August 1994 - I still remember the feeling of circling in the city. There were no cell phones, I had stopped at a gas station on a busy corner to ask for directions, but the man inside at the counter only spoke Chinese. I couldn’t find my way across San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge so I could keep driving north. There were detour signs that led me around in circles, all a result of one of our trademark California earthquakes and I was late to meet my parents to watch my sister in the California Junior Miss Pageant. The sun was setting on what had already been a four hour drive and I was frustrated, but not scared. There is an invincibility that goes with the freedom of that age, I was 20, that went away when I had kids, but has come back in small doses in the last few years.
These days, we are thinking a lot about freedom…what it means individually and how it applies to a collective society. Who’s job is it to protect us, what precautions are ours to take to keep ourselves and others safe, what can and should the powers that be do for us to protect us from a pandemic…something that the current population, unless you are a centenarian, has never witnessed in their lifetime. The answers are varied to these tough questions and they have us on edge with each other, simply for having our own philosophy.
The freedom I feel today has less to do with what we are debating in the news, and more with the state of my own heart and mind. As an American, I’m not saying that the former conversation isn’t a worthy one, but as usual, I let my thoughts be shaped by what I can control. Yes, there is the definitive sadness of the experiences that we have lost, but the lightness I feel by not being tied to a overpacked calendar has been a source of energy for me since this whole thing started. The introvert in me has enjoyed the time at home, the less crowded streets, and time to process my thoughts and create something from them. This is a time to embrace what intrinsically motivates us, away from the constant feedback of the world.
On so many levels, I have always considered myself a creature of habit, finding comfort in the schedule and the known quantities of my days. What I have discovered in all of this lack of structure is that, while there is always room for improvement, the habits that bring me contentment and success are built by the freedom that lies in the choices I do have to shape my day with things that are truly unique and important to me. This time has given way to prioritizing what I love and it is the silver lining of this temporary normal. Routine, while it can build the consistency that every productive and fulfilling life requires, can also be stifling and limit our creativity. I’ve actually known this since I was in college. Even in those days, I was an early riser, knew I had to get my workout in, and loved to keep a regular journal with the thoughts on my mind. But right around the ninth week of each quarter, I would start to itch for change and find myself ready for a new schedule with new classes and challenges to reinvigorate me. Life is no different today, I hang on to the routine that keeps life on a steady course…paying bills, working out, writing with consistency, but at the ninth week of this great pause, we all got a little stir crazy and this blog finds me taking advantage of a less crowded schedule, sitting in the living room at my lifelong friend’s home, a six hour drive north, writing in St. George, UT.
On Tuesday, after nine weeks of quarantine, my almost 20 year old daughter got in her car and headed north. All the way up the state, she’s visiting people she loves…from her grandparents, to her friends from school that she has missed, to her great aunt and uncle and their best friends from college. As they all sat, (socially distanced) on the front lawn at their friends home in Pleasanton, generations of people were reminded of what it feels like to be young and free and find those relationships that will last a lifetime. At one point in their visit, their son, who went to college with me came through, saw Lauren, and immediately knew she was my daughter. With all of the changes and normal life that we feel have been lost, she is still getting the chance to the experience the freedom that comes with her age. I feel both the nostalgia for that time of life, and the pride that comes with watching her step into the freedom that she has earned by knowing herself and understanding the connections in her life that matter. It’s a period of our lives when, no matter how lost we get, there is time to circle the block one more time, without fear, and take note of what we see and learn. She is taking it all in and doing just that, like I did when I eventually found my way across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to NorCal to meet my parents in August of 1994. I’m sure they were worried, but when I got there, they didn’t show it. I was free, and they knew it, just like I feel with Lauren right now. The freedom to grow can never be taken away from us, and as long as we choose that path, we will never be lost.