Yesterday as I was trying desperately to find some way to sooth my frazzled nerves and dig my heels into what weekend I had left I looked at the messy corner of my bedroom and saw my two most frequently used suitcases sitting in a pile with my favorite travel backpack, my packing cubes, and the pouches I used to keep my cables and whatnots organized while I’m on the road.
Sitting there in the corner, all cute and polka dotted. Or bright and teal. Some dotted with the famous W logo of the project I work on. Ready and waiting to be filled with clothes and electronics and have my ever-packed toiletries bag and makeup bagged tossed in so I can be spirited off to the airport for a trip to who-knows-where.
This year, had things not taken a drastic turn, would probably be the year I traveled more than any other. With 6 business trips on the books before the end of May and a family vacation to Mexico in planning those suitcases were going to see a lot of action.
But now, well they were just sitting in the corner of the room in a pile of stuff gathering the dust of not being used.
Some people keep their luggage in storage for the every-so-often they happen to travel. And I admit I have two big suitcases and my partner’s suitcases in our storage closet keeping them out of the way, but knowing where they are. But my travel gear usually lives easily accessible in my messy closet. Sometimes it doesn’t even make it to the closet. Sometimes it just sits waiting to be repacked so we can head out on another adventure. The two suitcases that get used the most are the tiny under-seater roller bag. It’s my favorite. I can be ready for 4 days of business wear as long as I’m not going anywhere cold. My second most used is my slightly larger but sill carry-on sized roller bag for when I’m gone a little longer, have bulkier clothes, or am packing treats for friends I’ll see when I arrive. They’d both already seen the road this year. My last trip ended at the beginning of March. It was late enough in this crisis that it was worrisome for me to go at all. I considered cancelling. But we hadn’t yet reached pandemic. We hadn’t yet started with mass cancellations. But it was late enough in the start of this crisis that while I was away things started getting weird. Things were rough at home.
And my partner, who has always been just fine with my work travel, who has never asked for any sort of accommodation around my travel schedule. Who has been more supportive of all the ups and downs and extra work at home that is left for him than anyone should be. He asked me to come home early.
He asked me to get on a plane two days before I was scheduled to and get home as soon as I could because things were getting weird. And so I did. And you know what… things were weird. The Lyft ride to the airport was weird. The airport was weird. The flight was weird. My home airport was as empty as I’d seen it in the afternoon ever. I walked right up to the Lyft queue and hopped in a car with no waiting.
When I got home I wiped down my luggage, unpacked and washed everything. And then the suitcase went in the corner. Where I would normally leave it when I just had a week or so before my next trip. Where I could see it. Where I could pack it up on a moments notice.
And as soon as I signed on to work the next day I began cancelling flights, cancelling hotels, helping events cancel in their entirety. And I watched my travel heavy year drop from all the things to none of the things in the course of a week.
So yesterday as I puttered around the house finding things to do that felt weekendy but were still productive I side-eyed those suitcases. Those packing cubes. Those pouches. I packed them all up inside one another like ill-fitting Russian nesting dolls and put them in the storage closet. Out of sight. Out of mind.
Working on a new normal in these weird times seems strange and hard and I can’t wrap my head around what’s next even as I sit in it. Because what’s next is what we have been doing. Staying home, slowing the spread, flattening the curve. Not using those suitcases until someday in the future when we’ve found a better way to fight and keep everyone safe.
I’m hoping that putting them away, out of sight, will help me settle into this new normal just a little bit more.