Every summer, my family takes a trip up to Peaks Island, just off the coast of Portland, Maine. We took a year off when my child was born, but otherwise, we have been going up annually for years. My husband grew up vacationing there. His extended family has homes on the island, and they have been going there for generations. My husband and I have a growing list of significant life events that have happened there. But we will not be going to Peaks this year.
We also won’t be traveling much of anywhere else. COVID-19 made sure of that. But my summer is not canceled.
Sure, summer 2020 looks a lot different than years past. We will be doing fewer day trips, choosing not to enjoy riverside meals at our favorite restaurants, and won’t be meeting friends at the playground. We won’t be getting memberships to the town pool, signing up for many (or potentially any) summer activities, or hosting huge barbecues either.
But my summer is not canceled.
COVID-19 has highlighted, to an extraordinary degree, my family’s privilege. It is a word you probably hear a lot of right now in the context of systemic racism, but privilege is multifaceted. My family hasn’t lost anyone to the virus. My husband and I haven’t lost our jobs, though they have become exponentially more difficult. We aren’t struggling to keep a roof over our family’s heads or food in our bellies.
I’m not saying this because I want to brag. Not in the slightest. I’m saying it as a reminder for families around me in similar circumstances as us. I’m saying this because I’ve seen a lot of other families, families like mine, complaining. When can I get my hair cut? What is my child going to do all summer without sleep away camp? I’m going to let my kid have large parties because this isn’t that bad, and they deserve to socialize.
Of course, social distancing has not been easy for my family, and I can’t imagine it has been easy for anyone out there. I’m not highlighting others’ complaints to shame them. And I certainly understand that when life feels uncertain, the human tendency is to reach desperately for the things that make life seem normal. A haircut. A drink with a friend at the bar. Play dates.
But it is worth the reminder, especially as things open back up, that some of us are fortunate to have had it as easy as we have, and that it isn’t worth rushing back out to do everything out of fear that summer is going to be ruined otherwise. Your family and neighbor’s health still depends on remaining somewhat socially distant and taking other precautions, such as mask-wearing. At least, that is what science is telling us. I’m a scientist (literally), so when I see evidence converging on one solution, I tend to trust that solution over others without the same amount of data supporting them.
I guess my main point is this; our reality is, to some extent, dependent on how we frame our thoughts. For me, this means asking: Do I want to see my glass half full, or half empty?
It is still summer. Whether I make the most of the season or not is up to me.
Instead of complaining about all the ways this summer isn’t ideal, I am relishing spending time with my child. They are only little once, right? We are doing day trips to outdoor locations. Spending lots of time playing in our yard and finding creative solutions to keep ourselves occupied from home. We rented a cabin upstate recently for a brief socially distant getaway. We might have a small outdoor gathering at our home (with a select few friends who are equally cautious as us) later in the summer, depending on the guidance at that time.
No, my summer isn’t canceled. It may be different this year, but I will not allow my privilege and expectations to ruin it. Things don’t always go as planned, but I am lucky that I have the choice to dance in the rain. I’m grabbing my umbrella. What about you?