Based on the title of this story you might be thinking, “Is she being serious?” Well, the short answer is yes. Ever since the COVID-19 vaccines began to roll out, I’ve been grieving the world returning back to “normal.”
Now, I’m going to start off by saying, I’m happy that fewer people are getting sick and dying, obviously. As someone whose mother is an essential worker, I could not be more ecstatic that we are in a better stage than we were in March 2020. With that said, I’m still sad and quite frankly angry that the pandemic lifestyle is slowly starting to fade.
I think back to 2020 when the world shut down in a sense — nearly every restaurant, gym, theater and store were closed, and the only people out and about were essential workers like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, emergency personnel, etc. It was weird not to hear chit-chat on the street or car engines, but other than that it was peaceful. I remember how many people felt on edge about this sudden change of life as we knew it, but for me, it was what I had been waiting for my entire life: a new beginning.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to leave my house. I was able to work, learn, socialize, exercise, etc. all from the comfort of my own home in New York City. I guess depending on your personality that may sound like a nightmare, but for someone with social anxiety and depression like myself, it was a dream.
I didn’t have to worry about being judged by my peers, getting harassed on the way to school, and socializing when I didn’t feel like it. Those are all experiences I had to endure at a college campus on a daily basis pre-pandemic and it was exhausting. However, now I was finally alone at last, just me and my computer. Yes, there were other people in little black boxes on a Zoom call, but I didn’t have to deal with them for the most part — I could mute the audio whenever I wanted and I could keep my camera off.
During the few times that I actually wanted to leave my house to socialize, which was rare, I felt like I finally could in a way that was comfortable for me — no crowds, no people, no super loud noises. It was during the pandemic that I went to a bar for the first time believe it or not. It was because of the social distance and limited number of people that a bar finally seemed like a safe space to explore.
Whenever I wasn’t working, I’d go to a bar to see a few drag shows with friends and then go home. Nothing too crazy, especially now that there weren’t hundreds of loud and annoying people everywhere. It was actually enjoyable — for the first time in my life I was social. You could ask anyone who knows me and they could tell you that I took advantage of the time to actually live my life and explore in my early 20s.
Aside from social life, my professional career also flourished when everyone was stuck at home. I was able to set up coffee chats, conduct virtual interviews and take advantage of networking opportunities. If I had to do that in person, there’s no way I would have done it and I wouldn’t be at the same point in the career I’m in now. I’d even argue that I wouldn’t be writing like this at all if the pandemic didn’t happen. In that sense, the remote lifestyle really worked to my benefit. I was finally able to thrive in the workplace because I was comfortable. I no longer had to worry about silent judgment from my colleagues or if my shoes were on the right feet because nobody was there to look.
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Now, it’s the spring of 2022 and with vaccine distribution, life is returning more and more back to normal as we once knew it — jobs are starting to ask people to come back in person, dinner parties are happening and classes are being held in person. It’s almost like nothing has changed except for the fact we have to show a vaccine card to get into places.
During the height of the pandemic, I can honestly say my mental health was better than it ever was before. I know that isn’t the experience many people had, but for an anxious introvert, the remote-quarantine lifestyle was pure bliss.
I really don’t want to have to conform to society’s definition of “normal” because it wasn’t good for my mental health. However, as the days pass, I’ve started to realize that since more people want life to resume as normal, that’s way more likely than not.
I’m experiencing a loss of a life that I actually enjoyed living which only happened because of the pandemic. I’m not saying it’s good that the pandemic happened, but it brought to the spotlight a new way of life that others like myself actually benefited from. With that said, I’m doing my best to keep parts of my pandemic routine alive. For example, I’m only working remotely from here on out because it eases my anxiety and improves my work-life balance. I’m also putting extra thought into who I want to spend my time with on a daily basis.
Whether you’d like to admit it, there’s really no way you can sit here after everything that has happened and tell me things have to go back to “normal.” They don’t because we did it for two years and can continue, but the reality of the situation is that a majority of people don’t want life to return to normal, but instead are looking towards a more progressive future.