I had a colleague who, when talking about the stages of growing children, insisted that one stage was not better then the next–just different.
I, as a young mother with my first child, disagreed. I loved the playfulness of 2, the personality of 3, the independence of 4, the self-assertiveness of 5. Then I had my second child and saw the wisdom of her words.
My second child’s milestones feel bittersweet. Crawling means more fidgeting when I hold her for too long. Walking means the end of baby snuggles. Every stage is just different.
I think about 2020 in the same way. We are changed by it. We will be forever changed by it. Not necessarily or wholly good and not necessarily or wholly bad.
Yes, in 2020, we were greeted with death in ways we have never experienced, but I think that has also made us think more about our health and well-being. Financial challenges have made us think hard about how close we are to needing underfunded social programs. Social distancing has put our relationships into perspective. Who are we including in our pod?
We have also had some difficult conversations that we have been avoiding as a nation. We are talking and learning about racism and how we must be anti-racist to dismantle systematic racism. We are examining our broken healthcare system where millions of Americans are un- or underinsured during a pandemic.
We have also been innovative. Companies, schools, industries took steps to address safety and promote sanitized work environments or work from home options. This happened in days or weeks, instead of months or years.
We are looking at our education system and the role it plays in delivering key social services to students and their families. We can see poverty in ways never seen before.
These are rough highlights. I am not sharing anything new. We will be changed by 2020–not good, not bad.
Little baby cries on the floor of our small blue house. Trying to calm the tears of tummy time, I join her on the floor. This does not help and instead she firmly places her face into her mat and screams as if she has been abandoned to the elements and will never see her family again.
Deciding that this is enough, I scoop her up, my hand greeted with tears, spit up, and baby boogies, and place her in my lap. In the safety of her mama’s arms, she lets out a few sneezes and some excited coos as she flexes her fingers over my arm.
I had seen it coming. The numbers had been creeping upwards. Everyday the odometer was reaching for that next milestone. Today, my 2007 Toyota Corolla hit 100,000 miles.
The word milestone has an interesting origin. The term originally referred to actual stone markers used to indicate the distance traveled (mile) along a road. This practice dates back to the Roman Empire and today, we see this mile markers on major highways in the form of small signs along the guardrail.
The milestone marked the physical passage of distance and we use the same term to describe significant events in our lives. Birthdays, graduations, marriages, jobs, relocations, births are all important markers that punctuate our lives with before and after moments. The first job out of college reconciled my fears regarding employability with an English degree. The birth of our child changed our lives as we became parents. When we moved into our house, we had a distinct realization of the “before” and the “after.”
Instead of the passage of physical space, these milestones mark the passage of time. Depending on the speed at which we travel through life, we meet these milestones at different times. It took 11 years for my car to reach 100,000 miles. My first car–a 1998 Dodge Neon–didn’t make it past 92,000 miles before it succumbed to the rust caused by New England winters and road treatments.
But this is how life works. Sometimes, we hit milestones, and sometimes we miss them. Sometimes, we are in a place were we can pull over and take a picture or two.