When the pandemic first hit, I hated hearing people say, “things will never be normal again.” It seemed to be such a pessimistic view, and predicted a future I didn’t want to face. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life in fear of a virus, and honestly, I resented the suggestion that I would have to do just that. It was almost as bad as people saying they didn’t mind the lock downs because they liked staying home. I like to stay home too, but there’s a huge difference between choosing to stay home and having to stay home.
Now I realize I probably misunderstood what people were saying. I think they really meant that our lives would never be exactly the same as before. And that, of course, is true. Many people lost loved ones, others lost their livelihoods, and everyone discovered just how quickly life can change for the worse. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel truly comfortable in a crowded room again, or trust that I can find everything I need at the store. The past three years have changed me. But the good news is, not all of those changes are bad.
Before the pandemic, I left my house regularly to run errands, shop, go to work, etc., and never once thought, “Is this outing worth the risk?” If I wanted or needed to go somewhere, I simply went. But after March 2020, I began to think carefully before venturing out of my house. Suddenly, I knew exactly what my priorities were (caring for my grandson, helping shelter dogs, shopping for necessities) and what commitments and activities I was willing to give up. Living through the pandemic helped me better distinguish between what I need and what I want.
And when gathering with my friends and relatives became potentially dangerous, I quickly learned which relationships I was willing to put on hold and which ones were too important to live without. My immediately family became my “social bubble,” but I was very intentional about staying in touch with friends and extended family through phones calls, texts, and e-mails. (I never did figure out how to work Zoom.) I may not have been able to enter my Mom’s apartment, but I dropped off provisions and later, meet her outside for a socially-distanced visit. Nothing emphasizes how much people mean to us more than the thought of having to live without them.
In this post-vaccination world, I’m back to doing many of the things I did before Covid hit. But the truth is, I’m really not the same person I was three years ago. I always wondered how I’d handle a crisis, and now I know. (My husband’s cancer diagnosis in June 2020 was a part of that lesson.) I’m more willing to try new things. I have a better sense of my true priorities, and I think I can see both my strengths and weaknesses more clearly. And those are all good changes. Sometimes, “not going back to normal” isn’t such a bad thing after all….