Going to the beach used to be one of our favorite summer activities. (Living a few miles from the ocean has definite perks.) During summer weekends if we weren't on a road trip, you could find us propped up in our favorite beach chairs whenever the sun was out and the temperature was up.
Beach Days: Past
From packing lunches, snacks, beverages, beach chairs, umbrellas, and toys to slathering on sunscreen and making sure we had plenty of tunes we were always ready to splash in the surf, dig moats around sand castles and toss around a frisbee. I loved watching my kids get their wiggles out. I loved leaving our worries and responsibilities behind. I loved spending the day in a version of heaven I never imagined I would call home.
We'd drive down to the beach ahead of the crowds, get a good parking spot and find a nice sandy spot near the waves. Beach days were carefree and always filled with splashing feet, sandy hugs, excavating sand and chasing seagulls.
Those days were a welcome escape from reality.
Beach Days: Present
The weather was perfect last weekend—classic California summer. Instead of throwing on our bathing suits and packing our car to the gills with everything we would have liked for a full day at the beach, we piled into the car with only the bare essentials: sunscreen, water, towels face masks and one toy my little one could carry comfortably in his hand. Instead of planning for an entire day, we planned for an hour or two. Instead of heading to our favorite spot, we searched for something more secluded. Instead of bringing along extra toilet paper for the bathrooms, there weren't any bathrooms. Instead of slipping on flip flops for the sidewalk and boardwalk, we tied on sneakers for the trail.
We still got to the beach. The kids still splashed in the waves, played in the sand and had fun—but our reality came with us. My husband and I took a few photos and got a bunch of sandy hugs, but I couldn't relax. I felt overwhelmed. I spent most of our visit trying to keep my kids a safe distance from everyone while holding back feelings of panic.
And then I paused.
It’s not about the beach
This year has been overwhelming for so many reasons. There are big, bold, important and sometimes uncomfortable things happening in the world today, and I can’t relax. But I’m learning that’s okay. People can’t change when they’re too relaxed or too comfortable.
At first, the pandemic brought us closer as we watched China, Italy and New York cling to life. At first, the murder of George Floyd brought so many of us closer as we marched for him and all BIPOC that were wrongfully killed before him. And after him. At first, the pandemic gave us a bigger appreciation of teachers and showed us how hard they work to make sure our children learn in a safe environment.
It's about protecting each other...
Now things that initially brought us closer are tearing us apart. People are divided along party lines about wearing a face mask in public during a pandemic. As of this writing Republican governors in 18 states have yet to issue a mask mandate with some citing it is an infringement on personal freedom.
According to Shaakirrah Sanders, a professor of Law at the University of Idaho, requiring people to wear face masks may infringe on personal freedom... but not really. In a recent KTVB7 article, "Wearing a face mask: Does it infringe on personal freedoms?," Sanders says face mask mandates would likely be considered justified if it were challenged in court.
It's about supporting each other...
People are divided about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. According to a June 12th article from Pew Research Center Social & Demographics Trends, approximately 40 percent of white Americans do not support (or strongly support) the Black Lives Matter movement.
This is a movement that demands equity for black human beings. Human. Beings. Husbands. Wives. Fathers. Mothers. Sons. Daughters. Friends. I could go on. Those who stand on the platform of privledge should willingly help others gain stable footing to create “equality for all.” Period.
It's about keeping everyone safe...
People are divided about how and when our children and teachers should go back to school this Fall. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos threatened to withhold federal funding for public school districts that do not open fully for the 2020-2021 school year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thankfully they don't have direct authority to withhold any funding, but just knowing this lack of support exists at a federal level does not make it easy for local governments to make the safest decisions.
Parents are forced to make impossible decisions about their child's education. Whether we choose blended learning or distance learning, there will be some element of virtual school (at least in California) as we begin the new school year. There were no good choices for parents, teachers or our children.
It's about changing—to make the world better...
This year has been overwhelming so far, but I'm hopeful 2020 will teach Americans how to be better humans to each other and to the planet.
Incidentally, I just read that longtime conservative commentator George Will intends to vote for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November—which would be the first time he has ever voted for a Democrat.
This is a year of change for America; it’s states, cities, communities and me. And I’m hopeful a good shift will come out of it.
Perhaps it was not an escape from reality that we all needed, but an opportunity to pause and take a closer look at what needs changing.