Next week, when I return to work in the office, I will have spent 80 days in quarantine at my home. That is over 11 weeks of solitude and working from home. This pandemic has changed our world. I know, for the most part, it was for the worse, but there are bright spots in the darkness that was the first five months of 2020.
Nearly every time I have interviewed someone about any subject in the last 80 days there is a phrase that comes up over and over again. “We really are going to have a new appreciation for normalcy.”
My question is, should we return to normal? Shouldn’t we, as a society of isolated people feel so much more grateful to be able to chat with neighbors, take a walk and visit family? I think we could come away from this with a new appreciation for the simple things that make life worth living.
While I am in support of staying safe, one of my least favorite parts about wearing a mask is that I cannot politely smile at people as I pass them in a parking lot or the grocery store. I am a pretty shy person until it comes to interviewing people. I’ve learned that a show of confidence and an outgoing attitude makes the people I am interviewing a lot more comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I think I am a nice person, I just always had a tendency to be shy, something I had to overcome for my career. So, my polite smile is my way of acknowledging people. I truly did not realize how integral this small practice was to my social interactions until now.
On a grocery run last week, I returned to my car, just as another car pulled into the spot beside my car. An older gentleman was taking a little longer to exit the low-riding car, so I stood, politely at the back of my car to make room for him to get out, politely smiling, behind my mask. I quickly realized that it actually looked like I was just silently staring at this man taking a moment to get out of his car. I then blurted out, “I promise I am smiling under here!”
I quickly turned red out of embarrassment, not that they could see it behind the mask, but the two men just laughed and said they appreciated the clarification, but hadn’t thought much of me standing there. The older gentleman even told me to have a blessed day. Oh my, have I missed people and human interaction. Again, 80 days of near-complete isolation...that takes a toll.
The bright spot of my time in quarantine was, of course, my dog Zooey. While she demanded a lot of attention, I am going to miss giving her all that attention. Quick belly rubs in between phone interviews, setting her head in my lap when I am struggling with how to word a story over my laptop, a quick walk in between answering emails; I am definitely going to miss all of that time with her.
There are some quarantine habits I plan to keep, especially the ones that have been so important to retaining sanity. In quarantine, I have made the time for myself in the morning to make french-press coffee, cooked homemade meals, some good and some very bad, but I am learning! I spent less money on things that didn’t matter. I really took stock of my life and habits once they were brought to a complete halt and started treating myself, and in turn, the people around me, better.
In a perfect world, we would come out on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic singing, “Kumbaya, My Lord,” but I know enough of humans that we will always have something to fight about. However, I hope in the middle of a heated argument, you might remember the time you were so scared for your family’s safety and your own and remember that the person you are arguing with, probably had the same feelings these past few months. We are all just human beings, living on a quickly spinning ball in the middle of space, doing our best to make something of our lives.
Essentially, I want to return to a world with more empathy, compassion and care for one another. I think if we all take a step back and focus on our similarities rather than our differences, our post-coronavirus world could be a better place.
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice