For the past few years, I have been looking forward to 2020.
It is, after all, the number that represents a goal of our profession (namely, good vision), and it was proclaimed to be the Year of the Eye. I imagined that it would be a year to celebrate the gift of sight, with public recognition of the contributions of our profession and of all those who strive to preserve ocular health. I looked forward to our various annual meetings, in which special lectures and programs might acknowledge our accomplishments. It would be a fitting tribute to a distinguished heritage. But then, before the year was barely underway, the world abruptly changed, and the gift of sight was forced to take a backseat.
As the months passed, and it became increasingly apparent that the pandemic would consume our attention for the entire year and beyond, I eventually resigned myself to the realization that the year I had anticipated wasn’t going to happen. My thoughts turned instead to those suffering from the illness and the loss and from the financial devastation imposed by the virus, and like everyone else, my life changed dramatically in order to protect myself and those around me. But, as time went on, I gradually became aware of something else that was happening in my life; something surprisingly positive.
My wife and I had recently moved into a new home, and this was our second summer in it. One morning, when I went out to get the paper, I noticed a bank of flowers that I didn’t even know we had. When I pointed them out to her, she was equally surprised. That is when we began to realize that we had been so busy, even in retirement, with local activities and travel, that we had either not been home or were too busy to notice the flowers the previous summer. And, as the days passed, we became aware of more and more of the pleasures “right in our own backyard” that we had failed to appreciate before.
The enforced down time of the pandemic soon led to many other realizations. Taking advantage of the free hours we now had, we spent more time hiking and were amazed to find how many lovely parks with long, wooded hiking trails there are in our county and the surrounding area.
We also spent more time walking in our neighborhood and were surprised to see how many others were out doing the same, and we began to enjoy the connectedness, albeit at appropriate physical distances, that this provided. And then, of course, there were the books that had been piling up, and we discovered the joy of sitting together, even in the middle of the day (almost unheard of before) and catching up on our reading.
We had planned two overseas excursions in 2020, as well as several trips within the country, all of which had to be canceled. But we substituted those vacations with local trips to our beaches and mountains within North Carolina, and that is when we had another epiphany. We discovered that it is not necessary to leave the country or even our state to enjoy more natural beauty and pleasures than we could ever fully take advantage of.
In short, these unprecedented times in which we find ourselves, while depriving us of much that we had anticipated in 2020, have actually opened our eyes to many of the simple pleasures that surround us every day. I suspect that we will someday look back on this experience and find that our lives have actually been changed in some ways for the better, and that may be the silver lining to a very black cloud.
Of course, those of us who are comfortably retired have a decided advantage during these challenging times. Most of us do not have to go to the office or other workplace and expose ourselves to health risks, as our younger colleagues have to do or deal with the financial insecurity that so many families are facing.
I am sure that the thoughts and concerns of all of us go out to those who are suffering from the pandemic, and that we want to do whatever we can to relieve their burden by providing food or money or whatever we can do to help in our communities. But I hope that, when this world crisis is finally over, we can all look back and find something that changed in our lives that will make life a little better for everyone.