By: Shari Chase

Just last week, I went to the doctor for my yearly physical and the experience was surreal – standing outside in the parking lot, in the rain, so the doctor could examine me, all while trying to remain 6 feet/2 metres apart. If you had told me last year that this would be the new normal, I wouldn’t have believed you at all.

I mean, how could we actually have prepared for this strange reality that we’re all currently living? What advice would have adequately equipped us to deal with all of this death, uncertainty, and isolation?

As an introvert, the prospect of social distancing didn’t seem all that bad. While people were complaining about not being able to go out, I was grateful that for once it would be socially acceptable, even socially praised, to simply stay home. I wasn’t bothered, and I’m still not bothered by the need for social distancing because I understand that it will help keep everyone safe. It’s not the distance that bothers me, it’s the heaviness of watching everything grind to a screeching halt and the knowledge that nothing will ever really be “normal” again. 

The Things I Miss

The last few weeks have been both some of the slowest and fastest days of my life. Before this, I already spent my days working from home. The difference is now,  my entire family is also working from home. There are suddenly way too many people in my space. It’s great to have more family time, but I miss my space. I miss going out for casual outings to the beach, the park, the movies, and restaurants.

Yet, all of these things do nothing to really identify just what it is that has changed about my life. More than anything, I suddenly feel a weight that I didn’t before. The news is a constant reminder that people are dying, and every time I hear the word coronavirus, I can’t help but momentarily panic as I try to remember when I last washed my hands. If I think about the germs all over everything and how viruses travel and multiply, I start to feel a little sick. COVID-19 has become a suffocating cloud, inescapable, disruptive, and worrying – yet there’s nothing I can do about it.

The Things I’ve Learned To Be Thankful For

Throughout all of this, I have stayed relatively sane by remembering to focus on the things I can control rather than worrying about the things I can’t. I have very little control over anything virus related, but I can try to make the most of my days regardless. Despite losing a job that I was excited to start this month, I am grateful for the time I have been able to spend with my family, being able to rest more, and for the support of family and friends. I am also thankful that we have all remained healthy thus far and can, despite the circumstances, create memories that will not be quickly forgotten. 

The Things I’m Hoping For

Despite learning to appreciate things, I’ve also discovered that many of us have a long way to go with regards to living a life of purpose. This situation has brought out both the best and worst in people, with the selfish hoarding of toilet paper and hand sanitiser standing in stark contrast to heart-moving acts of kindness. My biggest hope is that this global threat to life will teach us to be better humans.

It is incredibly sad that it took a virus to make us all slow down and take care of ourselves. A pandemic should not have been necessary for people to finally understand the importance of universal and affordable healthcare. It should not have taken a worldwide shut down for us to recognise and appreciate the worth of our “essential workers.” We shouldn’t have needed COVID-19 for people to realise that being a workaholic is not a sign of success, but rather a sign of neglect. It should not have taken the force of a global crisis to make us stop and reflect on what we need to do to be better.

When I go outside, I feel like I’m in some strange sci-fi reality that’s not quite real, an alternate universe that I’m still struggling to understand. But, this is our new world, and although it may not have been what any of us expected, I’m hoping that we can embrace it with grace.

I am hoping that we can learn from our history and enter into the future with the ability to be better prepared for the next time something like this happens. Whether we like it or not, this will not be the last test of our humanity, but hopefully, it is the last time that we are caught needing to be reminded of what’s truly important.