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May 1, 2020

Why I Don’t Want Things to Go back to Normal After the Pandemic.

May begins and the sun shines with the splendor of spring and tomorrow we are allowed to take a one-hour walk after almost two months of confinement. It feels like we are at the gates of freedom, ready to let out a sigh of relief as the government plans gradual steps to come out of this nightmare.

But I can’t help thinking of this nightmare as a wake-up call, as a catalyst for the change we so desperately need. Many people have expressed to me their desire for things to go back to normal but what if normal wasn’t good enough? 

What if we have a chance to create a better normal?

As I read the news and listen to people I feel society’s eagerness to bring back everything this virus took away: work, money, outdoor activities, travelling, traditions, consumerism. But this is not really what we’re eager for. What we’re eager for is the certainty we’ve been deprived of. 

The need for certainty is one of the primary needs that we humans attempt to meet all the time at all costs: feeling safe is the primal call of a survival instinct instilled in us since the beginning of times. But our habitual ways of fulfilling it have been thrown out the window, swept off by a pandemic we weren’t ready for. A pandemic that has destroyed lives, jobs, economies. A pandemic that has shattered the illusion of safety.

It’s normal to be afraid and want to hold onto what was there before, what is familiar to us, what feels safe, but deep down we share the same suspicion: it is simply not good enough.

Jobs that left us exhausted and unfulfilled. Impossible rents and a lifetime of debt. Polluted skies and oceans. Overcrowded cities under the strain of a kind of tourism that does more harm than good. Old traditions that claim countless lives from other species. Impulsive overconsumption in an attempt to fill a void that can’t be filled. Not like this. Not anymore.

We don’t want things to go back to normal. We want a better normal. Dark times often bring revelations with them and if there’s anything this lockdown has granted us is a chance to reflect on what it is that we truly value. The things we had before and miss, like hugging our loved ones or the uniqueness of our favourite local restaurant. The things we had and don’t miss, like a lifestyle we had fallen into without really wanting to. Or, perhaps, the things we’ve come to appreciate in the solitude of our homes, like a long forgotten hobby or the joys of a quieter life and the beauty and simplicity of small things.

We’re slowly emerging from this collective nightmare full of questions about the future but if we look deep within ourselves we’ll realise we’re also full of answers about what we want that future to look like. This pandemic has destroyed many things, yes. And some of us feel a desire to destroy things too: things that don’t serve us, things that harm, things that stifle and suffocate and bring desolation, even more desolation than a virus can bring. 

Covid-19 has made us forget the danger to our ecosystems, our societies, mental health, inequalities. All of this is still there, untouched by the virus, and it is our duty to tackle these issues as we plunge into this new reality that awaits us. But before we do this collectively we can start by asking ourselves this question: What do I want? What do I truly want?

The void we feel can only be filled by answering this question with the truth: what we value, who we value, what kind of life we want to build, how we want to take care of ourselves, our lives and those in our lives, the planet, how we want to move forward, what gifts we want to bring into the world, who we are in our core essence.

Despite the tragedy at hand there is light through the shadows, for it is the shadows that teach us to appreciate the light. 

Let’s take this chance to dissipate the shadows by pouring light over the better normal we dream of.

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Vicky Vázquez  |  Contribution: 1,075