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Ten years ago, I remember trying to coordinate watching a TV show with a friend who was across the country from me. He was in San Diego at the time while I was in Boston; while social distancing would not be a phrase for a decade, we were certainly physical distancing. Nevertheless, we were resolved to watch Star Trek together. Without knowing if there was any way to share screens, I propped up my computer almost on top of my TV in order to guarantee he would have the best possible view – and one that blocked half of the screen for me. Several times over the course of the episode the call dropped, but it would take me a couple minutes to learn that it had with his screen pointed away from me. After trying it once, we never did it again. That is not to say that I didn’t have a great time – even with the failures and all, it was an enjoyable experience in the moment. At the same time, it was hard not to acknowledge the problems. Instead of the memories of the enjoyment, I was left with a hyperbolic feeling (which stayed until this year) that video conferences were doomed to failure.

When thinking about what I am thankful for, often my approach is to think of a highlight of the day and to go from there. Giving thanks is a way to look back and appreciate. I am thankful for the delicious cranberry corn muffin that I had today; I am thankful for beating rush hour on the train; I am thankful for having a wonderful father who I can talk on the phone with. It is harder to use this mindset of appreciation this year, however. It is easier to instead think about what could have been. I am thankful for Zoom, I guess – but only because it’s better than nothing. Rather than being thankful about a concrete event that happened, it is easier to think about the hypothetical events that could have happened, if only we were in a different year.

I am thankful, then, for one of my favorite phrases: “comparisons are odious.” This phrase has been crucial for me to think about this time in a different light. There is little point in thinking about this year in contrast to other years if the only result is increased agitation. To quote a bastardized version of the socially distanced Passover Seder that I had earlier this year, “If we had been confined to our own houses, but had Zoom, Dayenu.”

Zoom isn’t the best replacement for human connection, but in the first year that I lived in New York, I never talked to my grandparents on a video call. With Zoom as prevalent as it is now, I’ve found myself connecting more with them than I had before the pandemic. In a recent call I had with a friend, he mentioned that he was starting to watch Star Trek. Perhaps I’ll watch an episode with him. It will certainly be more successful than the last time I tried.

Linus Glenhaber is an Editorial Fellow at Public Seminar.

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