Let’s not go “back to normal”, normal wasn’t working.
As vaccinated places of the world are seeing large declines in Covid-19 cases and deaths, there is this feeling of relief that is coming, changing people’s attitudes. Concerts, sporting events, conventions, schools and parties are all doable again.
But some of the sacrifices we made over the last 15 months or so have changed our attitudes on many things to the point that we don’t want to change back. Here’s my list of things that changed during the pandemic, that I think are best left changed.
- Working from home – I spent most of the pandemic working from my own living room. Yes it was lonely not chatting with my co-workers as I worked, and video meetings were annoying as hell, but not having to commute to and from work, not having to walk 50 yards to the nearest bathroom, or twice that to the nearest break room are worth it. I think working from home should continue to be a normal thing, a choice of the employee.
- Making your own meals – Pre-pandemic, I ate out all the time, at least once every workday. But I slowed way down and eventually stopped as the pandemic raged on. The $12 combo meal I used to buy everyday could be spent instead on a package of frozen patties, buns, chips and soda, enough to make 6 combo meals by myself — and it was fun! I came up with about 5 different hot and nutritious meals I could make myself in about the time it took me to drive to the nearest drive-thru and wait in line, and at a fraction of the cost.
- Dressing comfortably – Working from home meant no work clothes, no hair primping, makeup, bra, tight pants, and shoes are optional. My wardrobe is now mostly t-shirts and sweat pants. Yes there is that urge to go out and look good doing it, but t-shirt and sweat pants has become more normal in most of the places I frequent. I’m fine with cotton shirts and tops, and sweat pants and shorts being the basis of 90% of my wardrobe the rest of my life.
- End to rampant commercialism – Almost everyone I know took the opportunity to go through their “stuff” and clean it out. “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo was already a big hit on Netflix before the pandemic hit, and it inspired a lot of throwing crap out, for me as well. In general, an attitude of being happier with less has swept the culture. It’s good for the environment, it is good for our bank accounts, it is making us happier. Having the “latest and greatest” fashion or electronic gadget is also becoming passe, much to the chagrin of companies that make this stuff.
- Staying home – Yes, going out and seeing people is something I missed during the pandemic, and since getting the vaccine, I have started seeing people again, having family at my house and visiting at other people’s houses. What I don’t have is a desire to do it all the time. Also I find small gatherings at homes to be more enjoyable than crowded restaurants and movie theaters. I’m glad I can go back to movie theaters and restaurants, but it is no longer a priority.
- Getting rid of toxic people and toxic situations – One of the good things about the pandemic is that it gave you an excuse to avoid people, assuming that the people you want to avoid don’t live in your house. From a recent Atlantic article:
I haven’t been able to find any surveys of what we most don’t miss from pre-pandemic times. But there is research that gives us clues. Studies have shown that spending time on people or activities that bring us down depresses our sense of meaning in life; unpleasant exchanges with bosses, customers, and co-workers lower our sense of well-being.
During pre-pandemic life you might have said, “I like my job,” and “I like my social life.” Maybe you meant it, and maybe you didn’t: Social scientists have long shown that most people are inveterate liars, and might be even more adept at lying to themselves. Either way, it was certainly convenient to say your life made you happy, wasn’t it? Researchers find that people who hold unpopular views usually keep them private or “live lies” to avoid conflict. I am willing to bet that in some areas of your pre-pandemic life, you were also deceiving yourself to avoid rocking your own boat. But then your boat was capsized by the coronavirus.
We all yearn for the end of the human suffering brought about by the pandemic. And many, if not most, of us look forward to the end of the constraints and inconveniences it has imposed. But deep inside, there are probably a few things you dread about going back to normal life. Each of us, if we are brutally honest, could make a list of the activities and relationships that we didn’t like in pre-pandemic times, but that we accepted through self-deception, sheer inertia, and the pressure to go along and get along.“A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Start Over” Arthur C. Brooks Atlantic May 13, 2021
If there were people, places, and situations you avoided during the pandemic, there is a good chance that you should keep avoiding them. Restaurants are having a hard time finding workers willing to work high stress low wage jobs, go figure! Ditto “fulfillment centers”. All churches saw declined attendance, but I suspect the ones that preach hate and fear might have a hard time getting people back.
New Jobs New Homes
As people reassess their post-pandemic lives, a lot of people like me are changing careers and changing locations. I see a lot of articles about “How to Quit your job in the Great Post-Pandemic Resignation Boom” and “Nearly One-Third of US Homebuyers Want to Move If they can Work Remotely Post-Pandemic“
Priorities change. I left a stressful career to make my hobby my career. That gave me the freedom to live wherever I want, and I chose closer to family over where I have been living for most of my adult life.
Phoenix, my former home, is a popular destination for people looking to relocate. This is causing a housing boom, sending real estate up, and sending real estate speculators in a buying frenzy, most of which will just sit empty, making the housing shortage even worse. This is causing rents to go up, but not wages. People in California still think Arizona is a bargain, but many long time Arizonans are leaving. I’m going to the Midwest, where prices are still reasonable.
Life is a Game
My next game Hopepunk City is about the experience of leaving a place you have lived forever, and starting over in a new place, having to meet new people, and establishing a new life in a new place.
I came up with the premise for the game before the premise for my new life, but I plan to make this a learning experience, and incorporate what I learn into the game. There is still a ways to go before the game is ready to release, but it seems worth mentioning. Speaking about life games…
The Game of Life
In an episode of Rick and Morty called “Mortynight Run” there is a video game called Roy: A Life Well Lived, where in a few minutes, you experience the lifetime of a man called Roy and make decisions where to take his life. Morty has Roy fight off cancer, then return to his boring job selling carpet until he dies. Rick responds, “That’s the difference between you and me, Morty. I never go back to the carpet store.”
The end of the pandemic represents an end to a traumatic event for the whole world… Let’s not go back to the carpet store.