“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
Today is June 15th, which is the halfway point of the month that concludes the halfway point of the year. The first half of 2020 felt like a decade with the massive shifts happening in the world. I won’t subject you to a retelling of the tale now as you’re quite familiar with the journey we’ve been on. If there’s a silver lining during this first half of the year, it’s the re-focusing on what’s important. It’s the time with family and friends and looking at the simple things we’ve taken for granted, like going out for dinner or to a concert.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with immediate family, regret the opportunities lost, and look forward to getting back to it when there’s less risk to others. Risk to others is always the calculus, not risk to myself. I wear a mask in crowded places and wonder at the growing crowd of people who aren’t wearing one. We aren’t there just yet folks, as much as we want to be.
I’ve completed a long list of home improvement tasks and find that the list doesn’t get shorter. Still, I walk around and I’m less inclined to say to myself I need to get to that someday when I look at a wall or ceiling or some other nook and cranny of this place I spend so much time in now. Better weather has opened up an entirely new canvas for improvement. It’s all a work in progress, and will continue until the pandemic releases its hold on us.
I’ve taken to rowing 5000 meters at lunchtime every workday. Weekends are reserved for other activity with the nicer weather. Rowing replaced walking at lunchtime because it’s more efficient and there’s a timeless feeling I get when I’m on the rowing ergometer. It could be 2020, or it could be 1990, the only thing that changes are the splits and the soreness afterwards.
I’m ever so slowly learning French, and I’ve added Portuguese as well. I have an eye on the world and will return to travel again someday, and speaking one language is simply not enough. There are place to visit far from the tourist traps, where people expect some measure of knowledge of their language. Je dois les rencontrer à mi-chemin – I’ve got to meet them halfway. France is to be expected, but I also feel the pull of Portugal and Brazil. And so I’ve added a third language, even before I’ve mastered the second. Aprendi a seguir uma paixão e ver aonde ela leva – I’ve learned to follow a passion and see where it leads you.
I’ve checked a few important boxes in my job that I’m pleased with and see all that might have been if only the world were normal. But it’s not normal and time flies relentlessly by anyway. Some of the biggest project I was tracking have stalled in the quicksand of social isolation. Even as things ramp up they may be a long way from where they should have been. I’m grateful to work for a company that views the world through a long lens and measures its value by the people who work for it.
And so we approach the second half of 2020, and more epochal moments are surely in store for us all. There’s an election coming up in America. Professional sports are tentatively starting up again. People are dipping a toe back in the waters to see just how cold it really is. And I find myself thinking about the trees I haven’t planted:
When I was 18 I was a certified SCUBA diver. And then I went to college and discovered rowing and girls and I gently tucked away the mask and fins and never went back to it again. I’m told that the sport of diving is suffering a decline as people find other ways to spend time and disposable income. I recognize the pull away from the water that’s held me away since I was a teenager, but also hear the siren call of the deep dive. I’m going back to the deep water again, and depending on restrictions around COVID-19 I’ll do it in the second half of 2020.
There’s another siren that’s been calling me for years, and it’s hiking. I’ve long talked of hiking the Appalachian Trail and hold that out as my 60th birthday present to myself, when I get there. But in the meantime I’m not hiking any other trail most days. This won’t do at all. I’m going back to the mountains in 2020, but not chasing others around. I’m going to return to the 48 4000 footers in New Hampshire at my own pace, and check this box that’s been nagging me since I was a kid.
So there you go: My own small version of Navy SEAL training. Top of the mountains to the bottom of the sea. Self-paced and documented. Multilingual, multidimensional and adventurous in spirit. Beats painting another room. As my son would say, let’s go!