Our New (Not) Normal
Four months since the beginning of quarantine and our new way of life in the United States. Four months of fear, monotony, simple pleasures, and (faint) glimmers of hope. Much can and should be said about the failures in leadership that have allowed the pandemic to reach such uniquely devastating levels in this country, but the emotions I have towards the mismanagement are separate from what I’ve learned throughout this period of unparalleled social isolation. My feelings towards our government and fellow citizens who continue to leave us vulnerable to this prolonged virus are anger and disappointment; my feelings towards this time in my own life are more complicated.
What I Miss
I miss the subway. Planning my entrance to a specific door of a particular car so that when I reach my stop I’ll be directly in front of the exit turnstile. Watching a happy couple hold hands and smile. Watching a family of tourists huddled around each other pointing between a phone in their hands and the stops on the wall. The singers and dancers, the kids, and even the suits.
I miss restaurants. Being asked whether we’d prefer sparkling or tap water. Whether we’d be ordering ‘anything to start’. The bread. My god, the bread. Being so overwhelmed with choices that when the server arrives I say “come back to me”. The conversation that happens after we order. The moment of silence while everyone takes their first bite and the subsequent exchange of satisfied smiles. The drawn out cocktail between the meal and the check.
I miss meeting up with friends spontaneously. Getting together for a drink after work because we all got off early. Hugging hello. Hugging goodbye. Waking up expecting a lazy Sunday but getting the text that motivates me to hop on the train and traverse boroughs to have brunch or go to the park or just sit around and watch TV together.
I miss being able to touch door knobs and groceries without needing to sanitize my hands afterwards. Not much more on this one I’m just really done with hand sanitizer.
I miss my family. Knowing that even though we don’t live in the same city or state or even on the same coast, if I really needed to see them the only obstacles would be my work schedule and a few hundred dollars.
What I Fear
I fear this country is broken. So broken that even in the face of something this unprecedented we’re incapable of coming together. Incapable of looking out for one another. Incapable of listening to each other and feeling empathy for each other and acting selflessly for one another.
I fear the virus. Catching it again. My family and friends catching it. Not knowing what the lasting impact will be. Not knowing much of anything at all.
I fear we’re too adaptable. So successful at crafting new routines we forget this isolation isn’t healthy; the frog in the pot of water who doesn’t realize it’s beginning to boil. Too accepting of our new skepticism. Too complicit with the reality of lifelong habits being uprooted in weeks. “If we can handle this we can handle anything”. How are so many of us capable of handling this so well?
I fear nothing will ever be the same.
I fear everything will stay the same.
What I’m Thankful For
I’m thankful for my family and friends. Being able to speak to them and lean on them. FaceTime and Zoom calls that wouldn’t otherwise be happening. Yelling at my parents for grocery shopping the way they used to yell at me for breaking curfew.
I’m thankful for my apartment. My stupid, tiny, no dishwasher having, incredible, beautiful studio apartment. Figuring out how to utilize every square inch for three week grocery hauls and digital workout classes. Getting so used to the miniature kitchen that I could put away dishes with my eyes closed. Listening to the neighbors argue through the vent and being tempted to chime in (Leslie is right Evan, you do take her for granted).
I’m thankful for my girlfriend. My ever patient, hilarious, quarantine loving girlfriend. Keeping me sane and motivated. Not rubbing her antibodies in my face. Our Seamless feasts. Our five mile walks to offset our Seamless feasts. Binging five years worth of TV in a few weeks. I truly cannot imagine going through this without her.
I’m thankful for New York. For the frontline medical personnel. For the grocery store employees. For all the essential workers who never in a million years could have expected this is what they were signing up for, and who became heroes. For the 7pm cheers. For turning Berry Street into Bourbon Street. For watching shuttered businesses slowly reopen. For fearful glances that have finally turned into masked smiles.
I’m thankful this moment coincides with a widespread awakening to systemic racism in both policing and society. With the rejection of a system that is not broken but in fact operating exactly as it was designed. To look across the country and throughout the world and see millions marching in the streets demanding justice. To see real work being done to deemphasize and defund the police. To see real work being done to emphasize and fund communities of color in lasting, generational ways.
I’m thankful this horrible virus will be a catalyst for positive change.
I’m thankful for more than I miss and more than I fear.