Why I Won’t Be Going Back To “Normal” After The Pandemic
March 17, 2020, St. Patrick’s Day. That marks the last time I stepped into my cubicle in Berkeley, California. It was the last time I shared a meal with a co-worker or cracked jokes about our day as we walked to our cars after our shift was over. That night, I slid into a sardine-packed bar to grab a drink and participated in a monthly catch-up with the homies.
Since then the majority of the U.S., in addition to many parts of the world, has been on lockdown due to the devastating effects of the coronavirus. Many of us never imagined such an event like the pandemic taking place in our lifetime. However, in some ways, I’m glad it did. The almost post-apocalyptic covid-era living forced me to push pause and reexamine my life. Even though I am excited to see a shred of light at the end of this dark and drawn-out tunnel I’m in no rush to return to what the world considers to be “normal.”
The coronavirus literally forced us to shut up and take a seat. My room became my prison both physically and mentally. I was sentenced to house arrest. Remote work replaced my commute and large conference rooms covered with charts and whiteboards were traded in for countless zoom meetings and google docs. We went from leisurely gliding through the supermarket to anxiety-inducing store runs only to arrive at endless lines and bare shelves. The only real reprieve we had from the madness was spending a few hours outside getting some socially distanced fresh air.
We were literally trapped in a new type of matrix. One we’ve never experienced before. Gone were the things we often took for granted like backyard BBQs with old friends, holiday parties with colleagues, dinner dates with the new boo, and meeting up for coffee with a new client.
From the NFL all the way down to my nephew’s little league baseball team, sports, concerts, film festivals you name it, have all been canceled or moved to a virtual setting during the 2020 season. Saturday nights at the movies turned into Netflix and Chill indefinitely. Everyone from Dave Chappelle and Pink to our family members, friends, acquaintances, and social media all shared their dealings with the virus. Encouraging messages spread across the world pushing us to stay healthy, safe, and diligent. We reminded each other daily that no storm lasts forever and we will get through this. The effects of covid-19 on our lives have been the primary subject in our daily conversations with both loved ones and strangers alike. Truth be told it still amazes me that we have been living this way of life for the last 12 months and still counting.
But even in the worst of times, there is a silver lining.
This time away from the daily grind and weekend escapism allowed me the freedom to think. I was no longer constrained to a set schedule. The realization that nothing is in our control provided me space I desperately need to think and reimagine what my life could be once we get to the other side of this thing. It hadn’t occurred to me that many of the things I was giving my time and energy to were just for the sake of doing. There was no real amount of joy that I received from having a set routine work and social life. It was just something the majority of us do to keep us busy or for the sake of keeping up appearances.
But, if we are being honest with ourselves there is no real fulfillment.
Up to this point, my life felt like a never-ending re-run of Seinfeld. I was going to the same places over and over and running into the same people. I was literally “showing face” just to show face. I felt guilty every time I wanted to pass up attending another networking event or kickback but forced myself to go out. This made me ask myself why I even went when I arrived. Sure, I enjoyed the drinking and the conversations but if I’m being real it wasn’t doing anything for me besides burning a hole in my wallet and taking energy away from the things I should have focused on that would propel me closer to my dreams.
Instead, that time was wasted trying to maintain a “normal,” acceptable lifestyle.
For years my soul has been yearning for new adventures. To live life with a true sense of purpose. I want to travel and see what the rest of the world has to offer and connect with more like-minded people along the way. People who are not just waking up and existing but seeking to live life to the fullest, all while learning more about myself in the process.
This moment of stillness has encouraged me to trust myself more and not heavily rely on outside influences. It is up to me to depend more on my intuition when making critical decisions and not settle for an acceptable life by society’s standards. I am no longer in a rush to return to a job that provided me a steady paycheck (which I am extremely grateful for) knowing deep down inside that my soul craves something more.
I can’t see myself staying with a company that doesn’t challenge me and isn’t tied to the growth I am seeking in my career. I’m finally choosing to move forward doing more meaningful work from here on out. Work that is tied to who I want to become in the near future and not based on past jobs I took out of desperation. I need something more aligned with my goals in life and not something to just show up to for a paycheck every two weeks.
Covid helped to reaffirm the importance of family and real friendships and their support in tough times. It helped me to look at loved ones that I used to push to the side because I was “too busy” to be around due to obligations from a manufactured social life and reach out to them. It has also shown what friendships are worth keeping (less than a handful) and exposed those who were only around me for the parties and other shenanigans. I have been able to decipher who and what I am looking for in my relationships as I continue to process and progress through this thing called life.
And I know it may not seem like it but I am truly overjoyed to see things gradually opening up again. However, I am in no rush to return to pre-pandemic days.
I don’t crave my old life. I was trapped. Trapped in between who I thought everyone wanted me to be and who I actually looked forward to becoming. I was trapped in that place for years, much longer than I anticipated and much longer than I realized. I was constantly trying to choose both sides at once and was stuck in place taking one step forward and one step back never really going anywhere.
But this chaotic time has afforded me the opportunity to continue with the change. Chaos can be good. It is a chance for the universe to shake shit up. A chance for us to see what we are really made of.
Thank you pandemic for providing me with the change I desperately needed but didn’t know I wanted.
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