A little more than a week ago, my spring to-do list was a long one.
"I was supposed to" is a common refrain this week, especially in Seattle, a place utterly transformed by the arrival and escalation of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. It was strange enough a week ago, when I wrote this dispatch from America's coronavirus capital for The New York Times. It's even stranger now.
All of the above items on my to-do list are marked "done," because they've been cancelled or postponed into an indefinite future. No more hopping on planes. No more in-person teaching; classes at the UW now have gone online through the end of March, at the very least. My children went to school today for the last time before it closes; the governor has closed all schools in three counties through the end of April. The neighborhood, the UW campus, and the city streets are nearly apocalyptically quiet. Libraries, museums, concerts, all cancelled. Restaurants closing or retrofitting for something entirely different. The grocery store is the only crowded place in town.
So that's why I'm going to build a new, and very different, to-do list. One for life at half speed, life more local. One that can and must attend to building up the people and communities around us, rather than the single-minded rush of getting our own stuff done. A gratitude list, a fortitude list, a resilience list. A list of things I love about where I live, from lakes and mountains to the one-hour chicken at Cafe Presse and John in the Morning and Marshawn's return.
It'll be a list that prioritizes helping the people around me hardest hit by this crisis. Big tips and gift card purchases at local restaurants. Piles of books from my local bookstore. Donations to the food bank. Support for the nonprofits that had to cancel fundraisers, performances, concerts, more.
It'll be a list with room for dog walks and board games and creative homeschooling, but also for really, truly catching up on my towering to-read pile of terrific books published during the past year. For retooling my syllabus for my spring graduate seminar to adapt to online learning, and reaching out to the far-away colleagues I won't see in person this spring. For actually getting around to some of those writing projects and collaborations that lurked at the bottom of my old to-do list, pushed down and aside by the relentless buzz of everyday life and ordinary procrastination. For saying no to lots of things and saying yes to more audacious others. For staying in place, just for a while, building hope and strength for what might come next.
Fortunately, social distancing is not only good for writing books but for reading books already written, including THE CODE. Thank you all so much for your continued support of it. Last month, I was thrilled and honored to learn that the book is a finalist for the 2019 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize!
Some other bits and links from 2020 thus far:
State of the Valley - on Valentines' Day (wow, that seems long ago!), I spoke at Joint Venture Silicon Valley's annual summit in San Jose; here's a roundup of what I and the other speakers had to say.
Everything is Innovative When You Ignore the Past - in the most recent issue of Vice Magazine, Aaron Gordon talks with me and others about why Silicon Valley tech folks care so little about history, and why they might be changing their minds.
A very quiet UW campus awaits the full bloom of its cherry blossoms.