There is no “normal” during a global pandemic

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And we need to stop trying to “get back to it”

We are still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

I say this because with fall approaching, classes beginning, and the world’s global push to “go back to normal,” I felt as though it needed reminding. It feels to me as though the world is pushing for a swift return, but it’s pushing it a little too fast.

Every year –  at least for me – fall has felt like the season of productivity and change. I get to go to classes I’m passionate about, surrounded by smart, thoughtful people, on a campus I feel comfortable and familiar with. When I was younger, fall meant it was time to reinvent myself. New clothes, new school supplies, new backpack, new me. That feeling of new beginnings has always been connected to autumn for me, and going through high school and university has been no exception.

But 2020, the hellish nightmare we are all painfully trudging through, has made fall feel a little different for the first time ever. Fall no longer feels like new beginnings. Fall now is like that feeling when you rearrange your bedroom; it’s all the same stuff in the same space, you just shuffled some crap around. Wow! (Sarcasm).

Fall feels like the same-old-same-old we’ve been dealing with all year, just under a new aesthetic’s blanket. Does it suck? Yes. Am I bored? Painfully. But was I expecting it? Of course, it’s a worldwide pandemic.

Yet, as we got closer to fall, what I had been anticipating hadn’t happened. Instead, dance clubs started reopening, people were hitting the beach for summer vacation, and schools were re-opening in the fall.

This is what I mean when I say the world is moving too fast towards “normalcy”.

But let’s get into specifics. A detailed example of what I mean when I’m talking about this push to return to normal was Saskatchewan’s initial back to school plan: no masks, no sanitizing stations, no social distancing. Nothing was required or demanded. Essentially, everything was deemed a free-for-all, with teachers and students taking the brunt of the panic.

Why did all of this happen? Because ‘kids need to be back in schools’, of course.

Of course I know that there are many reasons for wanting kids back to school. They need social development, time to run and play outside, and make and see their friends. These are obviously important in children’s lives. But is it worth risking their lives to get them? No.

That’s where I feel our problem mainly lies; we all want to adapt to the way the world is, but we can’t rush that. We need trial and error. We need to be patient.

I know that in my personal experience, I’ve encountered frustration in relationships because of my boundaries around COVID-19. I wear a mask when I go shopping, I don’t go in public more than I need to, and I don’t want to visit people if they’ve been travelling within the past two weeks. The frustration with that is valid. I understand it. But we can’t be in a rush to get back to normal when the world is not normal right now. The world is forever changed with this virus. It’s time for us to adapt slowly and patiently.

The reality is that things will never go back to normal. There is no normal anymore. We’re trying to find what a new “normal” is together. Does it make it hard when people refuse to wear masks, wash their hands, and insist on going out partying? Yeah, of course. But at the end of the day, we’re all trying.

Undoubtedly there are people who don’t want to let go of their old ways because they bring comfort, and there are people who are frantic to adapt to a new world because they’re scared. And of course they’re scared. We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

The world is pushing so fast and so hard to return to life the way it was that we aren’t talking a moment to breathe. Something of this magnitude happens once every one hundred years. There is no rush for any of us to do anything. Not getting back to school, or work, or the grocery store. Right now, we’re all just trying to make it and survive.

I think our mentality needs to shift to us slowly adapting. There needs to be no rush to get “back to” campus, or the office, or anywhere else. We need to be patient. We need to turn to one another and say “we’re all scared, so what can we do to move forward together?”

This pandemic hasn’t had that mentality thus far. Instead, we’ve had the push to return to schools, to re-open malls, to go to parks and beaches, and to fly and travel again. We haven’t tried to adapt and move toward a new world. We’ve tried to move forward as quickly as possible, shoving down any fear any of us have, all in the name of returning to work and classes.

This fear should not be pushed down in our stomachs. This fear should be handled together. Collectively. Patiently.

It bears repeating yet again: we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. This is not normal. This is not how life will always be. But, it is life for right now, and we need to do what we can to get by together.

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