By Howard Axelrod, 26-time traveler and 11-time Vacation Ambassador from Ashland, MA
In recent months I have felt fear, anger, depression, and uncertainty as part of my daily life. It has been a dark cloud that would not lift. I was dying a little each day. As a generally upbeat person these feelings were unfamiliar and severely distressing. Considering our predicament, perhaps the psychiatric diagnosis for my condition would be “normal”.
At first my wife and I hunkered and bunkered down; not exactly in Defcon-1 or under the blanket hiding, but inside the fort with the gates locked. We were storing food and supplies and preparing for a long war. Our basic strategy was to lay low and wait. This was, and perhaps still is, the “safest” approach. Humans, however, are hard-wired to be social creatures, and avoiding human contact was taking its toll on my emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. As a species we need and want one another. Our survival instincts and emotions are deeply rooted in this. It is a high-order primal need.
I was initially in favor of the government keeping the economy closed for at least another month. I was adamant about this, and disturbed that it did not come to pass. I am an engineer by education, and in that game having more information almost always leads to a better outcome. But the toothpaste is out of the tube now, and getting it back in could be difficult, if not impossible.
We are setting sail now as an economy, as a nation, as a world, and as the human race. In rethinking the situation, I now believe that perhaps the right decision was made. Only with the fullness of time will this be revealed. Hopefully, there will be a Hollywood ending and we will all once again experience that jingle-jangle morning that we all so desperately need. What has become irrefutably clear, is that we may be living with Covid-19 for a long time.
On the road ahead I see relaxation of the social distancing model and believe that many will abandon masks except in enclosed spaces where it will be required. Perhaps outdoors these precautions can be relaxed if we are respectful and careful. Our society will be totally re-shaped. No person, regardless of the alphabet soup of capital letters after his or her name, can predict how we are going to “evolve” with it.
I chose the word evolve here intentionally reader, as I think that for all of us this will be the key component to survival and happiness. I have studied Charles Darwin, the British multi-disciplined scientist, explorer, and author, whose research in the Galapagos Islands irrefutably reveals how we as humans got to where we are, since our first appearance on the planet on all fours, some 300,000 years ago. His works, first published in 1859, have proven to be scientifically accurate, predictive, and visionary.
Darwin’s research is extensive, but for me the important takeaway lies in his observations as to which species survive and thrive, and which struggle and become extinct. His findings can be encapsulated as follows:
- It is NOT the strongest of the species that survives.
- It is NOT the largest of the species that survives.
- It is NOT the fastest of the species that survives.
It is then, the most intelligent of the species that survives. Right? This is in fact NOT the case. It is the species that demonstrates the greatest ability to adapt to change. Adapt, Adaptability, Adaptation—we know what these words mean. Going forward we will need to find fulfillment and happiness in our new circumstances. I believe that adaptability will be the answer.
Doing this will prove uncomfortable, discouraging, frustrating, and painfully difficult for all, but I believe that we will each find our own path. There is no manual for this journey. The approach is completely trial and error and will certainly be non-linear. In the end, everyone’s recipe will be their own. We will be building the airplane and flying it at the same time.
I intend to tiptoe my way back into the human race. I fully understand that in doing so I am voluntarily taking on some level of risk. I accept this. I can no longer be a prisoner of circumstances. I have always taken whatever actions were necessary to move forward in my life, and I am certain that the world has not been drained of wonders.
For me there are worse things than dying. One of them is not living. I think often about the quote from author and professor John A. Shedd, who in his 1928 book Salt from My Attic stated “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”. My time has come. I am casting off my lines, hoisting sail, and leaving the harbor in my wake.
If I choose to live in the past, I certainly cannot have much of a future. Each of us gets a one-way ticket in this life. Life IS short, but more importantly each day it gets shorter. I have every intention of continuing the prudent behavior of hand washing, keeping some space, wearing a mask when appropriate, and avoiding large groups, but beyond that I intend to make life as normal as it can possibly be. I honestly admit that I have no idea as to what this will entail, but for me the challenge and focus will be to adapt. This will not be without trepidation, but a voice inside my head keeps repeating “Get out there and play ball! Do not be afraid. Your game will come to you.”
I am not making any recommendations for others, but as for me, I am lacing them up.