The Oxford English Dictionary defines “tipping point” as “The point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.”
The term usually applies to larger, societal shifts but all of us have internal moments that feel much like tipping points. There are those moments of epiphany when suddenly something comes into focus or gains clarity, catalyzed by a single event.
That happened to me personally today. I have long been aware of the dangerous potential of the virus we are all battling right now. Anyone with two working brain cells and a modicum of critical thinking ability has to understand it. Up until now, however, my understanding has been more abstract. Of course I am impacted personally through being in quarantine and dealing with the many significant shifts to my daily life. Still, the more visceral understanding of the pandemic has still remained rather abstract and ambiguous to me.
Today, for the first time since this all began, I heard news of the death of someone I know. He wasn’t a close personal friend, but someone I have known casually for years and have always admired as an artist and a human being. Back in January, at a conference, we had another long conversation about potentially coming to my performing arts center for a show. We exchanged cards, followed up, and had an unofficial date to meet in the fall to renew the conversation. He was someone full of life, talented, passionate about working with kids, well-respected in the industry. A great human being.
Now he is dead – a victim of this virus.
For the first time, I find myself sitting here thinking, “This is real.” I haven’t been blind to what’s happening, nor have I been in denial. But until the first person well-known to me died, I had not personalized this experience. I am reminded of the AIDS crisis again.
Back in the early 1980s I was in college and first coming out as a gay man. Like so many young people, I felt invincible. In my mind back then, the abstract thing called AIDS was something happening in larger cities to gay men much older than me and to heroin addicts. I couldn’t possible be at risk. It’s a miracle that I am alive today to type these words considering the foolish behavior I exhibited back then. It wasn’t until I got a phone call in the late 1980s to tell me about the death of a friend that I finally felt the shock of reality sink in. That one moment in time changed my life and changed the way that I both thought about and dealt with the world and with relationships.
Today, I have a feeling that I am on the cusp of another such sea change in my life. This one moment in time, reading the Facebook post about the loss of a colleague and friend, is going to shift how I view this pandemic and how I move forward in my own life. I don’t know what will change, but I feel deep within me that same sense of profound shifting that I had after that phone call in 1989.
Today’s quarantine has been both sad and thoughtful for me. I have no idea where my thoughts are going or where this new understanding will lead me, but on day 51 of my quarantine I am definitely beginning to feel a stronger pull towards something new. I don’t know what it is, but I feel strongly right now that the next few weeks are going to be significant for me personally as I redefine the direction of my life.
Onward and upward.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.