11 March 2023
It’s the third anniversary of the pandemic, our third pandemiversary. A lot has changed in the last three years, both for me and for the world. Whatever lessons we may be learning are not coming fast enough. They may not come at all, but I continue to hope they may come yet.
Today I was remembering March 11, 2020. I was visiting family in Minneapolis. My sister and I had a nice day: lunch, happy hour, we brought my nephew to a swim class, and then we all met up with my brother-in-law and went out to eat. When we got back to the house, the news was saying an official pandemic was declared, and (as I’ve put it ever since), the world changed, but not even overnight. It was faster than that.
I ended up renting a car and driving home instead of flying.
As I joked at the time, Spring Break 2020 never really ended (and not in a fun way) as we didn’t return to the classroom in person until the fall. I’ve continued to teach mostly online ever since, although I’ll be back mostly in person in fall 2023. (Now my joke is that being on sabbatical is kind of like winter break never ended for me…)
A lot of people were done with the pandemic a year or more ago. Most people talk as if it’s over; COVID has moved into the past tense. The statistics are now mostly difficult, or impossible to gather and many local health boards have stopped tracking anything but hospitalizations, but it does seem like we’ve maybe reached a point that must’ve been reached around 1921 after the pandemic that began in 1918 where a lot of people have some protection. But, of course, a new nasty variant could always crop up and change everything.
And some people are still getting it. 2022 was the year that Beth and I finally got it. It sucked, but we stayed out of the hospital. Others are not so lucky. Death rates are much lower, but not zero.
Last month in Denver, I went to my first big in-person philosophy conference
since Jan. 2020. It was nice to see everyone in person. I inconsistently wore a mask, and mostly I didn’t. I figured a group of academics would be overwhelmingly vaccinated. I did go to a lot of bars and restaurants. It seemed almost normal. But I did wear a mask on the plane. I still wear one at the doctor, pharmacy, and grocery store—places where I figure vulnerable people have to be.
Beth met me and we rented a car and drove down to New Mexico, which was awesome. We were supposed to visit New Mexico in May of 2020, so this was an overdue visit. We hadn’t been there since 2015, so we ate a lot of green chile and realized how much we miss New Mexico. It has its own culture in a way that most US states do not. I always say that Albuquerque was my favorite of the many places I’ve lived, and that continues to be true.
I have another conference in San Francisco next month. I’m planning to make use of being on sabbatical by making an epic road trip out of it, and may even get to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho on the way back (three states I’ve never visited). My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew will be visiting my brother-in-law's family in Reno right before the conference, so I’ll stop to hang out with them for a few days, too. It should be a fun time! And hopefully no new pandemics will start on this visit…
Driving still feels safer than flying on the COVID front, anyway. And weird as it may sound, spending several days alone on the road may be just what I need. Or it may be mind-numbingly awful, or filled with bad weather. We’ll see.
In general, I’m still a bit anxious and no doubt changed by this whole thing in ways I may not completely understand for years, but it does feel like I’m sort of finding a way back to … I won’t say “normal,” because normal wasn’t actually that great for me or for the world. But maybe I’m slowly getting back to a more expansive kind of life, one where I feel a bit more free to explore outwardly as well as inwardly, whether in epic road trips or thinking and writing about life, the universe, and everything.
While I continue to fear that the world may not have changed for the better through all of this, I also continue hope that maybe a few of us have been taking notes and thinking carefully about how to go beyond “normal” to something that works a bit better for everyone.