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August 24, 2020

Mission Control

By Brooke Burt, Creative Strategist

The house is quiet. This morning, for the first time in almost 170 days, neighborhood kids, including mine, headed out the door to start in-person school. With charged laptops, a little anxiety (okay, a ton) and masks up, they bravely took their first steps clad in brand new shoes into school hallways in a COVID-world. And I was reminded again, as I have been numerous times over the last five months, of the resiliency of the human spirit and the bravery it takes to get up every morning and face a new day, pretending as if we have any modicum of control. What a weird time.

I’ve honestly been dreading this day since March 13. And I’ve also been yearning for it. I guess being in between those dichotomies is just called living. Nervously, I’ve been referring to this moment as re-entry. When the world shut down, it was calming to know that I could protect everyone in the bubble that I could create in our home. After the initial mental disruption and eventually managing to overcome the existential dread of thinking of things on a grand scale, to have time to quieten and slow things down together was a reminder of what really matters.

As I prepared for today, with all its uncertainty, I thought back to May 30, where I anxiously gathered with my family around the computer to watch the Space X launch. As a child of the 80’s, space shuttle launches initiated understandable fear, but I watched with wonder as the Dragon crew reached for and finally touched the sky, and we entered this new era of space exploration. Even with all the unknowns surrounding us, I had a glimmer of hope at possibilities that still exist. We spent the rest of the day talking about it, and each time, I was overcome with emotion. I felt silly. And I felt overwhelmed with what human beings can do.

When the crew of the Dragon splashed down on August 2, I thought they already had landed months before. It was, ashamedly, an afterthought to me. I know I read a news story that everyone was okay, and the mission was successful, but I didn’t spend hours in front of my screen watching. I’m not sure why. Re-entry is no less scary than lift-off. They landed safely at home, with gravity holding them firmly to the ground, because of the cooperative effort of brilliant minds, courageous spirits and expansive technology.  Vast amounts of preparation and ingenuity went in to guaranteeing that safe return—just as much as the launch.

Re-entry is inevitable. What goes up, must come down. While the bubble of safety I created for a few months for my family was nice, I knew that my growing tween and teen couldn’t live there forever. I’ve always known they have to learn to navigate the world, and COVID is a part of our world now. They have to learn to walk through it as safely as they can, with masks and hand sanitizer at the ready. But I couldn’t have made it to this point without guidance—from scientists and school administrators; from wise doctors and fellow parents; from amazing teachers and patient co-workers. I couldn’t have gotten them ready for this day without my own crew of experts, who have an understanding beyond my own comprehension or experience. In the end, it was our family, making a choice that works best for us, based on these valued voices in our orbit and our own intuition.

All of us are learning about re-entry together, and we all have different needs when it comes to taking that first step. Whether we are talking about our families or our business, sometimes, a re-calibration is necessary to move forward from a time of quiet or a time of upheaval. When doors re-open or an audience’s needs change, we have to be prepared to pivot. I think that’s something valuable we have all gained through this time. Re-entry takes planning and purpose, and trying to go it alone can be overwhelming. But with a little extra care and expert guidance, re-entry may not be so scary after all.