My Taking a "Gap Year" at 67 to Live in NYC Will Now Include Surviving a Pandemic.

Photo by Josh Hild on

Oh, the irony.

This past October, I answered a call to adventure and moved from Maine to NYC to experience the dizzying din of a city that never sleeps. Four months into it, all the enticements that drew me here have been shut down, and I’ve been put to bed without my supper. Along with the city’s other 8.5 million residents, I’ve been asked to stay home, avoid crowds, and practice self distancing.

I was, initially, peeved.

I am now working to suck it up, to surrender.

Up until a week ago, I’ve had a rather cavalier attitude about going out in the city. Having traveled by subway both ways with stops at Grand Central, I attended a Broadway show matinee, and the next day the blackout was announced. Now the only show in town is the real Theater of the Absurd we are living.

Shortly after, the mayor declared a state of emergency and banned large gatherings. But it wasn’t until I had a conversation with my 30 year-old son sitting on the stoop at his apartment that the seriousness of it hit me.

Not feeling well the night before, he and his girlfriend decided to self quarantine. After our initial no-touch greeting, he reassured me they were feeling much better. And then he looked directly into my eyes. Because there is no one whose opinion I value more, or whose gentle criticisms of me I intently listen to and take to heart, I knew what he was going to say was important: “Mom, you need to be more careful. I want you to be safe.”

Apparently, I’m not the only parent getting this kind advice. Later on Facebook, I read a post from a friend from Maine who asked if anyone else’s millennial son or daughter had sat them down and explained how serious the situation was. My friend’s daughter had contacted her from Brooklyn alerting her to what was potentially coming. I also heard from a sister in Maine whose son and daughter chided both of them about their plans to attend a play. Their father has suffered two heart attacks and currently has a stent in place.

Things are getting real.

We all need to be careful including young people who naturally feel invincible. There are those who avoid large public gatherings and work from home by day and avoid the customary night life, and others who throw caution to the wind and risk spreading this invisible infection and insist on going out. It was just a week ago that I walked home and looked across the street into the open door of a popular watering hole that was filled with young people. The business didn’t look to be running at half capacity allowing for safe distancing as suggested. Patrons didn’t seem to be taking the necessary cautions either.

That has since changed.

I can’t just blame this behavior on the young people who are a lower risk. I’m healthy, take no medications, and have no medical conditions. Until recently, I’ve displayed hubris taking more chances then I should even though people in my age group have been issued guidance by the federal government how to stay safe.

So I’ve decided to become more conscious and regularly monitor my attitude. I accept that this is my NYC experience, and I am grateful to be here near my son. I will take better care not only of myself but also my fellow man because we are all in this together.

When I was called to this adventure, I knew there were bound to be risks, uncertainties, and trials along the way. I had no idea the extent to which I’d be tested.

I will practice taking one day at a time. Because:

This was not what I had planned.

This is pretty absurd.

To quote Camus: “To embrace the absurd implies embracing all that the unreasonable world has to offer.”


  1. Alisa R Wolf · March 20, 2020

    Beautifully written. Thank you Connie. Stay well. Alisa


    • connieottmann · March 20, 2020

      Hi Alisa, Thanks, That’s quite a compliment coming from you. Hope Wendy is feeling good. Yes, take good care! X Connie


  2. Mary · March 20, 2020

    Thank you, Connie. Having suffered a mild stroke, operative word-mild, this past December I have a much clearer sight onto what is important and what I need to let go. And then this. We will get thru this and, hopefully, see a return to thoughtfulness, kindness, goodwill towards others. Your words are lovely, as are you. Stay safe, be well, keep writing! Xo


    • connieottmann · March 20, 2020

      Hey Mary, yes hard to believe we are “elders” and need to be especially careful. Glad to hear you’re well! Each day brings a new set of problems it seems. Thanks for reading and love hearing from you. X Connie


  3. Jane Pronovost · March 27, 2020

    Hi Connie, it’s good to hear from you. I often think of you as I walk by your house. So far my husband and I are still able to walk the loop up and down the hills. Hallowell is pretty quiet now. We’re all keeping our heads down and hoping the virus won’t find us. Stay safe and keep sending updates!


    • connieottmann · March 27, 2020

      Hi Jane, So nice to hear from you! Going out to walk is so necessary! I’m doing fine and trying to go for walks also. Yes, writing (and painting) are a godsend right now. Will post a few paintings I’ve done at some point. Thanks for reading and really nice to hear from you.


  4. Bobbie Knox Echard · March 30, 2020

    Hi, Connie. I, too, have always wanted to live in NYC. Your story has inspired me and provided an option, i.e., a roommate, that I never considered but will remove the cost obstacle. I am taking isolation very seriously after my 29 year old son admonished me for going to the store or riding solo on hike and bike trails where some continued to gather. He was concerned because I have MS resulting in a compromised immune system. I hope you continue to experience your big adventure in NYC. I look forward to hearing how it goes. Stay happy and healthy. Bobbie in Houston.


    • connieottmann · March 30, 2020

      Hi Bobbie, So nice to hear from you and thanks for reading. Yes, it’s been an adventure, but not the kind I was exactly looking to have! Four years ago, I traveled solo to New Zealand and Australia for nine months, and since then, I just want to experience more of life. I love NYC, and, fortunately, had four good months here before this all hit. PLEASE take the warnings seriously! Your son is right. Who ever thought our kids would be telling us to be careful? I’m doing my best to utilize this time in productive ways writing and painting. We are all being called on to go deep! Thanks again! I’ll stay in touch! Connie


  5. David Morris · April 7, 2020

    it speaks a volume about your son and who raised him to hear this. I am instilled to have some faith is the younger Generation.


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