Let's be real- I don't remember much about Driver's Education. Remember that course you might have taken as a teenager where you would learn how to drive, and eventually take a behind-the-wheel test that would culminate in receiving that driver's permit and all the freedom and responsibility that comes it with it?
That course was both full of things that were commons sense (like stop at a STOP sign) and other rules that nobody knew even existed (like stay 500 feet behind a fire truck- who knew!)
But for whatever reason, one of the things I do remember is how they taught you to drive through a curve in the road. Any given road comes with its own twists and turns (unless if you live in Nebraska or Kansas maybe!) And if you grew up in a small town like I did, some roads have some pretty drastic curves with no painted lines!
But when approaching a turn, they teach you to use your brake as you enter the turn. This feels obvious and a natural reaction. But once you get halfway through the curve in the road, you're supposed to switch over to use the gas and accelerate through the turn.
When I first heard that as a student, it didn't sound right. Wouldn't you use the brakes for the duration of the turn? Turns out the answer is NO because if you did apply the brake the entire time, you might come to a standstill... or be going so slow it would almost be like you're standing still!
Maybe that's the key to navigating any turn in life. Applying the brake initially so you minimize the risk of wrecking, and then applying the fuel so that you move out of the curve and onto straighter paths.
Doesn't that kind of feel like what's been happening over the past few weeks? Like we've gone from using the brake to using the gas? Things are accelerating at a rapid pace. Restrictions going away. Capacity increasing. Masking rules easing.
But as we accelerate out of this crisis, maybe we should press PAUSE for a second because we don't have Google Maps telling us exactly what the other side will be like. But let's take some time to get ourselves ready TODAY for whatever it is that's waiting for us TOMORROW.
Here are 5 Things to Know Before Life Returns:
#1 - REFLECT ON WHAT WAS IT YOU LEARNED
We all went through the same storm this past year, but each one of us were in a slightly different boat. Some folks had their lives completely upended. Maybe lost their job. Lost a loved one. Saw friendships fade away and lost their sense of community. Others maybe enjoyed the time alone or the slower pace of life.
But each one of us has something we can learn from over the past year. What a tremendous waste it would be to go through this past year and not have gained anything from it.
So take some time to think about what it was that you learned. Go for a walk and think on it. Or take out a pencil and paper and write some things down. Open your iPhone and jot things on the notepad. Just do something to reflect in the best way that works for you.
I learned a lot over this past year. Some things were difficult to learn, many of which I'm still learning and unpacking the lessons from. Here were some of my lessons:
- Make your plans in pencil and not pen. Your calendar, your plans can all change in any given moment.
- Live day by day. Not week by week. Not month by month. Not year by year. You gotta win each day one day at a time.
- You can't let your happiness depend on something that can be taken away.
- Some seasons in life you thrive. Other seasons in life you just try to survive. And that's ok.
- Wherever there is crisis, there is opportunity.
- Comfortable people don't need Jesus. Desperate people do. It's ok to feel uncomfortable and desperate. Change can be a very powerful tool for growth.
#2 - PREPARE FOR WAVES OF GRIEF
Okay, this isn't the most uplifting headline to read. I mean, how can there be grief when life is starting to resemble some type of normalcy again???
Well, that's actually why there's going to be additional episodes of grief. Let me explain...
As things open up, as more of life returns to a new normal, you're going to realize what all you missed from this past year.
If you were a graduate during the pandemic, the next time you visit a normal graduation, there will probably be some pain when you remember how your graduation wasn't like that. Or if your wedding had to be downsized because of the pandemic, then next 250 person wedding you go to might bring up memories of when you had to tell guests that they couldn't come to your big day.
Or maybe you're in a job that had to lay off employees. The next time you're in the office and you realize how many co-workers and friends are no longer there, it's probably going to sting.
Or if you were one of the 500,000+ families that lost a loved one from COVID, family gatherings will never be the same.
This past year wasn't a paper cut. It left deep scars that we will carry with us forever.
You're going to experience a wide range of emotions in 2021. The joys of seeing things come back. And the pain of knowing how much life has forever changed.
Can I share a quick story with you that's given me some comfort in this?
This is a situation the human race has encountered for centuries.
Many centuries ago, a Jewish temple was destroyed. And years and years later, it was rebuilt. Sounds like it would be an exciting time to see the temple rebuilt, right?
Well, take a look at this verse in Ezra 3:12
But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.
Did you catch that? Some people saw the foundation of the new temple and were rejoicing at the work taking place. Others were crying because they could tell by the foundation that it was going to be smaller than the old temple, the one they remembered.
You probably already know where I'm going with this.
Some days we are going to shout for joy at what great things are taking place again. Other days we are going to cry when things aren't what they used to be. And some days we might smile and cry all in the same day.
And that's ok. It's ok to have a mix of emotions. It's ok to not be ok. And that leads me to the next point.
#3 - GIVE OTHERS AN EXTRA DOSE OF GRACE
We are entering a time where we are going to need to give everyone an extra dose of grace. The pandemic started at the same time for all of us. You probably remember where you were when you got news of the world shutting down.
But the finish line will be different for each one of us. We all won't cross the finish line at the same time.
To be frank with you, I'm fully vaccinated, and I'm doing everything I was doing pre-COVID. Gathering with friends. Walking through large crowds with no concerns. Taking my mask off with full confidence in the scientific data.
But I also have friends that are fully vaccinated that are still cautious about starting up normal life again. And you know what, that's OK.
Everyone is going to go at their own pace and decide for themselves what they feel comfortable with. For me, I'm going to give out grace served with a smile.
With whatever you decide, the choice is yours. And we should respect other people's choice as well.
#4 - STRETCH YOURSELF AND BECOME BETTER
Maybe as you think upon lessons from the past year, you'll come across areas in your life where you want to become better. Just like how in every crisis there is an opportunity, there is an opportunity for us to emerge better from this.
As life gets busier again, think about what is essential? What are things in your life that maybe you don't want to put back into your schedule?
Your time is precious. More precious than money. Make sure you're spending time on the things that really matter. You don't spend money on things you don't want to buy. So using that rationale, we shouldn't spend time on things that don't matter.
The things you say NO to are just as important as the things you say YES to. Don't be afraid to say NO.
You might even want to put some daily challenges into your life to help you grow. Can I share one of mine with you? Every day I have a goal of talking to at least one stranger a day. It doesn't happen every day, but I try to make an effort to do so.
It's about stretching that muscle to connect with people in a better and deeper way than ever before. What a great world we would live in if we saw everyone as a PERSON to be a friend to and not a PROJECT to change.
#5 - THE LIFE YOU LOVED WILL COME BACK
There's been a lot of talk around what a "new normal" will look like. To be honest, I'll welcome any type of normal - new or old - just get me some semblance of normalcy back!
I'm an avid reader of news. Some say the world will never be the same and it's going to be very different. Some say the world will go back to the way it was.
Here's the best way I can go about describing what I think it'll be like: The 'new normal' is not going to keep us from living. But it might change how we live.
Just like how 9/11 changed the world in terms of terrorism and security, the pandemic will forever change things as well. But at the same time, life will go on and we will resume our lives.
Packed concerts will come back. Big family cookouts will resume. And we will travel again.
Everything we once enjoyed about life will come back. At times it might look different, but it will come back.
And when it does come back, are you going to reminisce on how things were or are you going to celebrate what we get to do?
You can dwell on how bad the past year was. Or you can be thankful that when it usually takes at least 7 years to develop a vaccine, we developed a highly effective one in 11 months.
It's all in what you focus on. If we emerge with more gratitude and grace in our lives post-COVID, we will all be just fine.
To go back to the car example at the beginning, it kind of feels like we are driving into a fog where we don't know what the road ahead looks like, and we can only see a little bit in front of us before it gets fuzzy.
But that's ok. You can drive a car in fog. You only need to look at what's directly in front of you. And as you move along, the path becomes clearer and clearer. Such is life.