A Message From The President

May 2022

Today I packed for two weeks in Croatia, chartering a yacht to sail bareboat around the islands for one week, then hiking and feasting on artwork and truffles between Croatia and Italy.

The trip has been booked for nine months, but the adventure has been a dream for far longer.   As the daughter and granddaughter of lifelong sailors, I grew up training every summer; raced sailboats along the East Coast for a decade while working as a TV news reporter; dated a man with whom I spent long weekends sailing around Newport, Martha’s Vineyard, and Annapolis; chartered a catamaran with friends to sail around Belize; then moved to Florida with the distinct requirement that my home be on the water and my Saturdays be on the starting line with the Davis Island race pros.  Each time clients captained their own seafaring jaunts to the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, or Maine, I said: One day.

Then, last fall, after spending the last few years launching a successful business, tending to sick family members, and quite contentedly cocooning at home, I decided to wait no more.  I pursued courses on chart-plotting and engine mechanics, secured my international cruising certification, and hired a sailing coach to practice and prepare with the best friend who agreed to go with me.

Only now, though, do I dare get excited.  I’ve always enjoyed the planning the most; a decade or so back, a bartender in Aruba immediately identified me as a “binder chick:” the type to research restaurants, experiences, and hotels to the hilt, with backup plans for my backup plans and the willingness to pivot on a dime.  Once, I landed in Puerto Rico with a robust weeklong itinerary, changed my mind, and caught a puddle-jumper to the Virgin Islands, spontaneously exploring the British and American islands with a passport and a backpack.  I’ve toured Europe for six weeks by train, lounged with sea lions in the Galapagos on a National Geographic photographers’ expedition, and traveled on three African safaris, including hiking volcanoes to track – and sit within inches of — the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda.  I learned to chase it all and check regularly to see what else I long to do during this lifetime.

However, COVID lashed that spirit, forcing us to submit to – and expect — delays, cancellations, and come what may.  For the first time, I feel an unfamiliar instinct bracing for setbacks until takeoff, and even now, this expert planner wonders if I have the right tests, the right licenses, the right reservations.  Far-flung adventure is thrilling, yet post-COVID, seemingly so much more of a chimera.

An article in The Atlantic, entitled “Post-Omicron Life Can Be Downright Maddening,” quoted a psychologist at Emory University: “As this crisis drags into its third year, the anxiety of not knowing what’s ahead of us is sparking even more pandemic fatigue.”  The Atlantic summarized expert advice post-COVID: “The best way to prepare for an uncertain future is to stay as flexible as you can.  When COVID numbers begin to improve, flexibility empowers us to take advantage of the situation.  Likewise, flexibility gives us space to pivot if things worsen.  Unfortunately, while flexibility can help with the stress of post-Omicron life, staying flexible is also harder to do in times of stress.”

At the same time, the Atlantic’s article, “The Pandemic Did Not Affect Mental Health the Way You Think,” concludes: “As we look ahead to the world’s next great challenges – including a future pandemic – we need to remember this hard-won lesson: Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being.  This knowledge should empower us to make the disruptive changes our societies may require, even as we support the individuals and communities that have been hit hardest.”

Athena focused this year on fortifying our mental health and emotional wellbeing so that we can continue to advocate for our key causes.  Part of the ongoing, critical, lifesaving destigmatization of mental health stems from sharing our stories, struggles, remedies, and triumphs.  All year, and indeed ever since becoming an Athena member in 2011, I have watched your journeys.  I have leaned on and learned from many of them for the courage to make my own passage, and I am grateful to you.

Back when we embarked together on an international cruise as our annual Athena retreat, Susan Dellinger designed luggage tags for each of us, which read: Athena Goddess in Transit.

Indeed, we are.