It’s been hard to know what to expect the last two years. First, places that are typically lively, full of people, full of life, suddenly became empty as the pandemic shut down businesses and places of gathering.
Then, for nearly two years, our experiences became variable and inconsistent.
It felt like the whole world was suddenly subject to mood swings that are impossible to explain or predict. Maybe we are still in this period of uncertainty, but I was pleasantly surprised by the energy levels on my last two trips.
The last weekend in March, Moab was quite lively.
The town was busy! There were a lot of people out and about, walking around and having experiences. Traffic actually made it quite a challenge to make a left hand turn. People all seemed lively. The energy was just great!
The same can be said of Chicago a couple of weeks later.
The energy, the spirit of the big city could once again be felt both on a Thursday evening with horrible weather and a Saturday night with better weather. There were a lot of people, out in groups, in the bars, as well as along the street where there is typically a lot of nightlife. It felt good just to know these places are back!
These places could hardly be any any different. Chicago is a city of 2.75 million with many skyscrapers and what can seem like endless unique neighborhoods to explore.
People who visit come for a truly urban experience, doing things like going to museums, summer festivals, professional sports or visiting friends and family.
Moab, by contrast, is a town with barely over 5,000 residents adjacent to two National Parks.
Most of the people one would encounter here are tourists who came to explore the outdoors. Moab is known for Jeeping, mountain biking and hiking among other activities.
These settings, while different, warmed my heart in a similar way. There is something about seeing people out and about, interacting with each other, interacting with the world, and doing so in a way that feels joyous. It is the combination of joy and crowds that extroverts have missed so much over the past couple of years.
These recent experiences have demonstrated that there are often multiple ways to obtain the same underlying feeling, and maybe it is a good idea not to get too attached to one specific experience. There are often circumstances that require versatility. Sometimes the weather is not what we were hoping for.
Other times it’s our schedules, our health, someone else’s needs or just plain bad luck.
When this happens it is helpful to know that sometimes a different experience, but one that is feasible given whatever our circumstance is can be a really good substitute, providing almost the exact same underlying feeling we are looking for. So far this spring, I have been in lively joyous crowds both in a tourist destination surrounded by people on vacation and in a large city surrounded mostly by people who live there. Next time we find ourselves disappointed by not getting the exact thing we want, maybe we should try to think about the underlying reason we wanted it and try to find another path.