Our pre-pandemic lives are gone—but maybe that's okay
What if the "new normal" doesn't have to be as awful as it sounds?
We’ve officially passed the two-year mark of the beginning of the pandemic.
Happy anniversary, I guess?
I remember when we were in the early days of “the coronavirus” and I was frantically Googling, “How long is this going to last?” in the hopes that there would be some sort of definitive answer.
Obviously, there was not.
But I recall reading a quote from some expert that it could likely last years, with ebbs and flows throughout.
I remember reading that and refusing to accept it. YEARS?! Impossible. We were told schools and daycares would be closed for a couple weeks while this whole business was sorted out. Weeks. Not years. No way.
But it happened.
Two weeks turned into two years.
And the pandemic rages on.
Things are looking up again as the weather warms up and case numbers dip. But I think we’re all so jaded at this point that it’s hard to hang on to these temporary bursts of hope.
The constant back-and-forth between thinking we’ve reached the end and then hearing about some new variant has become a staple of how we now live.
We’ve been hardened.
I’ve read a lot of pandemic reflections on this two-year milestone, and there’s a common refrain throughout—that we’re never going to go back to “normal.” Things will hopefully get better, of course, but our pre-pandemic lives are gone. We must except our “new normal” and carry on with life in the best way we can, despite everything kind of being worse now.
I don’t know about you, but I find that idea just a wee bit too bleak for me.
Sure, we are all now changed forever. But what if, in some ways, our “new normal” can be better than the old one?
What would that world look like?
I read a great piece in the NY Times from Tim Urban where he does what he calls “depressing math”—a look at the limited time we have to spend with the people we love, doing the things we love to do. He notes that the pandemic has made this type of math even more depressing, with all the time that we’ve lost.
But then he reminds us that we have the ability to make up for much of those lost experiences.
“This is the good news about being a human. The time we have left with family and friends is not a law of nature like the weeks we have left to live. It’s a function of priorities and decisions.”
What if we move towards a “new normal” where we put more focus on spending our time doing the things that make us the happiest?
What if we begin to prioritize the experiences and relationships we had pushed aside because we were caught up in our busy lives, before the world shut down?
“The past couple of years has left us with a joy deficit. When we picture a post-Covid world, we imagine having our old lives back. But we can actually go a step further and make up for the missed experiences, flipping the deficit into a surplus.”
My sister and her fiancé recently came over and played with our kids. On another day, old friends stopped by to drop something off, and we invited them inside for the first time. My sons also had their first-ever playdates with friends.
It was magical.
These seemingly tiny events resulted in so much joy. We’ve been so isolated and so starved for social interaction that these small moments felt monumental.
There is so much we took for granted in the “before times” that we never should have.
And now we know better.
Our “new normal” is filled with a lot of baggage and uncertainty and anxiety—but it’s also filled with newfound gratitude and a renewed perspective, which we likely all needed.
Our pre-pandemic lives are gone. Poof! So long. And there’s a lot to grieve while we try to accept that. But there’s also a lot to look forward to, if we make a conscious effort to do what we can to make up for all the time we’ve lost.
Congrats on making it through two years! I hope we can celebrate together in-person sometime soon.
Things I’m enjoying right now 😍
I finished Inventing Anna this week. I wouldn’t say it was great, but it was entertaining and soapy, and it blessedly didn’t have anything to do with the pandemic
New Arcade Fire song! Arcade Fire was our local band when I lived in Montreal many moons ago, so this song makes me feel nostalgic and emotional
Vogue’s interview with Suleika Jaouad is worth a read, even though it hit me hard—I used to turn to her column for comfort as I went through my own cancer experience, and now, 10 years later, her cancer is back. A punch to the gut… but I always find beauty in her words and outlook