Monday, August 21 started off like any old day; I got up, got dressed, and headed off to another day at work.
I was not planning on seeing the eclipse. In fact, I had openly mocked all of the millions of people who thought it would be a good idea to jam the interstate in a ridiculous obsession over what… the moon passing by the sun, including my good friend Matt who had been trying to talk me into making that miserable trip. Idiots!
Regretfully I grabbed my camera and the eclipse glasses that my wife was given earlier at her office like I was actually going to change my mind. Worst case I’d just check the traffic on Google Maps. In the highly unlikely event that there was a clear path to Alliance, Nebraska, maybe I’d give it a go. Just to see what these nerds are so excited about. Choosing to drive to Nebraska the very morning of the eclipse was most likely not going to happen. But I’m a guy who likes options.
As it turned out, this drive to work was not like the others. Voices echoed throughout my head, the same voices that I had been listening to on various talk shows, Ted talks and news stations over the previous weeks leading up to the total eclipse.
“You owe it to yourself to see a total eclipse…”
“Going through life without seeing a total eclipse is like going through life without ever falling in love…”
I glanced again and noticed an alternate route. This one ran East for a while on a tollway, and then North on I-76 straight into Nebraska. Blue lines the whole way. Drive time: 4 hours. ETA: 9:40am. Crap.
There’s no way that’s right. But in an impulsive reaction, I veered off my route to work and in an instant, I was road-trippin’.
This is where things get bad. Here are 10 reasons why this became the worst decision in my life
1. The harsh realization that my glory days are over.
This is not attributed directly to the total eclipse, but rather the act of getting to it. Thanks to the eclipse, I would have never otherwise made a decision to take a spur-of-the-moment road trip while on my way to work. My 4 hour drive was filled with a gorgeous and dramatic sunrise, through cute little towns; that kind of Midwestern culture you just never see in the city. Farmscapes with cows silhouetted against misty pastures, and that rush of rebellious adrenaline knowing that I’m totally blowing off work... Realizing that once upon a time in my younger years this used to be my everyday life; no repercussions. I’ll be honest, it put me in a brief state of depression and I longed for those old glory days of the past.
2. I gained 5 lbs.
That’s an exaggeration. It was really 4.6 lbs, but disturbing nonetheless. There’s something about road trips throughout rural America that had me craving carbs and fat; the most deadly combination of foodstuffs. I stopped into a gas station and loaded up on Mambas and potato chips. I didn’t even think twice about it. The drive home was even worse. I can’t even bring myself to write about it. Stepped on the scale the next morning and shrieked loudly at the horror that I had created for myself. My shirt felt tight in the front. I tried stretching the fabric, but that just made it worse. Thanks, eclipse!
3. I’m worried that I might be a nerd.
These are my friends. They are such nerds. Please tell me I’m not one of these crazy, curious-about-life, passionate about science… geeks. I feel like I need to go to the nearest 24-hour fitness immediately to pump some iron and cleanse that nerd right out of me. It’s either that or explain to my friends and family that I have become a nerd. Better just bury it all beneath 16 ounces of protein shake and forget that anything ever happened. But I know that for the rest of my life, despite my best efforts to disguise myself to others, the true Mark is nerd Mark, and that is going to haunt me forever.
4. I now relate to both Christians and atheists.
Seems like a great thing, but it’s not. It’s very conflicting to appreciate the science behind this cosmic spectacle and profess the humbling sensation of feeling small in the presence of this higher, mightier power. I’m not saying that the eclipse is some kind of God, but when the light dims in the middle of day transforming into an eerie sunset and you look up to find something you’ve never seen before; this sharp, glowing black-hole sun that seems to be staring hard into your soul, people tend to lose their sh*t. Is it science? Is it a religion? I can’t help but accept both answers! But this means I can’t rub elbows with either party of scientists or spiritualists. I get the cold shoulder from both, and it’s sad… this divided society that we live in.
5. O = Eclipse
People always said that witnessing a total eclipse had changed their lives. Now I know what they mean. I now join the masses of total eclipse observers who for the rest of our lives will never see a circle or something that is circular in shape without now seeing that 2-minute stare-down with a powerful, glowing circle. You see a slice of eggplant. I don't. I see a total eclipse. :/
6. Work performance has been severely compromised.
I used to spend my day managing my projects and completing my tasks. Today I stare right through my computer monitor. Mostly I’m living in a place of agony, replaying the 2 minutes of that fateful afternoon. I’m upset that it only lasted 2.5 minutes. That’s not enough time. You really need more than 2.5 minutes to effectively reflect over what’s happening, and over your life under the mild glow of a total eclipse. I’m suspicious that it was not 2.5 minutes. It felt like 20 seconds, max. I feel like I was tricked. I’ll get to my work once I get over it. Not sure when that will be… or if.
8. I’m scared about the future.
Particularly, I’m scared that in 2024 that the weather will be overcast for the next total eclipse. Not sure how I’m going to handle that. That’s 7 years of anxiety. Not cool.
9. Severe elitism has made me severely unlikeable.
I am having trouble being around these “common folk” who didn’t see the total eclipse. Really? You think you’re special because you saw a moon shape through glasses? I took off my glasses and saw the real deal. Don’t even try to talk to me. We have nothing in common.
10. I’m afraid I’ll lose my vision.
I took all the precautions. I wore the eclipse glasses. I removed them ONLY during totality. That’s not the problem. The problem now is that I long so much to see the magical eclipse again, that I have to force myself not to look at the sun hoping for it to transform. I know that’s not going to happen. Despite my best efforts I slip and look at it. Not good. I never did this before the total eclipse.
I’m worried that this list is going to keep growing, as it’s only been 2 days since standing under totality. More bad things are sure to become of this. Do yourself a favor and do not chase the next eclipse. Go to work. If you must, look out the window with your eclipse glasses and watch the partial eclipse with your coworkers. Learn from my mistakes and spare yourself a life of misery!
Here are some real photos from my eclipse experience:
12:40 PM. Feels like 5:00 AM.
The eclipse from my "real" camera.
The "diamond ring" as the eclipse wanes back to normality.