There is so much to say about what’s going on. About our family, our life, and this wild state of the world. But I want to use this time and these words to dive into something that I’ve heard other people saying and even found myself talking about. The desire for things to go back to normal. Will that ever be a thing again? Or will our definition of normal be forever altered?
I’m not saying that the virus and our anxious, home-bound lives will be forever. I know that eventually, the virus will abate, that it will be safe to be in closer contact with other people, that I won’t be gripped with paralyzing anxiety from what I read in the news. One day, this specific crisis will end. I’m just wondering about what comes next.
Sure, I’ll be sending Harley to school again at that point. We shall see if the school district is still able to test her into Kindergarten or how they deal with that. She will definitely be very well versed in pop culture considering how many videos she’s been watching. But she’ll also be pretty prepared with math and reading, I hope, and probably also pretty good at folding laundry, the basics of how cooking works, and a pro at building puzzles and LEGO.
Will she remember this period in her life? She talks about wanting to have a playdate with her friends “when the germs are gone”. She’s four years old. Will she grow up with memories of that time when everyone was home and couldn’t go anywhere? Will she forever be a thorough hand-washer? Will she look back on this time as filled with family memories, or will it fade away for her?
Then I think about us. Not just me and Dean, but all of us who get through this. I remember growing up and knowing about people who lived through the depression. With such a scarcity mentality, they wouldn’t throw anything away, couldn’t bear to waste a scrap of food or a single item that could prove useful in the future.
I’m not sure what the impact will be for people after this. Will we always have stores of toilet paper in our homes? Will we become home-obsessed, making sure that our environments are ready for extended stays? Or will we all spend the bulk of our days out and about, meeting with friends and generally avoiding our homes because we can?
More than that, I wonder what we will accept as normal. Can any of us go back to working the way we once did? Can we truly respect the leaders of a company who weren’t kind to their employees during a crisis? Can we go back to pretending that our home lives don’t exist when we’re at work? Can we return to an undervaluing of our humanity in pursuit of money, power, achievement, or whatever else we’ve done?
What will normal mean when we all know someone who died from a terrible virus? What will normal mean when we have spent weeks or months avoiding physical contact with other people? What will normal mean when we have been offering help to those who need it, regardless of our circumstances? What will normal mean when we’ve revealed our best (or worst) selves to those we love, to friends, to strangers?
Is there such a thing as going back to normal? For now, we’ve settled into the new normal that is coping with the current situation. But when that situation is over, I wonder what our society and culture will become. I hope that we will be kinder, more generous, and probably do away with shaking hands for a long time. But I have to wonder if it will swing the other way. Could our society end up more selfish, more self-absorbed?
I know we just have to wait and see. There’s no way to predict how this specific kind of global PTSD will impact our society. I just hope that when we redefine normal, when we redefine who we want to be as societies, that the new version of ourselves is better than our original “normal”.