Story and Photo By Debbie Black
This week I attended a five-day national writers conference with over 4500 other attendees from all over the world — not a mask in sight. I sat a mere two feet away from each of the twenty presenters. I wore jeans and Uggs, sipped coffee in the morning, red wine during the late afternoon sessions, and got up to stretch whenever I needed. The presenters were brilliant, witty and, most importantly, relaxed. All of us were participating from the comfort and safety of our own homes.
What an opportunity! I wouldn’t have attended that New York conference under normal circumstances, due to cost and distance. Instead of paying $950 conference fee, plus hotel, food, and airfare, I paid $150, slept in my own bed, ate my own food and only had to travel sixteen steps to my home office to attend a conference of national caliber. A video recording of all the workshops is now available for my leisurely review for thirty days. There’s certainly a lot to be said for virtual conferences.
No kidding, this has been a horrible fourteen months. Worse for some than for others. There isn’t a person on Earth who isn’t ready to put this behind them, and move forward and beyond. But amidst it all, there have been some beneficial spin-offs that would be nice to keep.
For instance, the astounding amount of online content—some free, some at a very reasonable cost. The Mars landing, ballets, plays, art exhibits, concerts, movies, courses on just about anything–so much to learn, see, do.
And don’t forget Zoom! That’s a word few of us knew before March 2020. Yet now we’re all proficient at meeting up with folks we haven’t connected with in years. Will we stay this connected when the world gets back to normal? If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of our peeps. Strangers too, for that matter. Over the past year, we may have occasionally eyed strangers like lepers, yet I see more impromptu kindness than I’ve ever seen before. Our common pain, angst, caution, and uneasiness may have united us more than driven us apart. It’s like we’re all wearing the same uniform—in the same army—in the war against the virus.
Post-pandemic, what might remain? The slower pace, the worldwide connection of humans, quieter streets, less pollution, more time for thought and creativity? Will our dogs, cats, and children (not in that order) still enjoy as many hours of our attention? Will Zoom get-togethers keep far-flung friends and family connected? Will Telehealth become a permanent medical tool for patients to more easily see doctors, especially in remote areas? Will some people keep an improved work/life balance by partially or fully working from home? Will we continue to show kindness and generosity to strangers once our lives get jam-packed again with our own doings?
My heart hurts for those who’ve lost family, friends, jobs, or whose lives have taken an unfortunate detour. In the face of that, I feel a bit superficial mentioning the things I’ve missed—some of which we’re getting back now, some will have to wait: seeing smiles; listening to live music at Sea Pines; movies at The Bay; getting together in person with my writers group and other friends; family reunions; volunteering at Woods; the Cayucos 4th of July parade; the Sea Glass Festival; early breakfast inside a warm, bustling Sea Shanty; traveling; the simple enjoyment of shopping.
When all of this is behind us, I will not miss wearing a mask that steams up my glasses. I will not miss the crowded beach, though I’m grateful we have the perfect place for families to stretch their legs in the fresh air. I will not miss the twinge of wariness toward fellow human beings. I will not miss the chronic anxiety when reading about lives lost, or seriously disrupted.
I will, however, appreciate even more those simple things in life that I took for granted. Hopefully, they will all return—and sit side-by-side with the good things that have come out of a bad situation.
And this too shall pass. Unfortunate times always do.
Debbie Black is a member of The BookShelf Writers. To see more of her work, visit www.thebookshelfwriters.com