Been on the road a lot lately, which is something I struggle with given that it’s a pandemic, but between N95’s and a vaccine, I’m doing what I can to find the balance I know we’re all seeking. So, between island hoping, West coast adventures, and hiking in the Poconos, the last few weeks have been phenomenal. And weird.
Aside from “summer vacation” during my school years, I’ve never taken a vacation that lasted this long–nearly three full weeks, and the replenishment and rest is just jarring enough to make you question what you’re doing with your life. I’ve never been the kind of person who was chasing retirement. Every job I’ve ever held was purposeful, meaningful, the kind of thing you’d want to do with your time. Sure, I’d like retirement to come and to be plentiful, and I’d not be opposed to it coming early, but I’m also in no rush to leave the important work I believe myself to be doing.
My three week vacation now makes me question that ever so slightly.
I tried, while away, to make a point to avoid the news, something rare for me, but I wanted my vacation to be blissful, stuck in near ignorance about what’s happening around the world. So it’s no surprise, jetlag aside, that the past few nights since I’ve gotten back, I’ve been riddled with anxiety about the state of the world–almost like the attempt to keep it all at bay sent it flooding back as soon as I was “home.”
It didn’t help that having the car parked at long-term parking at Newark, while a hurricane ravaged New Jersey, meant that most of the trip I was wondering whether I’d come home to a flooded car. Yes, the parking lot flooded (as did the airport), just not the part we were parked in, thank God.
The anxiety that rushes in now that I’m back is not “made up,” but it still makes me feel crazy.
Like, do I need to become a prepper? Should I stock my home with months of water and food? Should I buy a gun to protect myself and my family? Is disinformation going to take us to a civil war or significant violent conflict? Will climate change get worse, and if so, will people start dying when the wet bulb temperature starts exceeding what we can handle? Is it all happening much faster than scientists originally thought? Will I lose people I know to flooding, fires? Is it safe here in the mountains? If we are forced to leave, what will we do about Freya? Do I need to take some sort of wilderness survival course? Could I get an Irish passport or escape to Canada if need be? Will a time come when I must turn against–violently even–those I once cared about, in self-defense?
Just rereading through that, I want to tell myself I sound alarmist and ridiculous. It takes courage to even put it out there, because of how I believe I sound. But what scares me even more is that I think my questions are… reasonable.
Tomorrow, when we take a day to “remember” 9/11, I’m less-inclined to look back and more inclined to look forward. I don’t want to spend more time figuring out how we got here, but I lament that I can’t figure out how to take us in any different direction. 9/11 was one of the catalyzing events that pushed a country already moving quickly toward its divisions in a direction we couldn’t come back from. Long before Trump, 9/11–among members of both parties–made xenophobia okay again. And when those barriers were crossed, the fate of the country was somehow sealed.
I remember thinking at the time, in a truly naïve manner, that 9/11 didn’t change the world. I thought it had actually united us, brought us together momentarily in a time where we had been divided and put us on a shared path. I was cynical enough to believe that was just a momentary unity, but I still found hope in that moment. And I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Should I hope I’m wrong again? And if so, where do you draw the lines between hoping for the best and preparing for the worst? Blind optimism in these days and times strikes me as foolish, and I was raised to the mantra, “Always be prepared,” but one of my real frustrations lies in those who have chosen fear over faith and live every moment, not merely in a sense of preparedness but as though they are stricken to their trauma, and as though the only solution is to traumatize others so we don’t feel so alone.
I’m already guilty of that, too. I don’t want to make it worse. I suspect I will.
Then again, maybe we’re all just dong the best we can? Or maybe we all need a vacation–or something that lasts a lot longer.