Monday Musings... Let's See Where This Takes Us

This past week was Reading Week, and I’m sure I speak for most faculty and students that we were all ready for a break from staring at our screen for that last 7 weeks. At least I know I was feeling the flat bottom blues from sitting in a chair for 14 hours a day.

I’m a pretty active person and I miss being able to physically see my students, but also just to simply move around a classroom. So, I made it a priority to get out of my seat and get some fresh air, even if it was just biking to the post office.

The real blessing from this past week was that I connected with my son in Toronto on Saturday, and we cycled the waterfront. Who would have thought that this bustling city would have such wonderful trails, that at times, seemed like we were in a completely different geographical zone?

We couldn’t have ordered better weather for November, and the cool breeze from the lake was actually refreshing. I was so impressed with how many people were taking advantage of the sunshine and biking or jogging, walking their pets, or simply sitting on the shoreline watching the kayakers row by.

But what I noticed the most was the happiness on people’s faces. Everyone was socially distancing, but many were also taking advantage of the open space and opportunity to not wear a mask. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a number of smiling faces. Think about it – pretty much everywhere we go, any store, church, even the post office – everyone has their nose and mouth covered. The only thing we can see is their eyes and it’s not always easy to read emotion, especially being 2 metres apart. So, to see the delight in faces, both young and old, was such a gift!

Covid really highlights what we’ve taken for granted - whether that’s our ability to socialize, the way we shop, go to work or go to school. In less than a year, we’ve be forced to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Some of the freedoms we’ve enjoyed are now altered and it can feel like being held captive, not knowing when the release date is ever going to come. Is this our ‘new normal’? Will things ever go back to the way they were? These thoughts certainly can cause some people to feel despair and even lose hope.

As I told my students in September, we want to keep pedaling, keep moving forward. When times are easy, we don’t want to take our hands off the handle bars and feet off the pedals and coast, we still want to keep pedaling because we’re going to need that momentum to climb the hills that are sure to come. I fear that pre-covid, many people had been coasting through life, not training or preparing for potential road blocks up ahead. You can’t expect to bike 100k (which this pandemic feels like) if you’ve been sitting on the couch eating chips and binge-watching Netflix.

But…if you set your mind to it, you can always pedal short distances to the next pitstop. And that’s what we all need to do right now. Just keep pedaling, catching our breath, and pedaling some more!

As my son and I set off on our trek on Saturday, we started in the downtown area. It indeed was nerve-wracking, navigating the traffic congested streets, hoping the drivers would be kind and that no one who was parked would suddenly open their car doors. It took focus and intention and grit. But as we crossed the Gardiner Expressway and the Lakeshore Boulevard and connected with the trail, we regained a sense of control and using our navigational skills we ventured out. We actually travelled in some areas that were unknown to my son, and as he said “Let’s see where it takes us”. So, with optimism and excitement, we explored some wonderfully unexpected areas of Toronto neither of us had ever been to. We just kept pedaling. We looped back, now knowing the territory, prepared for the traffic, and landed at our destination safe and sound. He thought we were going to cycle 25k but we actually completed 50k. He went further and was stronger than he thought he was capable of.

And this is our life now, everyone. We have to pedal the uncharted course ahead of us, with optimism, and dare I say, excitement, because around the bend may be something wonderfully unexpected that is going to show us just how strong we can be, even if we have doubt. Living in these uncertain times will only be as challenging as our mind allows it to be. Let’s see where this takes us! Just keep pedaling and see if you can do it with a smile on your face!

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