March 31, 2020

We will Never go back to “Normal.”

This is not a vacation, where we return and just “go back to normal,” as if the only thing absent from the routine of regular life was our personal physical presence.

We have instead is a global collective event. We aren’t just all getting on the airplane and returning back to the way things used to be, as we do when we take vacation.

Nobody is coming back with a tan this time.

North Americans: we have a cultural foundation of individualism that we are no longer exercising. That’s going to collectively change who we are, on both a personal and collective level.

We have a value system that praises being busy and buying stuff. A system that rewards us for having money and also spending it. A few months without the busy rush of life and the associated spending chain is going to shatter some of us, for better and also some for the worse.

We also have a society rich with dogma about how success is embedded in positive thinking. There are coaches out there helping entrepreneurs uncover their “money stories” holding us back from wealth. Can we return to the pastoral days before we were social distancing from strangers and hiding in our homes for months, with an intact belief that mere positive thinking will be the answer to finding all that we want in life? Maybe.

We have had a culture of self-care and self-love. Now we see that we need others and community and connection. Will half the self-help books currently published even be relevant next year? They will seem quaint, if nothing else. Quaint in the way that they’re offering advice from someone who’s never been pushed to know otherwise.

When we stop being busy, do we even know or like who we are? Without jobs or business cards or air mile statuses? I know I cried for weeks when I left my status-y job years ago because I was lost. I struggled, again, when I moved and had no friends or social whirl to keep me busy. It took me years to adjust, not weeks.

This event shatters most of what most of us believe to be true right open.

Disease has a way of leveling the playing field, because pathogens don’t care about positive thoughts any more than they care about air miles status or wealth or physical attractiveness.

Happiness courses have been telling us this for years. We didn’t want to listen. Now we have to.

The world is yet to be formed—but we are not going “back.” And for many of us, the transition back will be just as rough as the transition here. Think about doing a cleanse: the luxuries of indulgence simply aren’t as appealing once you’ve removed them.

Please stop talking about how it will be when we “return to normal.” Because we won’t.


*(And while I’m at it: Please, do your very best to try to stop using the phrase “the new normal,” because social distancing and self-isolation are not the “new normal.” Nothing about staying away from other people is “normal.”)

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