I won’t forget sort of hugging Becky. It was morning in the lobby of the Barre Opera House, the daylong Poetry Out Loud competition was about to begin. The end of the event was also the end of my employment at the Arts Council. She passed me a handmade card and spoke three words to start. “Change is hard.” The phrase was a springboard to a conversation about my decision to take a year off work. I told her I needed to do a whole bunch of things that start with “re,” except retire: recalibrate, reboot, reconsider, rejoin, reconnect, realign, rework, re … so many things!
I heard a hesitant “I guess we’re not supposed to hug anymore” as we moved toward each other. Covid-19 was new to the U.S. We stepped back, still touching each other’s arms, then leaned together again quickly. Awkwardly. Becky became the one person other than my husband I touched in March, April, or May. The next Poetry Out Loud competition was moved online. Council staff, no longer my colleagues, began working from home. My reconfiguring, distanced, began.
I’d imagined 2020 as a glorious stretch of downtime mixed with traveling and shifting my vocation. Coaching is a skill I wanted to finesse; I had also discovered the creative thrill in facilitation. The courses and practice I envisioned at a retreat center in New Hampshire or at the end of a late summer road trip to Portland, Oregon were now happening via Zoom. I had more than enough time to sit in front of a computer screen. I loved what I was learning and was grateful to be occupied by it, but what about the year of “re”?
My August workshops left no doubt I’d redefined my vocation. I’ve just begun to travel—in responsibly reimagined ways (only in parts of New England and with ability to distance). I’ve reorganized and caught up on bunches of pesky little tasks I’ve long meant to do. That’s a help in reconsidering, then releasing, other items on the list. And today, I won’t resist reveling in the glory of Vermont’s late summer.