When i was 19 years old, i consulted an orthopedic surgeon hoping he could fix a childhood’s worth of hockey damage to my dislocation-prone shoulder. as a right-handed engineering student, i was thankful i usually had given out body checks using my left. so, there i was, counting to ten under the knife.
one, two, thr…
…whoa. my body was prepared for surgery. however, my mental game was not. the constant pain was overwhelming; i was restless, irritable, and debilitated. my bad attitude was not helping anything when my mom called one evening to ask how i was doing.
“morale is low, rations are scarce.” i replied in monotone. she chuckled, and i broke a grin. what an opportune moment to quote the 1990s pc game the oregon trail, right? we began using the phrase regularly, adding to it the new dramatized sorrow of the day.
for example: “morale is low, rations are scarce. the odor emanating from my unbathed torso might be permanent and the physical therapist is still trying to break my arm off.” no one called their mom more than i did that year. after 10 months, i started using my left shoulder again and had achieved 80% restoration.
a decade and 16 scarring staples later, i was in houston on business during the covid-19 outbreak. hardworking hotel employees began wearing face masks, the store shelves and streets were bare, and my international colleagues’ flights to their home countries were in jeopardy. it was a confusing time in the world. so, when my mom called to ask how i was doing, i recalled a familiar phrase, “morale is low, rations are scarce.” as we laughed, it brought me back to childhood and the feeling that nothing was impossible with the help of my family.
and you know what? it’s still true. unlike the oregon trail, we won’t have to ford a river with a wagon convoy or go home hungry if a buffalo gets away from my last remaining bullet. we just have to cope with a new routine, call the people we love, and show gratitude to anyone still putting on pants every morning.
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