2020 promised to bring us an infamous Hot Girl Summer, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since 2016. By March, these expectations had been thrown out the window. Life as we knew it had changed completely as we traded in our office clothes for pajamas and stopped pretending that we were too good to be on TikTok. The coronavirus pandemic led to lockdown restrictions which mandated that we stay indoors in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19. For those of us who thrive on social interaction, this deprivation spelt doom. Introverts, on the other hand, welcomed the new normal with open arms.
I won’t pretend like I enjoyed one hundred percent of lockdown.
The entire world had plunged into unignorable chaos. People got sick, people lost loved ones and people lost their jobs. As the number of cases in the U.S. rose at alarming rates, so did our anxiety and general sense of despair. Regardless of our social preferences, we all struggled to adjust to life in lockdown.
When I found out that in-person college had been booted in favor of Zoom University, I honestly felt relieved. The school year so far had exhausted me, and the initial murmurings of the invisible threat had compounded my existing social anxieties in a pretty intense way. I already felt naturally inclined to hole up in my room, so when the government told us to stay inside for two weeks… I really did not feel the need to complain.
Those first two weeks passed by in serene bliss. Though I remained aware of the fact that the outside world had become a thing of apocalyptic nightmares, being alone and inside gave me a sense of not completely false security. Inside, the virus had no way of getting me and I could control who and what intruded upon my immediate environment. Within those fourteen days I finished up my finals for that quarter with relative ease, then let myself fall into guilt-free Netflix marathons. Well, I still felt a little guilty. Though not in an academic sense. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not hating what life had become.
Yes, life dealt us some challenging changes, but we made out with some pretty good ones too.
I’m not talking about discovering TikTok or learning that we can actually save money by making our coffee at home. Although, those changes did change my life for the better, too. A couple other changes had sneaked up on us and now that life is starting to go back to normal, I can’t help but worry that all the good change will be tossed out with the bad.
For instance, the simple act of checking in with one another. The lockdown affected all of us. None of us were immune to this novel virus, or the misery it brought with it—like the curse of Zoom fatigue. This mutual awareness prompted us all to be a little more mindful of each other. Those little “how are yous?” went such a long way. A miraculous shift in attitudes occurred. Most of us abandoned our selfish ways (shoutout to the toilet paper hoarders) and started being kinder towards one another.
Mindfulness became a hot topic as we started getting introspective. This looked a little different for everyone. For me, this meant actually confronting my introversion and learning how to manage my energy better. Many of my friends reconnected with old hobbies during quarantine, claiming that doing so brought them a sense of fulfilment that they had lost at some point in their lives. No one felt ashamed to talk about these things either. We dined with our demons and shared those dinner conversations with each other.
It seemed that when s—t got real, we started getting real too. And I was so here for it.
As of today, 44% of the population received at least one dose of the vaccine and 28% are fully vaccinated. Slowly but surely, life is returning to normal. At the risk of being hated for saying this: I don’t want the old normal back. The old normal makes me think that all the awesome things we learnt over the last year will go down the drain, never to be seen again. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone mention whipped coffee or banana bread and I can’t help but wonder if those little “how are you’s?” will start disappearing too.
That being said, I don’t want this “new normal” to continue on either. I miss eating inside restaurants. Believe it or not, my introverted a—s would like nothing better than to hit the club right now, even though that means an entire night of social interaction in a room packed to the brim with other human bodies.
This begs the question… can we find a new “new normal”? We seem to be holding on to TikTok with our dear lives. Hopefully, we can hold on to the other things too.