The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unexpectedly long and incredibly difficult time for us all. For some COVID brought shelter-in-place, working from home, and zoom fatigue. For many others it meant longer working hours, changes to protocol, and potential exposure to the deadly virus every moment they spent at work and continue to spend at work. As vaccinations begin to roll out and cases begin to decrease, we all have to wonder – what’s next? What does a year spent in isolation, fear, and uncertainty mean for society moving forward?
No doubt that many people will continue to work from home. The pandemic proved that working from home is actually more productive than most employers could have ever imagined. Think of the possibilities opened up to people with disabilities. We also realized the potential for Veterans with severe PTSD, adults with Autism, and people who have a tough time in normal office settings. What about new parents that are at the end of their parental leave and want to stay home a little longer? Maybe we could even shorten the leave period but extend the work from home period.
Will masks be normal here like they have been overseas for years? People may choose to wear a mask daily after this pandemic is over. Others may wear one when they are under the weather to avoid spreading cold or flu. When I traveled overseas it was normal to see people wearing masks long before the pandemic.
There are certain aspects of this experience that we don’t want to keep. For instance, some people are getting comfortable staying at home and not socializing. Some may be too afraid to fully interact with other people post COVID. Being isolated has become normal to them. I wonder if this fear will continue even after the pandemic it’s over? How will this fear will shape our future interactions? A friend of mine said:
“The other day I was watching a movie and there was this scene of people in a festival in a town in Italy where everyone was close, hugging, and having a good time. The only thing I could think of was… “I would freak out so much, they’re so close!.” It surprised me how much the idea of being close to other people affects me now.”
I’m guilty of watching a movie and thinking about the pandemic. It’s hard to see large crowds now and not think about it. It’s even harder to see a person standing by themselves outside with a mask on but that is a different topic.
Will this fear disappear after the pandemic? Will we start to be more cautious about distance and interacting with others? What does this mean for us as a society? How long, if ever, will it be before we start shaking hands with someone we just met?
How has this year affected children? Especially small children that need to socialize in order to develop a good sense of both autonomy and camaraderie. How will this last year shape how children play and interact with each other moving forward? How long will these effects last? My guess is some of the damage will be permanent.
What about the guilt someone will carry with them the rest of their lives if they unwillingly transmitted the virus to someone and it did not end well? I can’t imagine all of the people that spent their last days isolated from everyone they love because they could not have visitors. I won’t get started on the nursing home disasters.
I am personally ready to get back to normal. I hate it when people say the “new normal”. There is nothing normal about humans standing 6 feet apart with a mask on and being afraid to have customary exchanges like hand shakes. Normal means normal and that is what we need to get back too as soon as possible.
In closing, I hope all the lessons we have learned the hard way don’t get repeated. Our way of life and our freedoms do not mix well with blanket lock downs and mandates. We must allow people to make personal choices based on facts. We must also realize some people will never return to normal but as a society we will move forward. Let people who want to wear masks wear them without it being a statement. When people don't wear one please don't assume it's a statement either. Let people get vaccinated or not based on what they decide. Most of all, enjoy 2021!