The past few weeks have upended a lot of what we once considered normal. New schedules, new daily routines, new expectations for public places, new forms of interaction. It’s jarring, and easy to focus on what’s been disrupted, to feel sad and anxious, to miss what’s gone.
At the same time, opportunities have opened up: to get adequate rest and exercise, to learn a new skill (I’m trying hand-lettering) , to catch up on reading books and watching movies , to connect virtually with loved ones, to practice patience and empathy. Adaptation forces us to be creative. Adaptation encourages growth.
As I have more time for reflection these days, I’m reminded of past times of change and how they also have resulted in growth. While none compares to the complete upheaval of the recent few weeks, I can still draw some parallels and perhaps learn some lessons that could apply in the current environment.
Two summers ago, our family had planned to meet with Mike’s parents and his six siblings and their families near Portland, Maine. Several family members had milestone birthdays that year, and the week in Maine would provide a chance for this large group to connect and celebrate. We booked an Airbnb near the beach town where Mike’s family has owned a small cottage for over a century.
And then change happened. A few weeks before the trip, Mike’s stepmom Kathy suffered a fall and was hospitalized. One by one, family members modified travel plans so that Kathy could have family with her at all times. Around the same time, we received notification that our Airbnb host had canceled our reservation, leaving us without accommodations during the busiest time of the Maine coastal travel season. Time to adapt!
It was impossible to replicate our original itinerary, so we needed to be creative. What if we could combine a Maine experience with…Canada? Mike’s kids had never visited Montreal. And if coastal accommodations weren’t available, how about inland? And why not add a trip to the beautiful Acadia National Park? Slowly, a newly envisioned trip came together, and by the time we set off on our northward drive, we had adjusted both our itinerary and our expectations.
In Montreal, we toured the eye-catching (and controversial) 1976 Olympic Park facility riding a funicular up its soaring inclined tower for sweeping views. While the twins used their Six Flags season pass at La Ronde, Mike and I walked the city’s welcoming neighborhoods, sampling more than one wine bar and coffeeshop along the way.
We crossed back over the border from Canada, winding through bucolic countryside to inland Maine near Acadia National Park.
In the park, we drove up Cadillac Mountain, and walked along the Ocean Path to Thunder Hole and hiked the Gorham Mountain trail to the summit. Late that night, full of lobster from a local stand, we stargazed from the deck of our house, marveling how many more stars we could see than in our urban area. We spent the last two days of our modified trip at another inland Airbnb, this time a farmhouse with goats and the most delicious blueberry-centric breakfasts.
And we still found time, in a much modified way, to connect with some extended family in the adorable seaside town of Higgins Beach. While the reality of our vacation differed greatly from the original plan, it was richer, larger in scope, and full of delightful surprises.
Maybe, just maybe, I can conceive of the school year to come with the same perspective. What opportunities exist? What expected richness? And in the face of anxiety and uncertainty, could delight also await?