On Thursday, I was doing the usual routine of getting the day started with a mug of coffee and a scroll through the regular news feeds when I was hit from all sides with a term that seemed to have mushroomed up virtually overnight. March 11, 2020 had been deemed “The Day that Changed Everything” (let’s call it TDTCE for short). No doubt about it, the name seems to have found some fast traction and was plastered on headlines of publications all over the news universe last week. (Google it and you’ll see what I mean).
Even the photo app on my phone got into the action by chiming in with a ‘remember this day’ reminder of a picture I took on ‘TDTCE’ in Manhattan. It was at 8th Avenue and 42nd Street, and according to the time stamp it was at 10:22 a.m.
Seeing that photo took me right back to that morning and the memories of thinking how surreal 42nd Street looked with virtually no people or vehicles on it. The near-silence was as close to eerie as you could get on a beautiful sunny morning, and if it were night, I’m guessing the comparison to a Twilight Zone episode or a Hollywood set rendered perfectly to replicate a post-apocalypse 42nd Street would have been complete. There was none of the usual ambient noise of horns, shouts, sirens. None of the background chatter of countless tourists walking with their head angled upwards for maximum sightseeing absorption while New York’s foot commuting workforce jostled past them power walking to wherever they were heading on any given Wednesday morning. If there were actually crickets in Times Square, their presence could have been known on that day.
I’ve worked in Manhattan since 1999, and in the last 22 years I have seen many a crazy thing in the city, but that view of 42nd Street when I came around the corner from 8th Avenue was a jarring sight. Thinking about it now, that would be the first of many times ‘unprecedented’ seemed to be the most fitting word. While I didn’t refer to it as ‘TDTCE’ at the time, I did text the photo to friends and family to message that whatever was happening in NYC was some real deal stuff, and a game-changer was on the way.
We all know what the next 365 days brought. Every one of us reading this had our own personal journey through it. It is now finally starting to seem that we are coming through the other side. As I wrote this, President Biden had just announced that every adult who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to sign up for it by May 1. It would appear that we are progressing towards the light at the end of the tunnel, with the destination being a return to things we have missed most. While we all have our own list of priorities, seeing extended friends and family that we have separated from and being free to travel without restriction would seem to be the top picks for many of us. They certainly are for me.
At the same time, I recognize that this past year has brought something scarce to find: extra time. With all of life’s usually scheduled events canceled, we were afforded a window of time to recalibrate our schedules and, in many ways, live simpler ‘back to basics’ lifestyles. I believe that having this opportunity to hit the reset button on our normally overscheduled days presents a unique chance to change our perspective and habits on how we manage our time in the future. To me, the best outcome is getting back to normal as a 2.0 version that brings with it the positive elements of the ‘Covid life:’ Simple activities with family, getting outside and enjoying nature more, and keeping in touch with people simply to see how they’re doing.
We will be back in the swing of things soon enough and ‘new normal’ will continue to develop, but I propose we aim higher and shoot for the ‘new and improved’ normal in our lives.
On a related note of getting back to things we have missed, I know in-person races are in that category for many of us. I wanted to extend the invitation to join us on the Saucon Rail Trail for the BAR40 Bunny Hop 5K Fun Run/Walk at 11 a.m. on Easter Sunday, April 4.
This is a free event. Go to BAR40.org to RSVP and you’ll get an email with details. Hope to see you there!
Eric Bartosz is the founder of BAR40 and the author of the internationally-acclaimed book ‘BAR40: Achieving Personal Excellence.’ He lives in Center Valley with his wife Trish, daughter Riley and pug Piper, and serves the community as an Upper Saucon firefighter, a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley and a local race organizer. Eric is a 20+ year runner and racer and can often be found logging miles on the Saucon Rail Trail.