, it was comforting. We’ve since corrected our ways and are very much back to our Pre-Wedding Diet. But it was fun, innocent, escapism. We could all use a little of that these days.
Equality, as an American and as a Christian, is not something I have spent enough time thinking about in my thirty years of life. Plenty would not be surprised to hear that. Throughout American history, plenty of great words have been written: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. For a long time, though, the promises therein were legally precluded from applying to many. Too many. Even as the letter of various laws have changed, the application of justice and equity has been slow and/or incomplete. Many companies and plenty of my peers took to social media to point this out, the efficacy and authenticity of this sort of thing has brought on much of its own debate. During this time I chose to engage in private, productive conversations with friends, family, and peers about their perspectives and how, at the individual level, we can influence change. I also set out on a journey through a familiar source: Reading. I recognized at the beginning of the protests over the murder of George Floyd that there was so much I didn’t know. To remedy this I dove into books to gain context, perspective, and knowledge.
To that end, three books that I read stand out as particularly enlightening. They are at times uncomfortable, but they are powerful. Those are: How To Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram Kendi, The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, and White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. I learned a lot from these sources. I was amazed to learn, just as one example, that black veterans returning from World War II were, as a matter of legally protected policy, denied access to affordable VA home loans. This is the sort of history that plenty of us don’t know and is the sort of context that Drew Brees, as just one example, might have benefitted from knowing. There were countless other nuggets from these books, and plenty of other books are out there.
Knowledge, in these contexts, is so powerful.
Walt, Steve, and Others
After returning the afore mentioned books to the library, I decided to switch gears to something a little more light hearted. First was “Disney’s Land,” a thorough history of Walt Disney’s journey to breathe life into imagination and bring his idea for Disneyland into reality. Today we know The Walt Disney Company as a multi-billion dollar monolith, but Walt was far from flush as he set out to build his park. Walt had plenty of people around him that genuinely believed him to be brilliant and talented, but he very much felt an anxious isolation about his work – something that resonates with me as an “aspiring writer.” Reading about Walt also served to scratch the itch of my deep rooted Disney addiction, something that’s been put on hold during the Pandemic. I’ve since started a tour of American CEO’s, starting with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. After that I’ll return to Disney history with autobiographies from Michael Eisner and Bob Iger. There’s plenty to learn from successful leaders, regardless of what your own pursuits are.
The More I Read, The More I Write
Time and time again I’ve been told that if I want to write, I have to read. My ravenous consumption of written word over the past two months has served my writers mind and helped me get back to the table. I’m twenty or so hand-written pages into a rough draft of a book that will blend my memoir of an adolescence spent dealing with obesity, the path I took to change that, a social commentary of the environment that made both possible, and tips for those looking to make a transition similar to mine. I’m not an expert on these matters, but I hope that my personal narrative will inspire someone…even just one someone. To that end I am very optimistic and I’m passionate about getting the story out there. Keep your eyes open for details.
In any event folks… Whatever cruel reality the quarantine has cast upon you, it will pass. Eventually we’ll be back to concerts, weddings, and family vacations. Keep your head up. We’ll all be better and stronger on the other side.