I’m the first person to say that COVID-19 has been disruptive. Ok not the first, but definitely the second if not the third. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most destabilizing thing most of us will probably ever have to endure (unless you’ve had children). All jokes aside, most countries haven’t been tested at this level in the last 50 years. In Western countries, it’s been a nice long, comfortable of economic and personal prosperity and comfort. Economic crises were the only things we had to worry about which now in hindsight just seem to a perpetual side effect of the society we have built. No, COVID has not been light on anyone. No one needs to tell you this. The lucky ones, who are considered almost unscratched from the pandemic, lost all their hopes and dreams for coming years after the pandemic hit. All the plans we had were violently taken apart and taken away from us. Any control we felt we may have had on our lives was stripped from us. And that’s the lucky ones that were able to avoid homelessness, death, debt and mental health crises. I would need more time and space to talk about all the other cases and probably more glasses of wine. The point of the matter is, I don’t know a single person who didn’t want this pandemic to be over. What people keep saying on repeat is “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal” or “Soon things will get back to normal”. Not a single person wants to stay in this state with continuous presence of a deadly pandemic. And yet, I am here to argue there are reasons why we shouldn’t go back to this state we once used to call normal. And here’s why: It would have been all for nothing.
The whole point of going through things in life is that you learn from your experiences. If we didn’t frankly we wouldn’t be humans. Progress is one of the few things that define us and differentiate us compared to other species. I’m not saying its better, it just is a fact and let’s go from there. Constant striving for something better is, although probably not healthy to some extent, a human trait. If we go back to a life that was as busy and as destructive to our mental health as it was before a pandemic we have come out of this without having learned the biggest lessons in life – that time and health are of essence and scarcity. All of us could use more time focusing on being and existing. Even meditation coaches welcomed having more time to return to the present. The importance of living a good life as defined by the stoics has clearly crystalized – a life of endurance and focus on creating smart daily habits. Instead of looking ahead, we looked around us to see what kind of life do we have with the immediate things around us. We had no choice, not knowing how the future looks like we had to focus on the present and deal with improving the now in order to be happy. For example, divorce rates went up in most countries during the pandemic because external item could no longer mask the discrepancies at home. Instead of avoiding what hasn’t been working, we have been forced to act on it. Going back to a life where you are only concerned with the next step and refusing to deal with the rotting, molding things around you is like learning to fly and then deciding crawling is better.
And look, it’s not like the old normal was really that great. Fires in California were almost becoming a standard, yearly phenomenon (which is horrific). The Great Barrier Reef was (and on a bright note still is) dying away under our noses. Giant Pandas were still on the list to be extinct. On a less dramatic note – Health care workers were overseen and essential workers underappreciated. Hours of our short lives spent in traffic jams into the office, while polluting the planet at the same time, were considered routine. Most of us never bothered taking up those hobbies we knew would fulfill us, because we structured our lives in a way that we didn’t prioritize ourselves and our well being. We clearly did “normal” really bad. Hence why I would advocate to not go back to a “new normal”. We shouldn’t keep seeking a normal. We should, in true human fashion, keep seeking to progress and live as well as be better each day. Watching people default to the old normal is not only heart breaking, it is a pure waste. Do better. Do not go back to normal. Go for abnormal. Hey, perhaps even exceptional if you have it in you.