Everyone is waiting for normal to return, to go back to the good old days, the times before the pandemic closed down the world, before millions of people had died, when a belief in one’s immortality could still be maintained, when a sense of innocence about the future permeated the present. Since the beginning of the pandemic the return to normal was always the hope. From “15 days to slow the spread” to mask mandates, school closures, and travel restrictions among many others, there has always been the lingering promise of a return to normal. The world began to identify with Orphan Annie looking to a brighter tomorrow when socializing, connecting with family, having meetings in person, and traveling to new destinations could return to that of pre-pandemic days. Even more, the desire to be able to do so without the fear of infection, hospitalization, intubation, and death. The pandemic robbed individuals of one of the greatest assets of humanity, trust in one another, as everyone began to eye one another with suspicion, the harbinger of disease. The air itself turned to poison as distance and masks became the new normal. All while everyone waited and hoped for a return to the old normal.
Yet with history as a guide, it becomes obvious that a return to a previous normal is rarely if ever possible. Even more, a return to a prior state is often not ideal. The world has changed in many ways as weeks turned into months which turned into years. Many things became worse, yet many beautiful things were also found. A return to the previous normal would negate all of these lessons, all of this progress, all the distance that had been traveled. Whenever struggle is endured the desire is not simply for it to stop, but even more so, that the struggle was worth it, that through the struggle something greater was born. As the world put itself together after World War II, it was abundantly clear that a return to the previous state was neither possible nor desirable. Instead, the only way was forward. In the same manner, every individual is radially different now compared with the start of the pandemic. Covid-19 has changed how people live, work, relate, and play. Many loved ones have been lost, and many struggles are only now becoming apparent. For better or worse there will be no return to normal, no reversion to the world that everyone once knew. Instead, there will only be slow progress forward. This slow progress forward is all that there ever has been, yet it remains the promise of a better tomorrow, a better normal.