America's dirty little secret: A lot of us don't want to go back to normal.
Let's begin by saying there's no one on the planet who wants COVID-19 to continue ravaging the world. The past year has been one of unspeakable tragedy and it will be years before we realize what effects it had on humanity's collective physical and mental health.
But as we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, some people aren't so sure they want to return to life as it was before the pandemic. They may keep it to themselves, but the sentiment is definitely out there.
Many started working from home and now love the freedom that comes with having a five-second commute and loathe the idea of returning to a life where they have to waste an hour on "looking good" every morning.
I will not miss the #pandemic though the damn virus will be with us for a long time. I will miss the time with my… https://t.co/0rbflQ4TSh— YA25420 (@YA25420) 1615784497.0
For some, the idea of returning back to their old social habits seems uncomfortable. First, no matter how effective the vaccine is, it's going to be incredibly disconcerting to be around maskless people in close quarters, like in a bar or at a concert. We've all developed natural knee-jerk reactions to people being too close and it'll be really tough to unlearn what's been ingrained for a year.
The vast majority of us went from having a healthy relationship with the world around us to living in a constant state of social distancing vigilance over the course of a week. That's going to be hard to undo.
Many people are secretly relieved they've had the perfect excuse to avoid daily social interactions over the past year. They were able to avoid the relatives that get on their nerves or didn't have to hang out with their significant other's friends they never really liked in the first place.
How I Really Feel About "Going Back to Normal"www.youtube.com
For others, the lockdown was an eye-opening experience, because they realized they were happier not dealing with some of the toxic people in their lives. Going back to normal social life means having to either re-engage with people who might trigger us or suffer the discomfort that comes with ending the relationship.
Reentering the social world also means having to confront temptations that we were able to avoid for an entire year, whether it's drugs, sex, smoking, gambling, or ordering an extra dessert while eating out.
"As horrible and tragic as this past year has been, I do believe it was a much-needed reset for so many people," Kelsey Darragh, a filmmaker who suffers from anxiety and wrote a book about mental health during the pandemic called "Don't F---ing Panic," told Today. "We got to just be gentle with ourselves."
A lot of people are feeling anxious about things returning to "normal" because they now realize they weren't happy before the pandemic.
Feeling relief at having gotten my first dose of the vaccine but anxiety at people already acting like we're expect… https://t.co/QJ6pp5W8E7— Natalia Sylvester: RUNNING is out now!! (@Natalia Sylvester: RUNNING is out now!!) 1615392848.0
Whether you are hesitant for things to go back to normal or ready to rip your front door off its hinges, we should all take these (hopefully!) final few months of COVID-19 to recognize that we've all been through a severely traumatizing time. Now's a great time to take some personal inventory, consider where we were before the pandemic, and where we're headed.
What have you learned the past year that can help make your post-pandemic life even better than it was before?
"It becomes a very anxiety-producing moment in the life of a survivor when they return to normal," Deborah Serani, a psychologist, and professor at Adelphi University told Today. "Except now, with the pandemic, we're all doing that."
"We are emerging from this together, globally," Serani said. "It's OK to be gentle with yourself. It's OK to feel unsure. It's OK to feel insecure. It's OK to say, 'How do I do this dance? I don't remember.' It's OK to feel anxious and nervous. You're not alone in that."
If you're feeling anxious about life returning to normal, take solace in the idea that you're not the only one. In fact, everyone has to carry some anxiety about the big changes on the horizon.
Also, remember that you're not in this alone. COVID-19 has affected everyone. So there will be plenty of people out there that you can throw your arm around tight — for the first time in months — and ask, "Ready to go out?"
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