And Yet, Here We Are

Four months ago, Connor and I were enjoying the last few days of our honeymoon in New Zealand (more on that later), watching news about the quickly spreading coronavirus, knowing that we’d be heading back to the states in the midst of a global pandemic. Little did we know that our last day in the office before leaving for Oceania would actually be our last day in the office for the forseeable future. Or that the last time we’d eat dinner in a restaurant, would actually be on our final night in Auckland. Or that leaving Wisconsin after the holidays would be the last time we’d see my parents and friends for a long while.

The world we’re living in right now would have been completely unfathomable to me six months ago, hell, even four months ago. And yet, here we are. I’m a big silver linings person; even in the most negative, gloomy, situations, I can usually surface something positive (or, more accurately termed, tragic optimism – read more about it in this New York Times article). And if I can make a pun out of it, even better (or worse depending on your level of Natalie pun tolerance).

We arrived home from New Zealand on a Friday (I think…it was a very, very long and sleepless return trip) and started working from home immediately that Monday. Adjusting to the 18-hour time difference, lingering jet lag, an indefinite work-from-home mandate, and state-wide stay-at-home order was certainly not without its challenges. And I’m not just talking about the inability to get toilet paper anywhere on the East Coast in March. We’ve all had to pivot to an entirely new way of going about our daily lives. I can’t say we adjusted quickly or well at first – frankly, I think we’re still adjusting – we did manage to settle in pretty well in our apartment. While Connor and I can be and/or seem fairly outgoing, we’re both definitely homebodies with super introverted natures; spending so much time at home hasn’t been an issue for us.

So what have we been up to these last few months? Outside of adjusting to, well, everything we used to take for granted doing with ease.

  • We’re four weeks into training for the Chicago Marathon. As of this writing, no decision on the race has been made yet, but we’re anticipating running 26.2 miles here in New Jersey come October.
  • We’ve also dabbled in a few new foodie things, from getting Hello Fresh a few days a week to buying into our first CSA. With how sparse grocery store delivery slots were in the spring and the difficulty (and to be honest, slight anxiety) of just physically going to the store, I wanted to make sure we had fresh, healthy food to eat. Both have turned out to be amazing! I also splurged on an air fryer and busted out the juicer Connor got me last year. We’ve taken our kitchen hijinks to a new level – more to come on that!
  • I unearthed a quilt I started 10 years ago while living in Rhode Island on an intern salary. I also thought it’d be fun to sew this quilt by hand…that lasted three blocks. And yes, I can definitely tell which blocks are hand-sewn, but I’m leaving them that way because #nostalgia.
  • I’ve bought some books, like real books. I’ve talked non-stop about how much I love my Kindle; it’s the perfect commuting accessory. I was sitting on the couch recently reading it and thought, “wow, I haven’t read a physical book in a long time.” So I bought a few that were on my list – So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and Cleo Wade’s Where to Begin – and am taking the time to read and educate myself about race and how to be a better ally.
  • Within two days of returning from New Zealand, we splurged on a Peloton. We’d been riding one in our apartment’s gym since January and loved it – and given what we were starting to see about stay-at-home orders and closures en route back from New Zealand, we figured it was a good investment to make. It’s already paying dividends between the bike and the stretching, strength, and yoga classes!

I can’t say this is how Connor and I envisioned spending our first year as a married couple. Traveling to New Zealand renewed our sense of adventure and desire to explore more of this world together – but travel, like so many other things, has been put on hold for now. It will return someday, hopefully soon. We’re trying to make the most of the extra time we have now from not commuting into NYC every day. It’s been a real joy and blessing to be able to spend so much time together these past four months, even if most of it is inside.

Closing this update with a quote from the New York Times article I mentioned earlier. When I read it, I was quite literally flabbergasted at how perfectly it described not just me, but how I navigate the world and my place in it.

Tragic optimism is the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in life despite its inescapable pain, loss and suffering…In general, resilient people have intensely negative reactions to trauma. They experience despair and stress, and acknowledge the horror of what’s happening. But even in the darkest of places, they see glimmers of light, and this ultimately sustains them. But even more than helping them cope, adopting the spirit of tragic optimism enables people to actually grow through adversity.

Emily Esfahani Smith

Until next time. Be well. Keep learning. And wear a mask.

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