2020 asks, Can you spare any change?

This year has been one big test of courage. We’ve had our lives shaken up, our routines modified, even our workday is not the same as it was last year (will we think of the years before this as the Golden Teens?). One thing that has remained consistent in this amusement-park-rundown-wooden-coaster of a year is that we never know what is going to come next. But rather than peeking out of our apartment windows to see what’s happening, what if we climbed into the front seat of this crazy Changemobile and started taking control for ourselves?

When I moved out of the city–in the Golden Teens–the change, though welcome, seemed abrupt. Suddenly there I was, not in the city among the bars, Broadway shows, subway stations, and conveniences at every corner. Did I have FOMO? Maybe a little. But I was also so excited for my stake of the suburbs with the cute house, car, and yard for the kids. Plus, the city was still there for me five days a week for work, and more when we went out on the weekends.

My small town in Westchester is hardly known except for a Norman Rockwell painting called Commuters that depicts troves of businessmen and -women lined up on the Metro North platform, their homes rising in small dots on the hilly terrain behind them, waiting for the train to take them into the city. It’s a gorgeous, charming piece, but in this time of social distancing it reads more like an apoplectic warning. So much… breathing! Where are the masks?

Yup, 2020 has really done a number on my love affair with New York. I don’t go in for work. I don’t ride the subway. Bars are out of the question. My friends keep passing around that article on Facebook with all the NYC restaurants, stores, and Broadway shows that won’t be coming back after the restrictions are lifted. Right now it seems a lot easier to answer the question: If the city was no longer fulfilling me, would I move?

But instead of seeing it as the city letting me down, maybe it’s 2020’s way of telling me I should make decisions based on what I want to add to my life, instead of avoiding change because I’m worrying about what I’ll miss. I shouldn’t stress about FOMO because there is no “MO” right now. It’s like NY is saying, “Go on, you can fly from this nest a bit…. Just make sure to visit when I’m back!”

With this new lifestyle, a house in the burbs seems like the best way to take advantage of all the new things we need to survive 2020. Home office: check. Playroom for the kids: check. Outdoor space for hosting: check. Room in the house for virtual classes: check. Car for isolated errands: check. Space to spread out: big check!

So maybe in the midst of all this negative change, the terms shut down, closed, remote, cancelled, we can bring about our own positive change. Let’s talk in terms of open, connected, and safe. More room to socially distance, less density of contact to concern us, an easier lifestyle of shopping by curbside pickup, packages from online that can be left by your front door, lots and lots of land whether it’s at your own home or at one of the many acres of local town parks, public playgrounds that aren’t so busy there’s a line for the swings. I know it’s not possible to own fresh air, but it sure feels that way every time I walk to my mailbox. I didn’t get that in the city.

And making positive changes right now feels like a fresh new start. If Norman Rockwell were alive, he wouldn’t focus on the negative aspects of 2020. He’d be painting us sitting in our backyards 6’ apart with friends, laughing, drinks in hand; or rolling a fresh coat of paint on what will be our new his-and-hers home offices. Or depicting our kids on their swing sets, waving over the fence to the neighbors. That all feels pretty good to me right now. Maybe with the right outlook, the 20s can be Golden, too.


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