Roger Marolt: Normally, we proceed from here
My wife asked the question shortly after our first child was born almost 27 years ago, “When do our lives get back to normal?”
Not out of the font of wisdom did it pour, but rather it leaked between my own exhausted lips: “This is normal.” And so it was. We relaxed. The baby relaxed. We had two more. They grew up. We did our careers. We almost have the mortgage paid off. I estimate around 9.2% of what we thought would happen actually did. If that’s not the definition of “normal,” I don’t know what is. And here we are, expecting nothing and everything at once in this dust devil of business as usual.
Many wonder when will we return to normal after The pandemic? Look around. This is it. I’m not saying it will always be like it is today. But, it is exactly the way life and this world works. Change is the constant in this simple story problem. Life tomorrow will be different from today, if for no other reason than the sun will rise a few degrees higher northward. So, you think this virus will end up being the most dramatic life-altering thing you will ever experience? Wait until you die, then you’ll see the folly in that notion.
There have been other huge events in my lifetime: 9/11 and the Great Recession come immediately to mind. Yet, there are even bigger ones that history will assuredly reveal as being more impactful and longer lasting than COVID-19. For better and for worse, you need look no further than at the smart phone in your pocket, the PC sitting on your desk and the internet both are fed from. When do you predict life will return to “normal” after the effects of these things?
Aspen has seen plenty of change in the past year. For the most part we boomed while much of the rest of the world busted. Some local businesses are suffering, but even they will begin reaping the rewards of change soon. It seems like everyone with a spare $10 or $20 million figured out at once that an isolated mountain resort with all the spiffy built-ins installed is not only an adequate place to hunker down and survive a deadly virus spread, but a place to thrive during it. People who move here, almost by definition, are not afraid to make changes. They’re looking for change. They can afford change. Change has momentum in Aspen.
The enduring characteristic of Aspen is change. It began with the discovery of silver in the late 1800s. Did it change even more after the 1954 FIS World Championships were staged here? We were a farming and ranching community in between. That’s a lot of reinventing ourselves in a relatively short time. How could we possibly stop now? We resist, discuss, digest and then hit fast forward. Change is what keeps a town like ours relevant. And, we shouldn’t kid ourselves: if Aspen was irrelevant, few of us would be here.
Does knowing that change is the mercurial ground in which we transplant our roots make it easier to accept? Nope. While we lament, town morphs. The planet we live on does as well. We, ourselves, perhaps evolve more dramatically each year than either of these. And, our instinct is to fight, because we know we cannot flee it. It’s equal parts denial, fear and self-preservation. About the only exception to this is when we have a vested interest in a proposed change. Then we are all in. If not, we live disgruntled, so create your own vested interest, whatever that may look like.
We spend a lot of time in Aspen working out plans to control change. Botox is only the beginning. This only distracts us. It’s a little like putting blinders on a horse so that it looks straight ahead and doesn’t get spooked by things happening immediately to its right or left. The local pandemic real estate boom has revealed that what happens in the rest of the world has far more impact on us than what we believe we can control with homegrown rules and regulations. What happens to Aspen next is hugely dependent on what happens in New York City, San Francisco and beyond. We will find out if people have flocked here because Aspen is better or because other places were temporarily worse.
Meet the new normal. It’s the same as the old normal.
Roger Marolt is grateful today his life has never returned to normal and will not tomorrow. Emial at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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