A Return to “Normal”

Featured Image: Yale Medicine

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Enveloped by loneliness and little to look forward to in the day, many continue to find themselves quarantined at home with little sense of when “normal” will actually return. Now, it’s not a hot take to say that “normal” will seemingly never return for us, but it has amazed me to hear how many people reference it in everyday conversations.

On the one hand, we crave normal life’s return to remind us of what is familiar. Understandably, many of us are in a survival mode of just pushing along throughout the day and finding little joys where we can. For me, joy has come in the forms of workout dance classes, going on runs, easing my way into a new recipe, and consuming endless podcasts/Instagram lives that have kept me virtually in-touch with many culturally/socially different communities. But on the other hand, we crave a return to a routine that did little to serve both ourselves and our communities. 

When we started quarantine, I, like many others, was surrounded by conversations about how tragic this pandemic is. From the lack of PPE for those serving at the frontlines to Trump’s thoughtless response to the pandemic, it became clear that overconsumption of media could be the death of mental health as we know it. Once we overcame the initial weeks of shock, we took — and are even still taking — several more weeks to stabilize. 

In peak millennial fashion, I turned to social media to figure out how people were stabilizing themselves and building a new routine. What I found, however, was a meaningful appreciation for the support and communities that were emerging from the Internet. In my deep dive of social media (and the greater Internet), I came across: 

  • Reaffirmations of doing only what you are able to do, and not feeling the need to over-extend yourself by losing that weight or finally writing that book
  • Mid-afternoon Instagram lives of Tan France (Queer Eye) teaching Jackie Cruz (Orange Is the New Black) how to bake cookies from scratch
  • Artists and DJs hopping on Instagram live to share their music on the weekends
  • Economists being interviewed by investment groups about how they should be managing their 401(k)’s, and 
  • Leslie Jordan continuing to be our forever quarantine queen.

Each, on their own, were small but significant reminders to the larger community that surrounds us around the world, and one that seeks to build each other up, if we allow ourselves the vulnerability to feel the rainbow of emotions we are feeling during this time. 

In a sense, the return to “normal” is such an outlandish concept and feels almost as if we would be taking a step back if we did try so aggressively to leapfrog over a moment like this that exposed our depths in the most compelling way. In modern-day Zoom calls, some of us have allowed ourselves to honestly tell our co-workers how we were truly feeling. As consumers, we have seen the quick pivot that many small businesses have made towards making themselves more available online to stay afloat and the true impact of our dollar to them.

But as communities, we’ve seen how low we can collectively feel. From fear for family members/friends on the frontlines to sadness in not visiting our older relatives, our sense of community has evolved so dynamically to support one another with a virtual, metaphorical “hug” in the most difficult times. At what social and emotional cost would a return to the old even be worth it?