Days are long. The waiting is longer. I yearn to travel, to pick back up where I left off in Asia. But the time is not now, and I can no longer see it on the horizon.
For months, people were scrambling. Grasping at straws. The news was a constant cycle of whiplash-inducing rabbit hole mumbo jumbo.
Wear masks! Now don’t wear masks, because you’re hoarding them and healthcare workers need them more! Wear masks again! Tiger King! Carole Baskin! And that’s Carole-with-an-E! Toilet paper!
Before long, I either turned off the TV or I left the room when it was turned on.
Stocks plummeted, then the NASDAQ flew to the moon on tech valuations that made the straight-and-narrow Warren Buffets of brokerages raise their eyebrows. r/wallstreetbets made absolute fools of hedge funds that shorted the h*ck out of GME.
Amidst all this madness, people lost so deeply. People lost loved ones, pets, friends, family, spouses, jobs, careers, even themselves. Some of us experienced life changes that we needed, and then felt subsequently guilty for having a good year when everyone else’s was terrible.
Others of us couldn’t wait until the end comes to wearing masks everywhere, fearing for tomorrow, and wishing our relatives wouldn’t leave the house.
I don’t know about you, but for me, life in the era of Covid-19 has been a mixture of all of the above.
I worried for my grandparents’ health, even though they didn’t worry for their own. My mom and I each became part-time caregivers to my grandfather when he dealt with some (non-Covid-related) health issues. My grandma is reaching the phase of her life where it’s time to sell the farm, since Big Danny isn’t around to take care of it anymore. In the collective crises of 2020 into 2021, I was reminded of my grandfather’s reply to my mom calling him, worried about him at work when a tornado hit years ago. His reply: “My sins are paid for.” Clearly, he’s not concerned about what comes after this, so why worry about leaving the world? I’m glad he doesn’t live in fear, despite being part of the generation most at risk for dying from Covid-19. But it doesn’t make it any easier to picture my mom without him. To picture myself in Bible study without the option to ask him questions about this passage and its relationship with that one.
As a full-time traveler, I don’t exactly prioritize holding down an apartment in the U.S. There is no financial point to paying rent on a place you plan to spend barely any time in. So, like most digital nomads, I ended up in my childhood bedroom, the epitome of failure. At least it is to most people. But in my family, we stick together. And, like I said, I’m a long-term traveler. I have different goals and an unorthodox way of life. Everything happens for a reason, and my presence at home was welcome during such a messy time in life. During the instability of Covid, I was there to do 99% of the cooking so no one else would have to. I was there to help make decisions about going to the grocery store vs. ordering through Instacart. I was there to do lots of things that I didn’t realize I missed while traveling. And in return, I got priceless time with family, my Nashville friends, and on my own in the silence of contemplation of what to do next.
But now, it’s been over a year since I cut my time in Southeast Asia short due to Covid-19. And I’m ready to get back out there. Looking back on the past year of exhaustion, frustration, then creativity, renewal, and making memories I never thought I’d have, I see now that I’ll be hitting the road as a different kind of traveler and a different kind of blogger.
Before, I placed all my eggs into a basket you may know as Sarah L. Travels. I wanted to be everybody’s everything. Instagram posts, YouTube videos, blog posts, Pinterest pins, tweeting on Twitter, online courses — you name it, I was willing to do it for my little travel blog. Now, I’ve given myself the time and permission to dream outside of this well-loved blog. I’m emerging with an entirely different understanding of my career. And that is an unbelievably wonderful thing. I may even delete my Instagram account, because I don’t want to spend any time on the app. This is the cardinal sin of blogging, even though Instagram doesn’t bring traffic! I never dreamed I’d quit Instagram, and it looks like I may. Baby steps, y’all. Baby steps.
Life in the era of Covid-19 has brought on a sense of fatigue I didn’t know possible. But I’d seen a sliver of this uncertain limbo before: when I was on medical leave from the Peace Corps.
Now that I’m on my own and don’t have a human boss except the person who looks back at me in the mirror every day, I feel more secure than ever to make decisions about when to leave. When to stay. And how to do both of those things. At the same time, I naturally feel like I’m making the wrong choices often. I guess that comes with the territory with making business decisions every single day. Which brand of turmeric do I buy for i love tofu scramble? Which marketing channels are worth my time? How early should I outsource manufacturing?
You get the gist.
Above everything else, the way God has used this crisis to bring me closer to Him is what’s made all the difference. My anxious tendencies haven’t exactly gone away, but I have a better understanding now of what it means to wait on the Lord. To pray to Him fervently, wait for His reply, and then act. To want to spend time with Him, read His word, and seek sound teaching on what He’s told us about Himself. In the first part of 2021 especially, I’ve spent more one-on-one time with the Lord than I have the past sixteen years I’ve been a Christian combined.
I don’t know about tomorrow. That’s one of the most valuable lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic. I don’t know if my seasoning blend will be an absolute flop, or if any of the other business ideas I dreamed up in 2020 will ever come to fruition. I don’t know if my travel blog will ever meet the views I want it to, or if I’ll ever get that cookbook deal.
But, I do know that I don’t want any of it if God is not leading me there.
So for now, I’ll be wearing a mask at the grocery store, inching along to launch day of the seasoning blend, and finding peace in the waiting.