I should have been on the Appalachian Trail right now. My plans to hike the 2,100-mile footpath from Georgia to Maine were pretty much foolproof, or so I thought. As the nothing-but-COVID news notifications amassed on my phone, my heart began to sink with sobering disappointment – no, I would not be hiking in 2020.

This prospective adventure controlled every part of my life in the best of ways. Not only would it benefit me physically, but the trail preparation took me on a journey of asking new questions regarding what it could mean to walk mindfully and spiritually in the wilderness for six months. As I readied myself for the trail, I wondered: Will I be happy with what I discover about myself and others? Will hiking this long be worth momentary awareness? My mind constantly drifted to a third person daydream; I would see myself (but with super muscle-y calves) summit skyscraping mountains while I answered the most complex wonders of my life to the tune of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” I had such a perfect vision of it all. When that vision blurred and we had to shelter in place, I was forced to ask the very same questions, only now from the great indoors.

The Bronfman Fellowship, a program in which I participated through 2019 and 2020, concluded its yearlong course of experiential Jewish learning with their Spring Seminar. The seminar’s theme of “Vision” seemed extremely apropos. One question we discussed was “What do you wish for history to remember your generation by?” I want us to be remembered as a generation that viewed the virus as a needed interruption to our daily lives. This is exactly the moment that we should be growing our awareness for how we interact with one another. It occurs to me that, as difficult as current circumstances are, we may have been gifted this time to reflect.

This time in quarantine is a time to create vision, even if we can’t pursue it immediately. I have never seen the world as it is today, with such an emphasis on safety and kindness to others. We must extract this concentrated dose of goodness that has been a symptom of COVID-19 and inject it into the rest of our lives.

I’m just starting off on my journey and it’s been seriously rerouted. As much I would like to be on-trail in the Appalachian mountains, this detour has sharpened my inner compass.  It points me toward listening to people actively, having fun genuinely and being more attentive to the world around me. On the Appalachian Trail, there is a term called “blueblazing,” where you go off-trail and take an alternate path (the main trail is blazed with white markers, the detours with blue). Sometimes the blue blazes take you back to the trail you were initially on, and other times it just leads to a scenic overlook. It is likely we will never get back to the trail we were on, but I know that wherever this blue blaze takes us, the eventual outlook will be beautiful.

Photo by Joshua Williams on Unsplash

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WSC Alum Tal Mars (2018) participated in the Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel in 2019-2020.