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Silver Linings – #18754 Connor Smith

I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first COVID-19 meeting.  We sat three to a table – barely fitting twelve people into the hospital’s largest conference room.  I remember someone coughing, then apologizing as others moved away.  We decided to call ourselves the COVID Task Force – probably the only thing we were certain of that day.  Guidance from the Queensland Department of Health was scant.  There were heated exchanges too – one doctor thought we were on the brink of a global emergency, while another thought the hospital would never see a case.  Strangely, they would both prove correct, but all we knew at the time was what we were reading – a lockdown in China, cases on the rise in Italy, and a call from federal governments around the world to return home as soon as possible.

The pressure from the spreading virus built rapidly over the next few weeks. Borders began to close and in the final days of unrestricted travel I got on a flight back to Washington, DC, my time in Australia coming to an abrupt end. Once home, a nocturnal work schedule keep me on Australian hours. I connected to the task force remotely, viewing that conference room through my computer screen at 3:30 in the morning from what felt like a different planet. Cases broke records every day in the US while my colleagues abroad kept cases contained and in some cases at bay completely. The hospital I worked in is still waiting on its first COVID patient to this day.

The grass was greener in Queensland, and during those long nights I watched the grasses grow as very real storm clouds poured rain through a hole in our apartment ceiling, making our already small apartment feel that much smaller. But with the spring rains came clouds, and with the clouds came silver linings – silver linings I should have recognized sooner.  My partner Allison and I have been together for years, and for much of that time my work took me away for days or even months at a time.  How silly I was – when gifted with the chance to spend real time with the person I loved, I focused where I could never be: on another continent, working with a team that did not need my help.  And so I took my leave, opting for two months away from work to just be present for a while – a gift only I could give myself.

As spring turned to summer, and summer to fall, Allison and I looked to the North Country.  Work was remote, why couldn’t we be as well?  The search started as many others’ did – focused on those dream homes that could never be, and ended with a new place to call home – a stone house on a hill – only 200 years young, and ready for us to make it our own.

And so today, I write, having found my own greener pasture – a farmhouse on Lake Champlain – a gift that makes it easy to stay in the present with the people I love each day.

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