Is This Pandemic a Portal to a New Way of Life?
We could use this as an opportunity to pivot…or simply return to the status quo
A few months ago, I was talking to my nieces and nephews about the sad reality that we weren’t going to be able to have the usual Christmas celebration with the family. My mother’s health is vulnerable. My nephew’s health is vulnerable. And with three people in the family who have varying levels of exposure to the public and an inability to quarantine before the holiday, it just wasn’t possible to have everyone together, safely.
“When are we gonna be able to be together again?” 10-year-old Kai asked.
“I don’t know, sweetie,” I said, absolutely hating that I had to give him an answer like that. I would have preferred that he could’ve lived in the delusion that the world outside was safe and predictable for a little while longer.
Of course, none of us knew that just a short while later, we’d have a vaccination. It’s in the early days as I write this, so we don’t know what will happen, but things seem hopeful. In fact, I might be able to tell Kai very soon that we’ll be able to have Christmas 2021 together.
Things will be going back to normal, as it turns out.
Or…will they? And should they?
There are a lot of things that came to light in this pandemic. For one thing, a whole lot of people can work from home and still get the same amount of work done. In fact, many, many of my friends who have been working from home seem to be a lot happier. They miss the social aspect of going to work, but most of them have been able to slow down and still get their work done. They feel less stressed. Less exhausted all the time.
Many people don’t need to be at their place of business every single day. Will we return to a required daily presence at the office after this pandemic ends? Hours of commuting and air pollution that could be avoided? Needless distractions from impromptu meetings and talkative coworkers that could be nixed?
And speaking of productivity, do we actually need to be so damn productive? I think one of the greatest gifts of the this pandemic is that it gave us an excuse to slow the hell down and take a breath. (Well, some of us. I want to acknowledge that many others had the opposite experience, and I have such compassion and gratitude for them.)
For those who had to cancel plans, cut back on meetings, pare down their calendars…from what I saw, it often came as a welcome relief. Sometimes frustrating and disappointing, absolutely. But also a break.
I hated that my family had to cancel our usual Christmas plans. But honestly, in some ways, I’m relieved. I don’t have to spend my weekends helping my mom wrap presents for the nieces and nephews this year (and I probably shouldn’t have been doing that to begin with). I don’t have to deal with all the stress of getting everything ready for the big get-together, from planning menus to helping my mom clean up her cluttered house.
It’s nice to have one year where nothing is urgent. Where I don’t have to rush and feel so much stress.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a post-pandemic world in which we had less meetings, fewer events, targeted deadlines, and slower holidays? It sounds like a dream to me.
How much will the world change because of this pandemic?
Some say that, at the very least, we will be dealing with the economic fallout of this for decades to come, which seems likely.
But what about the rest? Will it affect how we protect our own health and the health of others? Will it affect our to-do lists, and how we manage our calendars? Will it change our vacation habits? Will it finally slow us down and allow us to reconsider how we engage with our holiday and family traditions?
We have such a wonderful opportunity to reevaluate our lives, thanks to this very challenging hardship that caused such darkness in 2020. We could see this as a portal that could lead us into a better, more mindful and considerate world.
But will we take this opportunity? Or will we frantically scramble for the life we had before the pandemic? Will we throw away everything we learned and stick with the status quo?
I vote for the portal.
© Yael Wolfe 2020