Last week I went to my first baseball game in over a year. I knew I missed baseball, Sara knew I missed baseball, and we had spent two of my most recent four birthday weekends visiting baseball stadiums. So despite how frustrating it was for Sara to have a surprise ruined – Sara disputes this, but I maintain that we both had the idea – it was perhaps inevitable that we both had the idea that we should go to a baseball game over my birthday weekend.
Sara got us tickets for the Charlotte Knights – the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox – for Thursday, May 6. As we drove up to the ballpark late that afternoon, under mild and partly cloudy skies, we chatted about our jobs, complained about the heavy traffic, talked about plans for the rest of the weekend and beyond. We entered Uptown and found a parking spot, then donned our masks and crossed the street to the ballpark. After a painless security check, we stepped through the gates and I’ll never forget how I felt as the field came into view.
It was a massive sense of relief. A huge spiritual exhale. I felt tears coming into my eyes. Watching me, Sara asked: “Was it everything you thought it’d be?” This question was somewhat tongue-in-cheek; we often ask this of each other, usually after the first bite of a Harriet’s hamburger, or a Dairy Queen Blizzard.
My reply, without a trace of irony, was: “I didn’t realize how much I’d missed this.”
Like Michael Jordan in 1995, returning to the NBA after a year and a half in exile, the two words in my mind were: I’m back.
Even though the last year hasn’t been nearly as difficult for me as it has for many others, I’ve been anxious for things to return to normal. I remember in the early days of the pandemic dreaming of a day in the hopefully-not-too-distant future when we would declare the pandemic was over, like V-J Day in 1945 but instead of kissing in the streets we’d settle for friendly handshakes. Early on in the pandemic, I remember feeling kind of excited to have a bunch of free time at home. I threw myself into side projects, learning new recipes, even a little yard work. Sure, it’s a lot of time to spend at home, I thought. But it’s only temporary.
But as the pandemic dragged on, through 2020 and into 2021, I began to wonder not only when, but if things would ever return to normal. The side projects, new recipes and yard work all lost their appeal. I started multiple blog posts over the last year but wasn’t able to finish any of them. I’ve said before that for me, writer’s block isn’t necessarily when I don’t have any ideas to write about, but is often when the ideas I have don’t feel worth exploring or sharing, and that’s where I was for most of the last year. Physically, I felt fine, but mentally I felt restless, unsettled and unfulfilled. My creativity was sapped.
All of that said, I’m incredibly fortunate – and I sometimes have to remind myself how fortunate I am – that despite what was going on in the rest of the world, I had a pretty good year. Like the last time I took this long of a hiatus from writing, my life has almost entirely changed, almost entirely for the better. Since the world went into quarantine last year, I landed a new job at Coinbase, got a new nephew, and upgraded my car to one that plugs into a wall. And while it’s taken me more than a year, lots of trial and error and scores of misshapen pizzas, my pizzas are now made entirely from scratch.
Oh, one more big change: Sara and I are incredibly excited, terrified, proud and terrified to be expecting a baby boy in July. We can’t wait to meet him, introduce him to our families, take him to baseball games, to climb mountains, and battle the waves. We’re less excited about diaper duty, sleep deprivation, and the mountain of baby products that are apparently necessary to properly raise a baby in the 21st century. But we’ll be fine, right? (Have I mentioned we’re terrified?)
The good news is that after that terrifying initial surge, the false hope of early summer 2020, the surges of mid-summer, fall and winter, we’re finally turning the tide against the pandemic. Vaccines that didn’t even exist eighteen months ago are now protecting over 100 million Americans. Those protections are finally having an effect on the overall case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths, which are all falling precipitiously.
I got my second vaccine dose the Monday before we went to the baseball game. I didn’t expect things to return to normal as soon as I got my shot, but I was still a little disappointed when they didn’t. Getting vaccinated alone, I realized, wasn’t enough to bring me back to my normal. That would come a few days later, when I got to go to a baseball game with people I care about.
If you’re reading this, haven’t been vaccinated yet, and have your own hesitations or concerns with the COVID-19 vaccines, that’s okay! I freely concede that getting vaccinated isn’t always a simple or clear decision. But if you haven’t been vaccinated yet because you’re not sure it’s going to make any difference, here’s what I’ll say. Getting the vaccine won’t make everything feel normal right away, but if it unlocks your normal, like it did for me, it’s absolutely worth it.
Thanks, as always, for reading. If you need me, I’ll be planning my next ballpark pilgrimage, this time as a party of three. 👨👩👦
Thanks to Sara Sawczuk for editing this post, putting up with me for over a year of quarantine, and agreeing to change all diapers. (Editor’s note: she never agreed to that!)