For a fat kid i was pretty good at swimming – especially good at treading water. Perhaps it was the added buoyancy of the extra fat layer, or maybe i had a predisposition for staying in one place for long periods of time. Regardless of the reason, it was one of the few physical challenges at which i excelled as a kid.
Here we are, about six months into a global pandemic, and i have no basis for complaint. Move the arms, kick the legs, stay inside, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid crowds. Repeat. Hopefully just for another six months, but i’m not that optimistic given the willful ignorance of so many of my fellow citizens. There is also a pandemic of stupidity here.
At best, and with a good bit of luck, we’ve got 80 or so years on this planet.
The first quarter of our lives are spent being whisked along a trajectory that is largely out of our control. How we navigate that first quarter depends on what zip code we’re born in, and how our parents are doing in their second quarter of life. We are gifted (or cursed) with our genetics, and move through the educational system, while building our value systems.
Second quarter of those 80 years? Our 20’s and 30’s usually have us taking our first real risks, making the decisions (and non-decisions) that make us adults. Careers, trade school, marriage, children, buying cars and houses, sometimes hitting a reset button and taking a mulligan to find another route. Our lives are our own, and yet we sometimes don’t realize the lasting impact of the choices we’ve made.
By the time we get to the third quarter, much of our daily existence is managing the consequences of all those decisions we made in the previous quarter. Kids growing up, houses falling apart, work and career stress, paying bills, doing what we can to get the spawn going on their own trajectories. Taking care of aging parents? There’s one we didn’t really think about before! Not a lot of freedom of choice in our priorities. We ride that wave through our 40’s and 50’s. In my case, i stepped off of one roller coaster onto another, and started over with a divorce and new home just as my nest emptied.
If we’re lucky enough to get to our 60’s reasonably intact physically and financially, we are facing the final quarter of our lives. Last call. Not just circling the drain, but we can see the drain from here… i turned 58 this summer. Hi there, drain! How you doin’?
i’d been wrangling with this concept pre-pandemic. If i’m lucky, 20 years left. Maybe a little bit of overtime, but looking at my family history, not many elders made it to their 80’s, at least not with any degree of mobility. i’m staring my final quarter right in the face.
But wait! Pandemic! Yay! Let’s spend an entire year treading water! One year out of 80? 1.25% of my life? That’s not so bad! Looking ahead, it’s one year out of the 20 or so left for me. A whopping 5% of my remaining life — if i’m lucky — treading water, as i circle that drain.
Can’t say that i haven’t done anything this year. Not only did we earn our Technician Class Ham Radio Licenses, but we kept studying and moved beyond the entry level license and are now General Hams. Bought kayaks and took a class, and have enjoyed paddling around on the waterways.
The grand adventures we’d planned were abandoned, but we still have managed to get out of the house a bit. Hiked about 300 miles so far – mostly in local parks. Camping is the very definition of social distancing. We have taken three trips this summer – just returning from a 3,000 mile adventure which included a brief visit with The Boy and his family out west. Two more National Parks checked off the ‘to do’ list.
Move the arms, kick the legs, stay inside, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid crowds. i’m lucky, and recognize that i’m living through this from a position of extreme privilege. But i see that damn drain, man….