The Most Important Thing I Learned Post-Pandemic
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Exactly a year ago, in the height of the pandemic, my son and I drove from our home in Henderson, Nevada, to Bryce Canyon in Utah to meet up with friends from the East Coast, who drove an RV across the country to visit national parks in the West. We had been in strict isolation since March, and to spend an extended amount time with friends in a safe manner—we had set up camp and spent all our time outdoors—was glorious. For a few days, life felt somewhat normal. Our boys, then ranging in age from 7 to 15, had a great time exploring the hoodoos at the canyon and eating s’mores by campfire.
We vowed to repeat the experience this summer, and we did. We just returned from a weeklong camping trip through California. My friends flew from Maryland to LA, rented an RV, and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway all the way up to San Francisco for the first week. My son and I joined them on the second week of the trip, meeting them at Yosemite National Park for a couple of days of camping, then to Sequoia National Park, and finally ending our week in San Diego, where our kids swam in the ocean, ate ice cream and spent hours at the pool.
It was the perfect summer vacation, or as perfect as we could give our children even though we are technically still in the midst of a pandemic. Unlike last summer, when we tentatively gave each other hugs, fully masked, this time around, all of us (except for the two youngest kids) were vaccinated, and we felt more free to be in closer proximity, even dining indoors together and hanging out inside their RV.
This is what we humans are meant to do, to foster and strengthen our bonds with each other, to look at each other’s uncovered faces and hear each other laugh, to walk down dark roads and look up at the sky and be awed by the brightness of stars, to give long hugs even as we say goodbye.
All the adults remarked about the sense of relief and freedom we felt this year. Watching our kids play and hold hands as they went into the ocean together filled my heart with gratitude. This is what we humans are meant to do, to foster and strengthen our bonds with each other, to look at each other’s uncovered faces and hear each other laugh, to walk down dark roads and look up at the sky and be awed by the brightness of stars, to give long hugs even as we say goodbye.
There are many lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic. It taught me that while I am a natural introvert, I need to be around people to thrive. It showed me the importance of community, of reaching out to others who may not outwardly show their struggles but could really use help or maybe just some company. It opened up my imagination to what is possible when I put my mind to something, and that I am more self-sufficient and capable than I believed myself to be.
In our soon-to-be post-pandemic world, this week with friends gave me the biggest revelation of all: spend as much time with the people you love — even if it means flying cross-country and driving hundreds of miles, hot and sometimes grumpy kids in tow — and don’t hesitate to tell them you love them. Life is way too short and too fragile for anything else.