COVID-19 has changed us

The Coronavirus has really done a number on us, hasn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, the impact on some of us hasn’t nearly been as drastic compared to people who have lost their jobs, or those who are sick or who know someone who is sick or worse.

But nevertheless, we’ve felt it.

Approximately eight months ago, I started working from home full-time. I remember going to a stationary shop to buy sticky notes, Sharpies and highlighters on the day that we were told, to finish the synthesis of the app user research I had started weeks before. I grabbed whatever I thought I might need for four weeks or so, from my locker at work. Surely it wouldn’t last that long, I thought.

Right.

And it wasn’t long until all non-essential businesses closed, concerts and stage productions were cancelled, and supermarkets were suddenly out of essentials, as people started to stock up on things. And we were buying what we needed online.

Most days, the streets were quieter than on any other day we had experienced, even Christmas Day. Everyone just stayed home.

As the weeks went by and we realised that this wasn’t going to be over any time soon, working from home started to feel isolated, most of the time.

I dreaded the fact that my husband worked at a hospital (and still does) and the fear that came with it on a daily basis. And I tried to ignore the term ‘the new normal’ as much as I could, although it carried an unmistakable uncertainty that I didn’t care for.

All I wanted, was to be able to return to the pre-COVID way of life. And it was impossible not to rethink most things. After all, how could the way we see ourselves remain unchanged?

As dramatic as it sounds – for a while, it felt like our anchors were missing – the metaphorical grounding that keeps us steady. The ‘not knowing’ was debilitating.

We couldn’t see most people face-to-face – family or friends or colleagues. It was ‘virtual’ or nothing. We, as extroverts, couldn’t rely on the energy of others, like we used to, to just be. The borders closed. Crowds were out of the question – concerts, sporting events and musicals, and the support for those who earned a living that way – gone.

But in time, some things started opening again. We were able to see some family members and friends (those who were not overseas or interstate), and the city seemed to have life again, most of the time. We started to do some of what we used to do.

However, we’d had to rebuild our sense of selves in the process.

And now, everything is changed.

Working from home feels normal, and it’s going in to the office once a week that seems strange. There is a level of institutionalisation that has occurred, even in our own homes. (I try not to overthink that one)

We’ve become more comfortable in a virtual world than ever before, with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers, al be it in a professional context.

And it may have changed us more than we would like to admit. I, for one, am entirely content with my own company, and I’m so much more inclined to connect online. And when I do see people face-to-face, I appreciate it more than ever before.

Although the notion of the new normal still feels uncomfortable, and we still mourn our pre-COVID lives, has it become easier?

May be. Some days.

And we are not alone in this.

Everyone is in the same boat, or on the same planet, as is the case in our scenario, no matter who. And yet, I really can’t get my head around it, or work out how to feel.

But that’s okay.

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