Adjusting to “The New Normal”… Again

Adjusting to The New Normal... Again

Elaina Freeman, Writer

As March 13th approaches, I thought that it would be only fitting to take a walk down memory lane and talk about the last/lost three years.  The world looks  different than it did three years ago. Three years ago we were still living in a time period when hearing the word Covid did not instantly make us nervous. We were all living in a simpler time. It was a time before mask mandates, national lock-downs and a disease that would change life as we know it. So let’s rewind the clocks to Friday March 13th, 2020; a day none of us will ever be able to forget!

If you had told me (when I was in sixth grade) what was going to come of my “two week vacation” I  would have never believed you.  When I arrived at school that morning, I thought it was going to be like any other Friday. I had no idea that would be my last time in a school building for almost two years.  The school was buzzing that Friday morning as every student in the building had heard about this new virus; Covid19.  We all had our thoughts on the topic and most of my peers were excited by the thought of a potential vacation. I remember my teachers even assigning us homework; just in case we had school the following Monday.  On the Lions’ team, we were gearing up to start getting ready for Egypt day. We all listened attentively as Mr. Kirby explained what would be asked of us when we returned from our two week break. He wanted us to start brainstorming our ideas so that when we came back, we were ready to start our projects. By the end of the day we were informed  that we were going to be given two weeks off, which would be enough time to fully sanitize the school. The mass chaos that happened in the stairwell after that announcement is a scene I will never forget.  It honestly felt like something out of a movie.  We were all screaming and overly excited for this sudden break;myself included. We saw this two week vacation as a win and then we’d pick up exactly where we left off. Right?

We had no idea what 2020 had in store for  us when we left that day.   I remember vividly asking my mom if I could see my friends during the next two weeks and being so confused when she said no. She said that we needed to take the lockdown seriously and that meant staying inside our house.  Before my dad came home from work, he stopped at Stop & Shop to “get everything we might need.” He returned home with what felt like hundreds of bags of groceries. He came home from the experience visibly shaken up, describing what he had just seen “as something out of a zombie apocalypse movie.” In the early days of the pandemic, life was filled with so much uncertainty.  During those first two weeks, my sister celebrated her 20th birthday with a Zoom call. At the time, we had no idea how important Zoom would become to all of us. Over time, we all started to understand the severity of the situation.

I’m a very optimistic person so when the return to school date kept getting pushed farther and farther back, I genuinely believed it. Everyone around me was starting to come to terms with the reality of the pandemic. I was surrounded by people who strongly believed we were not going back to school. However, I did not believe them. I knew that we were going to return in two weeks.  Two weeks was not enough time so we would return to school in three weeks. As it got closer to the three week marker approaching, the date was pushed back to a month. At this point, no one could convince me we would not be returning to school. In the middle of April, Massachusetts canceled all in person classes for the remainder of the school year. I was completely heartbroken.

With each new day, the pandemic began to grow more dangerous by the second.  Tensions began to rise as the death count grew. Every news story was about the pandemic. It was incredibly nerve wracking to even step outside. Dr. Fauci became the trusted official we were lacking in the White House.  He provided the guidance and advice we all needed to get through the pandemic.   

In a time where the world was quite literally on fire, we all did whatever we could to maintain our sanity. The world was in such a dark and depressing state that the heaviness of it could be all consuming. However it was a time where creativity flourished for some.  The only way I did not get completely overwhelmed by everything going on in the world was to binge TV shows. Early on in the pandemic I watched a five season show that had 121 episodes in a week and a half.  Aside from speed watching old Nickelodeon shows, I found myself turning to creative outlets more than ever before. My biggest creative outlet is to write. Journaling became one of the best ways to attempt to process what was happening around me. Also because I wasn’t so focused on all of the external factors in my life, creative stories poured out of me.  One of my other main coping mechanisms during the pandemic was listening to music.  I finally had time to listen to all of the music I didn’t have time to listen to beforehand. In a world where everything was so uncertain and completely out of my control, I fell in love with the Hamilton cast recording for the first time.  When the world became overwhelming, I could plug my headphones in and listen as the sounds of showtunes drowned out the world.

While the early days of the pandemic will be defined by the creative ways people kept themselves entertained, there was so much more to the pandemic than baking bread. In fact the early days of the pandemic were an extremely dark time. People had to say goodbye forever  to their loved ones over a Facetime call. Everytime we stepped outside there was a constant fear. There was a fear of getting yourself and the people you loved sick. Covid did not care who it infected and no one was safe. 

During the pandemic my family was more  cautious than most. My grandparents live in town and even though we are not their primary caregivers, we are heavily involved in helping them . This resulted in us all taking precautions even during times when the overall case numbers were down.  We kept wiping down groceries and the takeout we got delivered for a very long time.  We listened to the advice of medical professionals and truly stayed inside as much as possible.  We saw people six feet apart, with masks on, outside of their houses. We interrogated everyone we knew (about where they were going and who they were seeing), all to limit the risk we could potentially bring to my grandparents.  Once tests became available, we requested everyone  take a home test if they were doing anything that before Covid would be considered normal. My family was fueled by fear and not only needed to know the risk factors of our friends but their friends as well. 

Covid brought many tears and so much stress.  I would cry for hours about how much I wanted life to go back to normal. I longed to have my life back. I missed the mundane days, the simplicity of seeing someone around school.  Like everyone else I was celebrating on March 13th because of the two week vacation. As the pandemic continued, all I wanted to do was go back to school. 

We were all curious about how we would learn during a pandemic. I would lay awake at night wondering things such as “ How will this work?” “Will I actually learn anything? “ “Do I have to run laps around my kitchen table? “ “You’re telling me that I can wear my pajamas and no one will know?” When I would ask my mother these questions she would tell me that if anyone could figure this out, it would be teachers. Zoom school was a crazy experience. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the barking of a dog in the background during a lesson or to get really used to seeing the top of a classmate’s ceiling. Despite the constant request to unmute our mics or better yet to turn our cameras on, we all weathered the physical glitches in our way. Our teachers not only were able to teach us the curriculum during the pandemic but were also able to teach us about resilience. 

Today marks the three year anniversary of when schools were officially closed due to the Covid19 pandemic.On the World Health Organization it says that globally there have been 759,408,703 cases cumulatively across the globe.  Worldwide there have been 6,866,434 total deaths from Covid 19. Covid genuinely took no prisoners when it came to those it infected. No one was safe from getting sick and we all did not know how our bodies would react once infected. 

We are now living in a post pandemic society, meaning we are all back to semi normal lives. In an MSNBC news article Dr. Facui is quoted saying “We are now transitioning-not there yet, but transitioning- to more of an endemicity, where the level of infection is low enough that people are starting to learn how to live with the virus, still protecting themselves by vaccination, by the availability of antivirals, by testing.” School is fully back in session and I’m able to do the activities I missed the most. However life will never be the same after a global pandemic. Part of the reason we are able to have the lives we have now is due to the vaccines that were produced. These vaccines were produced at a rapid speed and were given to people globally. The vaccines do not prevent you from getting sick with Covid, but it does make the infection less severe if you do conduct the virus. Another leading factor into the transition back to normal life was when home testing became available. The more access there was to testing, the quicker people were able to learn if they were infected.

The pandemic altered everything we know about life.  While we are back to what seems like a normal life we will never be back to a “normal life.” Covid changed everything and we all emerged from the pandemic as changed people. While we are living fairly typical lives, Covid is still out there.  Covid is still infecting people daily and people still can get sick from the disease. The last three years have completely altered the way society functioned. We all lost so much time these past three years. As much as I’ve tried to rewind the clocks to March 13th 2020, we truly will never be able to go back in time to this day. As much as I cried about it, I will never get to experience Egypt Day.  Egypt Day is so much more than just the day itself. It serves as a metaphor for anything you may have lost during the pandemic. Egypt Day represents the graduations that never happened, the work presentations that were canceled and the parties that were never planned. The reason that something like “Egypt Day” exists is because of the archaeologists that went searching to find missing pieces of history. Like archaeologists we came out of our digging expeditions having learned valuable lessons. We were forced to sit with ourselves and truly start paying attention to the actions of those around us. We learned that our decisions can make a large impact and most importantly we learned about ourselves. We also were able to recognize that our actions directly affect those around us. The pandemic took away so much from all of us.  As a society, we have the responsibility to look out for each other. This sometimes means truly sacrificing what we want to protect someone else.   This was a time of sacrifice, loss and community.   We have emerged from the dark, scary cave, hopefully discovering the treasures of what is truly important in life.