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Past history is not an indicator of future possibilities

Everything changed in the blink of an eye.

I remember when I experienced my first earthquake. I was standing in a house in Berkeley, all white plaster over wooden walls, and it was like a wave suddenly passed through it. In an instant, the walls flexed and curved like butter. My reassuring knowledge that walls were always fixed and solid were gone forever, replaced with a new understanding of the world. Walls are solid until they're not.

Our reality is solid, until it's not.

We're told that we'll be quarantined until May. Based on the numbers we're seeing and the trajectory of the covid-19 infection graph, I don't expect us to be out of the woods until late summer at the earliest. I also expect there to be a second wave of infections as we segue back towards winter. It'll be interesting to see what happens with respect to the November elections in particular.

And when this is finally, mercifully over - because there's widespread, continuous testing, or a vaccine, or both - the world will never be the same again.

There's a carefully-written legal disclaimer that you'll find anywhere you're asked to make an investment: "past success does not guarantee future performance". It's another way of saying "the conditions we live under tomorrow are not guaranteed to be the same as today's". An investor who assumes that the market will continue to grow indefinitely is doomed to failure. A human being that assumes that life will always be the same may find themselves in a similar boat.

There are life changes I've procrastinated on making. I'm sure we all have some. It's really easy to procrastinate if you think your window of opportunity will be open forever; you can do it tomorrow, and then when tomorrow comes, you push it off again. There's always tomorrow. Except, there isn't. It turns out there comes a day when it isn't possible anymore, and you can never be really sure when that day will come, or why. I didn't have "global pandemic" on my bingo card, but here we are.

I don't know what life will look like once the quarantine clears. We'll be in the midst of a recession, for sure, with millions of people out of work and in need of help. We'll also have ramped up warrantless surveillance, which will be hard to roll back. We can respond by creating a world with fewer freedoms, or a free world where we finally choose to help vulnerable people in need. Unfortunately, we will likely all feel the sting of missing friends and family.

Whatever the world looks like, it'll be important to remember that our window of reality is impermanent. It'll feel like the new normal will go on forever, but the next changes are sure to follow. Having an eye on the future but living in the present feels like the right strategy to me. Happiness isn't necessarily the only goal; I think it's also about building a life that is resilient to the sorts of storms we're all living through. But if you're not happy, if you don't feel fulfilled, then something needs to change. Don't wait.

Or at least, that's the advice I'm giving myself.