Published: July 9th, 2020
June 20th, 2020
Tonight I went to a socially distant bonfire for my friend’s birthday and as I was driving home at 1 am, I decided to drive around for a while on my way back home. We’ve all been experiencing this pandemic in our own respective ways for months now, and with things opening back up at a pace that may be too quick, I’ve been struggling with processing what this all means.
I’ve been trying to get a new perspective the entire time of COVID and trying to fully process some things that I either haven’t given myself time to process or just haven’t processed in a useful way. Driving around gave me some emotional revelations (if you will) as I realized that throughout so many difficult scenarios, I took so many things for granted, which is a common thing people realize all the time, but especially during this time of mass uncertainty. I think it’s natural for us to take things for granted, but part of me wonders if I’m just remembering some things better than they were because of good ole nostalgia. Either way, looking back on things is often when we realize the comfort and joy that came with the small moments in life.
When I was driving to my friend’s house for the bonfire I was driving eastbound on 494 past the Vikings Training center, past the point where my brother and I almost got stuck multiple times attempting to drive to Eau Claire for Vball during the April snowstorm of 2018, past the same view and drive that I would take three times a week at 6 am to go to skiing practice before going to work for 6 hours every summer. I was driving the same route that I took to do all of these things, plus it was the same route I would take all the time to hang out with my friends and go skiing with them my junior year of high school, and the same route I ended up driving once a week essentially my first semester of college considering it's was the same way to get to Eau Claire and I came home nearly every weekend until November. Driving this just automatically makes me nostalgic as I think about the memories and associations I have with each passing exit on the road. On the way back when I was driving around, I was reminded of all the things worth remembering in the small Suburb I’ve lived in forever. I want to live all over the world and country over the course of my life, but I just realized how much some things that I never thought twice of made such an impact on my life, thought processes, and the way I experience the world.
I drove around a bit and then ended up at the Perkins that a friend and I first got a slice of pie at 1 in the morning 3 years ago and would end up at if we wanted to catch up and share big news. I drove by Potbelly, which was my first job that I had to interview for, and still to this day, three years after working there, I am baffled at so many things from that job. I drove by the house in which on New Years’ Eve I was parked in front of as an ex-boyfriend yelled at me over the phone saying nasty things to me that affected me way more than I should have let them. I drove by the restaurant that my friends and family and I used to go get $1 tacos on Tuesdays and left me with a deep love and appreciation for local businesses. I drove by Local Roots where we used to go to watch our friends play music and get breakfast in the morning before class. I drove by the park building and the community center where I spent so much time playing as a kid through the park program and so much time in the last three years doing the same program, but only as a leader. A summer program that has shaped my life in many ways and has brought me many skills, experiences, and great people along the way. I drove by the same building in which I spent at least two nights a week for 7 years learning new dances, preparing for competitions, and meeting some people that will forever have made a huge impact on my life, but of course, in the moment, you never know this.
I drove by the ice arena where I spent every Saturday morning for so many years, and many Wednesday nights at figure skating lessons and thinking that I was meant to end up with a boy who played hockey (wow, yeah, no). Next to the Ice arena is the community pool where I spent every summer for many years with my Richfield Pool Pass my mom would get through a family discount and where we would take the park program kids once a summer on a hotter-than-hell Thursday afternoon that would leave me wiped by the end of the day. This is also the pool in which for my job we brought the kids and three years ago I was doing gymnastics with some of the girls and told them I used to be able to do an aerial (which at this point, I’ve said it so many times that I don't think I was ever really able to do one). I attempted to do an aerial and as I was mid-air looking at the ground, landed on my elbow, sprained it, and had to call the ambulance as per city employee protocol and explain this to my boss, all because I wanted to impress some 10-year-olds. What a legend.
I drove down France avenue which has such a massive place in my heart and I don't know if I will ever be able to describe it to anyone in a way that makes sense. I used to drive down France avenue every chance I would get for no reason other than it made me feel boujee and it was a nicely lit street if you needed to listen to some music and cry when you’re a teenager in high school sad about whatever high school teenagers are sad about. I also just spent so much time over there because of the Target, the endless meetings at Narnia (aka the top of the container store parking ramp… it was the “cool kid” hangout in high school when you had absolutely nowhere else to go), and the trips to Centennial Lakes.
I drove by the high school which I attended for 3 or 4 years depending on how you want to look at it. That place brought me a lot of pain, but also brought me so many valuable lessons and people when I needed them - Not all of them lasted very long, or at all, but they were people I needed at the time. It also brought me with some of the best teachers I have yet to have, but I was still so excited to leave as I never really felt like I belonged (again, something I think many can relate to). At the high school, I drove past the parking lot where I would park by/know where all my friends’ parking spots were and I remember walking to our cars together or waiting in the hallway to walk to our cars together. There are small moments in life like these that mean way more to me than I think I could ever comprehend. I also thought about when we got back from the Cross Country Ski Team Trip my sophomore year. It was a 70 degree Spring day and we were getting dropped off from our carpools so we could return home, but my friend Ellie and I took pictures of me running into her arms and her spinning me around in the air. We did that many times, but just the feeling of the air that day after a stressful weekend of spending half my time on this trip and the other half of the time performing at multiple shows for dance and driving back and forth to accommodate everyone but myself, I just felt joy. Happiness comes and goes like sadness does because they’re feelings, but joy, the feeling of joy, and seeing the beauty in life around you even when nothing is going to plan has been rare for me lately, but it is what I think we should all strive for. I’m spending a lot of time talking about the high school for someone who couldn’t wait to get out of there. Anyways, There is also the corner that we would wait until we came to a full stop and started turning into the parking lot on the school bus after a nordic or track meet before we would start singing “three cheers to the bus driver”, and there’s the smaller community building across the parking lot I spent 3-5 days a week after school until way past the time I should have been awake dancing for dance team since we weren’t allowed to practice at the High School itself. Let’s not forget the track where I ran way too many 2 miles because I decided to run my mouth and be the overachiever I always have to be and the football field in which I had to do the halftime performance for way too many football games. That’s enough about high school, wow. I then drove by the restaurants that Kellie and I would get a monthly meal at and catch up and instantly started missing it as we haven't been able to do that in a while.
I could keep going, but it was just taking a step back to realize the small moments that have made a huge impact and lasting impression in my life that was important out of this little excursion. It was weird for me to think about as I am planning my future and all the different ways it could go right now, but I think this time is important for me to take and look at all the ways my environment has affected me and brought me to where I am today. Has all of it been positive? Hell no, but that's also life. There is usually bad within the good and good within the bad when you look back at everything, but it's just a matter of how you think about it and what you make of it. I haven’t taken any time to process what has been happening and trying to force it isn’t helping. It’s a slow process sometimes and for someone that has been go, go, go for years, taking a breather and slowing down has been difficult for me, but fully necessary.
My message today is to slow down and really look at your environment and how you connect to it. Look at the small things and take a drive if you need to. Take a moment to breathe and just take things in as they come to you. We live in a societal structure that tricks us into thinking we need to be doing something at all times to reach this arbitrary form of success. Try to notice how you really feel in certain situations and with certain people. If you feel stuck where you're at, think about the ways you can feel unstuck and make the most of the situation you're in. This time is different and difficult for everyone in one way or another, but I've recently been coming to terms with the fact that this has lasted longer than any of us wanted it to and it's going to last longer now. I've been waiting for things to pass as a lot of people have, but I recently have been thinking of all the ways to make the most of everything that is happening and I've been trying my hardest to live in the here and now. Maybe that helps you, and maybe it doesn't. The important thing is that there is always some silver lining in a situation, even if it means you "lost" something and the positive thing is just that it happened.
There has been and will continue to be a lot of things to process, but we have to try our best to not shut down in those moments and to continue to live, keep working to create a better world and to be kind to one another and ourselves. There are the shoulda, coulda, woulda's and the way too easy to fall into mind-traps of thinking that everything sucks because we've had hard moments in the past and that's all we see. Getting past that is tough, but it's the only way to move forward for ourselves and for others. It takes a different amount of time for everyone so just be kind with yourself on your own and journey. Take a moment to breathe it all in, and then let it all out.
With much love,