Fall always brings me nostalgia. My best childhood memories are of marching band, autumn leaves and Halloween. It’s my favorite time of year. But this year feels less nostalgic and more melancholy.
We had high hopes of a “normal” school year as COVID-19 cases stabilized and then dropped. But the delta variant has coursed through the country, and schools that have just begun in-person learning are closing due to COVID-19. Those that haven’t closed have parents holding their breath as classroom cases require contact-tracing and quarantine.
We adjusted our learning for the pandemic last year. We know how to get through this, and we know what we have to do. But this year we have vaccines available for ages 12 and up and yet somehow this year feels like we’ve come up for air only to get pushed under again.
Beloved local businesses have closed, friendships look different and loved ones have died. The pandemic has disrupted every corner of our world.
We like to talk about “getting back to normal” which feels like a comfy old shoe. On the other hand, a “new normal” was thrust upon us, born from necessity with masks, sanitizer and social distancing. However, the pandemic has carried on long enough that I no longer crave getting back to some pre-COVID-19 before times “normal.” Something in me has crossed over.
I want more from life.
Humanity is in a collective existential crisis.
Our mortality is being showcased, and we’re all coping in real time in our own way.
Whether that’s in denial, in faith, through science or ritual, we are all taking a hard look at what it means to live.
We’re in the position now to make decisions based on what this pandemic has shown us is possible. For example, why leave pets at home to get dressed up, drive to an office and sit in a cubicle when the last year has proven many of us can work from home? I can wear bunny slippers and drink the coffee I enjoy most with the support of high-speed internet and a snoring dog that soothes me? Perhaps future job applications can ask if you have reliable internet service rather than reliable transportation.
Jobs that do require employees on site are raising the minimum wage. I’ve read reports of wage increases for UPS, Amazon and local auto manufacturing plants. It took a pandemic for people to draw the line and corporations to understand that they ask too much and pay too little. People are taking stock in what they value and deciding what they want from life.
We’re in a transition of sorts, and transitions are hard. Ask any toddler at bedtime. But maybe this pandemic disruption is exactly what the world needs. Archaic systems have gone stale, and work-life traditions no longer make sense. The individual hardships are devastating, and I am not downplaying their significance. What I’m saying is that this melancholy provides us an opportunity to shape our future. There’s no need to “get back to normal.” We don’t need to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. We need to assess our purpose, embrace how short life truly is and then create a world deserving of our children.