We were supposed to be in New York. We had the whole trip planned out for the first week of June. My daughter, Bella, and I would arrive early Friday, check into our hotel in the city, ask them to store our bags, and then head to Penn Station to grab the Brooklyn-bound A or C train to Pratt Institute School of Art & Design for our 2 p.m. student-led tour. After our tour, we would take a Lyft back to Manhattan, so we would have had plenty of time to shower, change, and eat dinner just before seeing the first of the four Broadway shows we had bought tickets to see throughout the entire weekend. On Monday, we had arranged two more college tours – Parsons School of Design in the morning followed by NYU at noon. We worked it out so would have just enough time after the second tour to go to our favorite bagel shop before heading to the airport. We would leave New York with a baker’s dozen of yummy carbohydrate goodness, a good sense of the three New York schools she had been thinking of applying to, and memories to last a lifetime.
We were supposed to tour 10 other colleges that Bella is considering this summer. Finally, it was her turn! She was supposed to have the opportunity to walk through the buildings, across the campuses, see classrooms, art studios, dorms, and dining halls the way her older brother did before his senior year. How can anyone decide which school is the best place to go if they haven’t been there in person to see it? No matter how hard they try, virtual tours just are not the same.
We were supposed to do a lot of things, but alas, like so many others, our plans have changed. Life has changed. Things may slowly be starting to re-open, but the normal we once had before coronavirus no longer exists. While this is hard for me to wrap my head around, seeing my kids trying to figure it out is even more heartbreaking. The future they once envisioned for the first time seems … questionable. I want so badly to wrap my kids safely into my arms and guarantee them that no one they love will get sick and die, that their friends’ parents that lost their jobs will be working soon, that they will go back to school in the fall in person, and that a cure is just around the corner! But I can’t!
I don’t know what the right answers are anymore or what we should be or shouldn’t be doing. For a control freak like myself, that is really difficult to admit. But I do know that the more I concentrate on all the “we were supposed to’s” and things that “haven’t happened,” the worse I feel. So instead, I am trying really hard to focus my attention on the WE GET TOs. Like how WE GET TO SLOW DOWN! With no commutes to work or school, we all get to sleep in later, eat breakfast together, and start our day with a laugh. WE GET TO RECONNECT with each other. I have spoken more to my extended family in the past two months than I have the past two years. I am not proud to admit it, but it’s true. Suddenly, I feel the need to check in on people, and reconnecting to my family and friends has been a gift.
I am certainly not trying to make light of the pandemic, but when I start tumbling into a spiral of fear, I try really hard to remind myself that there is good in this world. People are helping each other. People are scouting out hard-to-find foods for neighbors with restrictive diets, making masks for those that need them, supporting more local businesses, doing drive-by car parades to keep spirits high. In these difficult times, I take great comfort in WHAT WE GET TO DO and right now WE GET TO WITNESS PEOPLE ACTING in ways I haven’t seen in a very long time – with kindness, with a desire to connect, a willingness to bring hope and share what they have. I pray that when WE GET TO go back to doing all the things we used to, we don’t forget all these important lessons we have learned.