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April 16th, 2020

Voluntary Social Distancing

By Jack Polly

With the current state of affairs, it’s easy to paint the idea of social distancing as a punishment. You don’t get to go to restaurants. You don’t get to go into the office. You don’t get to go to the movies. You get the idea. But what about voluntary social distancing?

In mid-December, myself and one other person went on a kayak trip of upwards of a hundred miles over the course of a week through (mostly) uninhabited central Florida.

When we pushed off from the bank of the Santa Fe River, we knew we had a handful of long days in front of us. It was roughly seven in the morning, the sun had just begun to rise, and everything was silent. As our kayaks cut through the dense blanket of fog that had unfurled over the water, we came upon a small herd of deer swimming across the river. Moments later, we watched yet another deer, this time a buck, silently treading water on the far bank.

Obviously, this was a cool experience to have fifteen minutes into a trip we’d been obsessively planning. The other guy I was with, an avid outdoorsman, served as a better expression of just how rare the moment was. He’d never seen a deer cross water. He called his dad, another lifelong outdoorsman, who had also never seen a deer cross water. This is clearly something that deer have to do. To a deer, this was not a monumental moment. But to two kayakers at 7:15 on a Monday morning, this was monumental.

The point of that story isn’t just to brag. It’s to say this: by us succumbing to the river, we were presented with opportunity. If we hadn’t pulled our paddles out of the water and let the current of the river push us along, we would have spooked the deer without ever realizing they were in front of us.

Getting some time to unplug and just focus on the task at hand was a distraction that I’d gladly welcome again. And this isn’t some “technology bad, people good” rant about the evils of the internet or anything, it’s just saying that after having an incredible experience being disconnected from culture and unplugged from technology, I was able to come back and appreciate it that much more. I was excited to get to work in a fast-paced environment and catch up with friends and whatever else.

Our culture, both in and outside of advertising, is a fast-moving one. It’s a nonstop, always-on environment. While it’s easy to be upset over having to work from home, it’s just as easy to be excited over the fact that we’re getting to work from home. We’re staying safe and being protected.

And those weekends stuck indoors are being translated into opportunities to bust out your great aunt’s cookbook and try out some weird recipe that you remember eating when you were eleven, or (for some reason) bake endless loaves of sourdough, or catch up on your reading, or whatever your quarantine hobby ends up being. The point of all this was really just to say count your blessings, remember to breathe, and wash your hands.