This week, exactly one year ago, I was on a cruise ship. It was a chartered cruise designed for nerds and gamers of all varieties. The dining room held a board game lending library, there were tabletop role playing games scheduled throughout the week, the guest list included popular podcasters and science fiction authors, and instead of classes on towel folding or wine tasting, there were retro video game tournaments and Broadway sing-a-longs.
COVID-19 was real and it was in the back of all of our minds but it hadn’t become the menace we now know it to be in America (though, by the end of the cruise, that had certainly changed). Everyone had their temperature checked before we boarded the boat. Throughout the week at sea, crew members were at nearly every door with a bottle of hand sanitizer and passengers dutifully allowed them to pump some of the gel onto their hands each time we passed a station. A passenger who spends his daily life as a virologist held daily “office hours” in one of the ship’s common spaces to answer any questions that he could about the disease and how it spreads. We felt safe.
The cruise was cancelled this year. It would have been its 10th anniversary sailing. The boat would have set sail last Saturday with just over 2,100 nerds and geeks for what is essentially a comic-con at sea and, before its cancellation, I was scheduled to be on it.
As we mark one year of living with COVID-19 in the US, it’s hard not to look back at all of the things that we’ve lost: activities cancelled, holiday celebrations moved to Zoom, vacations postponed.
It’s my hope that you can also look back and see the things that you have found. Perhaps it’s time with family and a return to sharing dinner together each night. Maybe you brought a new furry – or scaly – friend into your home. COVID-19 forced me to slow down a bit and one of the things that I found was a new and healthier sense of self care. I discovered a new joy in cooking and, as an extension, in eating. I took delight in pampering myself with at home manicures each week. Spending so much time with myself, I found my way into a deeper and more meaningful life of mindfulness and prayer and I found my voice and the courage to speak out against the injustices I see in the world.
I mourn for the things that I lost, especially this week as I recall stories and events from the Dominican Republic and Half Moon Key, the ship full of nerds, and the excitement I felt as I signed up to sail again this year. But I am so very grateful for the things that I have found. As vaccines continue to be administered and life hopefully returns to a sense of normalcy, it is my sincere hope that not everything goes back to exactly the way it was. I want more than anything to hold onto the things that I found during this past year and to let them guide me into the future.