Back when I used to work, I remember having a few depressive episodes of feeling stuck in a cubicle for the rest of my natural life. At the time, I had graduated college and wasn’t using my bachelor’s degree for anything useful. Law school was still a dream. My job consisted of sitting at a desk and staring at a monitor for hours on end. I wasn’t as good at it as the other people on my shift. The lack of skill eroded my confidence until I dreaded going to work.
One of the things I did to mitigate this was to take little mental vacations.
It wasn’t much, but on a break, I’d be able to go to Google maps and go anywhere in the world. I could look at the Rocky Mountains. I could check out the highways in Mexico. Sometimes, I’d check out a country like Georgia and marvel at the scenic beauty, dreaming of a time when I could go there for myself.
Sometimes, I’d plan the longest road trip ever. I could go from the southeast U.S. all the way to Alaska, through Canada. I wanted to know what it was like to drive all the way, seeing it from the ground. It’s one thing to fly over some mountains; they’re more majestic when I look up at them.
Eventually I tried looking for a way to drive the whole length of the Americas. From Alaska to Argentina. From Chile to Canada. At the time the maps weren’t the best south of Mexico. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to take that kind of a road trip.
I haven’t checked back since.
Some of this is anxiety, an unwillingness to revisit past activities in tumultuous times. I relive fear in my memories. I can still remember the panic with some of them though they’re decades in the past.
During the quarantine, it’s important to do whatever’s possible to mitigate the isolation. I live out in the country, so I have the space to roam a bit without being close to people. Maybe others don’t have that luxury. If no one can get outside, life can look bleak within four familiar walls. I know what that’s like, too.
Sometimes, it takes looking at familiar things in a new way. Travel through the wakes of digital pioneers. Learn something new. Look at things in a new way, with the kind of imagination that defies constraining.