Year One in Mississippi

“I understood that the most beautiful, dangerous, adventurous and gratifying journey of all is the one inside yourself…”- Remote Islander Mauro Morandi

On Thursday of this past week, I had my normal 6 month rheumatology visit to make sure that my arthritis was under control and that my twice monthly injections were doing their job with limited side effects. I pulled into the parking lot, locked the car, and started into the building. At the entrance, I was met with multiple signs and a woman in what looked like a hazmat suit. The message was very simple. To get in the building, you must pass a few preliminary tests. We ain’t playing here. I did, everything went fine, and it was business as usual, except that it wasn’t. But the message, as it should be during this time, was very simple: safety first. As someone who has lived with a suppressed immune system for many years, I (and so many others) can’t afford to play. It may be inconvenient for a hot minute, but it is what it is.

On this day exactly one year ago, I began a new life in Mississippi. Outside of all of the travel excursions and coaching Banks’ soccer team, unbeknownst to me, I voluntarily socially distanced myself for the vast majority of the year. On many days, I wouldn’t SEE 10 people, much less congregate with them. I was on a mission. It was much more than just golf. It was a complete life reset.

Now, hidden in all of the current chaos, most everyone has that same unique opportunity. Take a deep breath. There’s only so much we can control, so enjoy what’s right in front of us.

It’s easy to get lost in the simple narrative that Benj took the year off to play golf. While that is somewhat true, it is only a small piece of the puzzle. The most important and rewarding piece of the first year in Mississippi was to spend countless hours building a unique bond with my son and watching Christy unchain from her desk and get to do the same. I got to take him to and pick him up from school 90 percent of the time. For months, his daycare ended at 11:30am. For months, there was no daycare on Friday. Recently, there have been weeks at a time where it was just he and I, with Christy traveling for work and some much deserved fun and frivolity. As I’ve mentioned before, fatherhood did not come easy to me, so I really focused this year on redefining what that relationship, amongst many others, could be.

For the foreseeable future, most all of us have been given the gift of time. Instead of looking at the mostly anxiety-inducing “news” updates, we can focus on some life-changing self-care. Learn a new skill. Re-engage with a favorite hobby. Get fit. Have big family dinners (not too big or you won’t get fit lol). Get some fresh air. Re-get-to-know your spouse, partner, or whomever. Call your parents and friends. Have a few laughs.

Personally, I’ve socially distanced out at Horn Island, an uninhabited barrier island 5+ miles off the mainland. I continue to work on the golf daily, mostly alone or with my son and super careful not to touch anything.

We look at the snakes and alligators and love every minute. I call my parents five times a week. I sit in the sun and read. We have big family dinners and snuggle the dogs.

We are also figuring out the best way to support those who mean so much locally: daycare teachers, golf shop workers, favorite holes in the wall.

As I’ve reflected this week, every chaotic instance in my life, when put into the appropriate perspective, has turned out positively: struggling through arthritis, multiple knee surgeries, loneliness, and an unprepared entry to parenthood, to name a few.

We’ve now been forced to slow down, and instead of being annoyed, we can be grateful. That’s pretty much what I learned first hand in an unusual yet extraordinary first year in Mississippi.

Have a great week, and stay safe.- The most fast-paced dude you will ever meet, Benj

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