Just Follow the Bouncing Ball by
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Early in 2021, I truly believed that the worst was behind us. A couple of people close to us had died, and more would (though all but one were quite elderly, and none died of COVID). Trump had slithered back under his gilded rock. Amazing scientific advances had produced a new and effective class of vaccines, and, if nothing else, we know how to produce something in vast quantities. Gina and I even got our shots months ahead of when we first estimated we could (thanks, Northwestern U!). I thought the Summer of ’21 would be magical, our own TA 3020.

And yet....

And then came the pandemic of stupidity, and it all went to hell. Nothing good came back. Things went farther downhill. If anything, 2021, because it embodied dashed hopes, was worse than 2020. The one shining exception was the magical trip to England and France that we took (arriving in Europe just before they re-banned American travelers!) with a couple of dear friends.

And now comes 2022. In my small circle, things are still mostly quite good. A LOT of people we know have had The Omicron over the last year, but all were fully vaccinated and were fine. One, not yet boosted, got pretty ill for a couple of days but never needed to be hospitalized and shook it completely in less than two weeks. Mountain bike races are being scheduled again, which brings me great joy. I’ve purged most of the right-wing morons I used to know from my awareness. Since March of ’21 I’ve lost most of the weight I wanted to lose, with minimal backsliding during the always problematic winter months. Looking around, it seems that ’22 might be the ’21 we had hoped for. And yet….

Maybe it’s just my natural tendency to catastrophize, my old strategy of holding on to my armor, of never getting my hopes up so they can’t be dashed. I’ve never been much of an optimist, but I cannot shake the feeling that more shoes are plummeting towards our heads as we speak.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: COVID, pandemic, optimism, pessimism, 2020, 2021, 2022
Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Like you, I have less tolerance for friends who watch Fox “News”, even if they didn’t vote for the Orange Monster. I’m impressed that you got to Europe at all in 2021. That sounds good. And you took off and kept off weight. That sounds great! Kudos to you. That can be difficult in times like this.

    I hope you are wrong about the coming year, but seeing the constant right-wing lying and assault on decency and democracy, I have a bad feeling too, not about the pandemic, but about our country in general.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      My friend Alan, one of our travel companions, did an amazing job of finding accommodations with generous late-cancellation policies, reserving TGV tickets and arranging our passes sanitaire (a story unto themselves, those were!). He really should consider becoming a travel consultant; we’d pay him to organize the next one even if we go alone! Of course, good old luck played a part. Had we set our departure three days later, we’d have lost everything.

  2. Marian says:

    As foggy Cassandra has noted, life seems unpredictable, with a high degree of randomness to it, Dave. Like you, I tend to see the glass half empty, but I am impressed by what you have been able to do during these difficult times. Congrats on the travel and the weight loss.

  3. Dave, thanx your skillfully written story, and for reminding us why being optimistic at this time in our mad, mad world can be hard.

    But try to be cautiously so, and let’s hope those flying shoes don’t fall!

  4. John Shutkin says:

    I share your half-empty world view, Dave; especially having lived through these last couple of years of what should have been the post-Trump era, to say nothing of the “pandemic of stupidity” as to COVID, as you so nicely phrase it. That said, sounds as if you have really hit the mark with your own personal goals, and that’s great. Now, if we could only solve the stupidity….

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    No surprises here, but I too share your sense that monsters lurk nearby (Ukraine! War! Climate chaos! Death of democracy! Human rights! Etc etc etc). Somewhere I learned the term “realistic optimism” to describe the state of finding hope but not losing sight of reality. That—usually reinforced by love of others—can help keep us from giving up, because if we give up, there really is no hope.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Where do you live, Dave? We live near Northwestern and our daughter teaches there. I love your calling it “the pandemic of stupidity.” Sadly, I share your fear of more pandemic on the horizon as I see more people shedding their masks in grocery stores and attending large gatherings.

  7. Suzy says:

    As everyone else has said, congrats on the weight loss AND the trip to Europe. And I love your phrase “the pandemic of stupidity.”

  8. Good luck with the mountain biking–I stick to the paved roads and a road bike. You captured the volatility and the accommodations and the wondering and worrying of the past two years.

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