The New Normal

Contemplations on pandemic living.

I hate that phrase, “The New Normal” because it assumes two things. It takes for granted the fact that life was normal before COVID when it was just a shitshow of a different color. It also assumes that this is how life will be going forward and just not a blip on the radar of humanity.

I knew in March that things were going to change. When everyone is talking about the same thing on a worldwide scale, you can’t expect business as usual. I know I can’t be the only one who found life before COVID hard. I was on the verge of a breakdown, physically and emotionally. I needed a break, and thanks to a pandemic, I got one.

I’m an introvert by nature. I enjoy being alone. I’m the person those memes were written about that lament the fact that they made plans and now have to follow through with them. The pandemic gave me the excuse I needed to bow out. There weren’t any plans that I had to follow through on other than to Netflix and chill.

Four months into the pandemic, and I’m the best I’ve ever been. I’m eating healthier because I have more time to cook. I’m exercising, which is something I hate to do, but I don’t have anything else going on, so why not? I’ve exhausted my Netflix, Hulu, and Prime lists, so I’ve started reading for leisure again. Life is pretty awesome right now, so why would anyone want to go back to “normal”?

It makes me wonder that if people had a pro/con list of why we shouldn’t return to normal, then perhaps this “new normal” could become our way of life in the future. There’s a quote I saw online recently, and I don’t know who wrote it, but it encouraged people to use this time to figure out what’s important. It emphasized the fact that we shouldn’t be in such a rush to return to a normal life that wasn’t working for the majority of us. Just because something is familiar doesn’t make it right.

We spend so much time in our comfort zones that when we’re forced out of them, we complain that we want back inside our little boxes. But most often, that box isn’t the best place for us. Being on lockdown forced me to see myself as I am.

I know what I want the most, and it’s for everyone to take this timeout as an opportunity to make some lasting changes into how we function as a society. So I made a pro/con list of all the reasons we should adopt this new normal as our way of life going forward.

My list had one thing in the “Con” category. I hate my pizza getting delivered and then placed on the ground. There’s no reason why you can’t hand it to me. If you stand arm’s length away and I do the same, we’re fine. Plus, the delivery person is wearing a mask. There’s no reason to put my pizza on the step where the bugs are crawling around, just waiting to hop inside and grab a piece of pepperoni for themselves. I don’t like to share.

My “Pros,” on the other hand, were many. The restaurants aren’t crowded anymore. I like having to make a reservation for everything and know that when I do go out, it won’t be packed. Gone are the days of going out for a nice romantic meal and being sat next to the couple with eight kids stair-stepped from age ten down to infancy. Don’t’ get me wrong I have a bunch of kids too, but sometimes it’s nice to get away from your kids, and everyone else’s as well. Now I don’t have to sit next to anyone, and it’s incredible.

The best thing that theaters ever discovered was early release onto streaming services. Yes, I will pay $20 for a new movie to be able to sit at home and watch it. I hate going to movie theaters for a multitude of reasons. First, I’m short. No matter who sits in front of me, unless it’s a small child, I’m not going to be able to see. Then you have the fact that strangers are sitting right on top of you coughing and talking through half the movie. I can say absolutely without any remorse that I would pay $40 a film to be able to watch it at home as soon as it comes out. And I’m not ashamed to admit that.

Social distancing is the best thing ever. I hate when people crowd my personal space or feel the need to hug me. Now people feel compelled to ask for permission to shake your hand. Um, can it always be that way? I hate having people touch me for any reason, and now I don’t have to feel weird when I say no, I don’t want a hug, I can blame COVID.

The public pool reservations are the best idea ever. I want to know who came up with that idea because they deserve a GoFundMe account in their honor.

The pool is never crowded. If I want to avoid certain people, I need only look at the list of who’s signed up for that day. My kids know that I have to go when the two-hour block is over, so I don’t have to go through the I’m not ready yet drama. I don’t have someone’s random kid trying to swim right beside me and splashing me all in the face. It’s amazing. If we can only keep one thing from this pandemic, it would have to be the pool reservations.

If corporations came out of this pandemic and didn’t realize that it’s in their best interest to let as many employees as they can work from home, then I give up on humanity.

A lot of companies say that they’re work/life-oriented, but they aren’t. I realize that not every industry can have its employees work from home. But in the sectors where telework is feasible, why not let it become the norm? Not only would be saving the environment, but we’re helping out countless families as well.

We’re decreasing the need for childcare and automobile emissions. It’s a no-brainer. As a bonus, corporations would be helping the economy. I read that Americans spend $386 a month on gas, that’s $4,632.00 a year back in the pocket of every employee. I could do a lot with an extra $300 a month, like a start a savings account.

Even though I hate having to wear a mask and should have included it on my cons list, I didn’t. The biggest reason for that is that I don’t feel the pressure of having to put on makeup to go out. I don’t have to worry about making sure I put on lotion, so my face doesn’t look ashy. None of that matters because it’s covered up by a mask anyway. I’m sure the makeup industry has seen a nosedive in sales as a result, but having one less thing to do when I do go out is liberating. Maybe that makes me weird, but I don’t think so.

We’ve been so focused on what we can’t do anymore as a result of the pandemic that we’ve lost sight of all the things that we can do. Instead of looking at all that we’ve missed out on the last few months, we should focus on all that we’ve gained.

I know that one day life will return to the way it was before. And maybe if we’re lucky we’ll take a little bit of that pandemic wisdom with us when we return to business as usual. If I’m lucky, maybe companies will be a bit more accommodating to the introverts among us. I would love for pool reservations and limited capacities to always be the norm. One can only hope.

Maybe schools will see that not every kid learns well under the old system and offer all parents the option of having classes online or in-person without having to go the full homeschool route alone. Employers could realize that it’s perfectly fine to have a good family life and work hard at the same time.

All I can do is keep the hope alive that we can all learn from this experience and save a little bit of it when it all ends. Because this season will come to a close as all things do but what matters is what we take from it for the future.

MFA|Essayist| Author| IG: michelle_elizabeth_writer| Email: writer.michelle.elizabeth@gmail.com

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