Rechkemmer: The new normal

Columnist Gracie Rechkemmer weighs the options of our future returning to an unfamiliar normal.

Gracie Rechkemmer

Six months ago, our lives were turned upside down. A global pandemic closed our schools, took away our jobs and put our lives on hold. These changes were not instantaneous, but within weeks of the first time I heard the word “coronavirus,” I knew we needed to brace ourselves for the worst. Fear and uncertainty quickly filled our country as the disease slowly began to spread. Some people suffered more than others, but soon enough, everyone was affected. And everyone had the same question: 

When will life go back to normal?

Most of us believed we would have answers by now. However, six months later, the pandemic rages on, and it feels like we still have more questions than answers. How many people have actually gotten sick? How exactly does the virus spread? How reliable is acquired immunity? Perhaps most importantly, when will all of this be over? Some organizations have released predictions, but there is no consensus on a timeline. Many experts believe COVID-19 is here to stay. As much as it pains me to say it, we need to learn how to accept that life may never go back to how it was before. 

We must create a new normal.  

Throughout the last six months, I have learned how to be patient. I have accepted the fact that some things I have looked forward to simply will not be possible, at least right now. However, this attitude has left me feeling somewhat stuck. For many people, living in 2020 feels less like living and more like waiting. As we accustom ourselves to this new normal, we cannot postpone our lives. We cannot use a challenging year as an excuse to become stagnant. We need to find creative ways to continue to live, learn and grow as people. 

Time is still passing, and this is time we will not get back. 

Let me be clear: my intention is not to offer an excuse to behave recklessly. Moving on and finding a new normal does not mean endangering yourself and others in order to have a good time. Social distancing and community responsibility need to be fundamental pieces of our new normal. We must find ways to balance our need for safety and our needs for joy and fulfillment. I believe this is possible because human beings have a unique ability to adapt to adverse situations and thrive even in the worst of times.

Our success and happiness do not depend solely on the state of the world, they depend on the state of our minds and our willingness to make the most of whatever trial comes our way.