Why ‘back to normal’ shouldn’t be the goal

With an end to lockdown in sight, there’s a lot of conversation about getting ‘back to normal’, and saying goodbye to the pandemic for good. Of course it goes without saying that I’m ready for the end of ‘unprecedented times’ but I think we should be cautious about returning to how we were before.

There’s been a lot of emotions over the last year, and whilst I know it’s been overwhelmingly hard, there have been some glimmers of hope in there too.

A photo of a flowering gorse bush at sunset, backlit by warm sunlight

During the first lockdown, I found myself really watching other people when I was out on my daily walk (the lack of human contact sunk in quick there). What struck me the most was how many families there were out exercising together. Couples out on jogs, parents running alongside their kids on bikes, people were taking time out of their day to get outside, but also spend quality time with their families. Would they have been doing that otherwise?

Whilst admittedly online learning is a drag, and I really have grown to hate Teams, education has never been as accessible as it is right now. As someone who has had health issues my whole life, I’ve never had good attendance at school, but I’m on track for perfect attendance this year. Online learning means that on days where I’m having a flare up, I don’t have to get dressed, get dosed up, drive to campus, be out of the house for hours, I can simply grab my laptop and join from bed. I know I’m not the only one to benefit from the increased accessibility of education, and I hope that schools and universities think about these things moving forward.

jaye walks away from the camera, along the beach at sunset.

As someone with a weak immune system I’m usually first in line for every cough cold and virus going round, but for the first time ever I’ve gone a whole year without catching a cold. I can really only attribute this to the fact that every time I’ve left the house I’ve worn a mask, sanitised aggressively, and touched as little as possible. As far as I’m concerned, I’d really like to see mask wearing continue, particularly for travel (I get a cold every time I fly, or use the Underground in London) because I feel like I’ve gained an extra few weeks of the year!

Bournemouth beach at sunset, the clouds are grey and the sand looks pink and warm, colourful beachuts line the horizon in front of wooded cliffs.

Throughout lockdown I’ve been surprised by what I’ve missed and what I can do without. Ultimately, I’m looking forward to being with my family, drinking coffee in a cosy coffee shops, being able to visit libraries and museums and country houses. I want to browse bookshops, eat lunch in a country pub garden after a long walk, and hug my pals.

I’m in no hurry to get back on public transport, travel further afield, commute, visit packed shopping centres, bars or cinemas. I actually think I’m going to find it hard to go back to busy spaces, here’s hoping people keep social distancing in queues hey?

sunset on a cloudy day at the beach, the tide is out so the sand shines with dampness, and reflects the streaks of pink from the sky above

All this to say, it’s a great time to take a moment to reflect on the last year. What’s changed for the better, what have you missed, what have you learned, what do you want to take with you into a new start. We have an opportunity to find something better than normal in the coming months, and I sincerely hope we do.