Returning to Before

By Haley Hutchinson

Over a year into the Covid-19 era, and it seems that things might be finally turning around. Are the long anticipated moments of mask unveiling and social gatherings and in-person classes upon us? With recent vaccine developments in the U.S., many of us have replaced skepticism with optimism. That is not to say that the world is healed, because that would be far from the truth. Tremendous positive case spikes and limited access to vaccines in countries overseas, as well as the power of new virus variants, are very harsh realities that still must be considered and addressed. Over a year into the Covid-19 era, and still we are left to navigate an ever-ebbing world.

As Covid-19 restrictions have begun to lift, the return to “normal” life is becoming more of a reality and less of a fantasy. The feeling of being allowed to gather with large groups of people again, dine in at your favorite restaurant on actual plates, get back on the playing field or in the gym, not to mention beginning to physically see the faces in full of those people you pass on the sidewalk or work with, can be overwhelming. There’s relief and pure happiness and elation and a sense of freedom. But there may also be a sense of bittersweetness, of nostalgia, of discomfort. You may find yourself questioning these conflicting emotions. And that’s OK. Just as so many of us were anxious to leave the normal behind at the start of the pandemic, it makes sense that as we make yet another alteration in lifestyle and move away from the Covid-19 bubble, some of that anxiety returns.

For all of the hardship, loss, confusion and tears the pandemic era has fostered, there has also been joy, laughter, new beginnings, and fresh directions. In an instant, we were forced to establish new routines and ways of life. And along the way, we made new connections, perhaps learned more about ourselves and those around us, and simply put, lived life in a different light. So now what? With all of the long-awaited anticipation of life returning to “normal,” it might be just around the corner. But are we ready for it?

Like any species, humans adapt. The pandemic gave us a chance to do just that — change in ways to make the most out of our environments while taking care of ourselves and those around us. Although it may have taken a while for some of us, we eventually came to rationalize another normal way of life. Here we stand on this brink of yet another new chapter — the return to Before. And while some of us may be more than ready to take the first plunge at top speed, others might be a little more hesitant. A year and a half is more than enough time to lose sight of old habits and routines. How do we remember what class is like without having to unmute yourself on Zoom? Or rush into Proctor after a hard practice with your teammates and squish as many of you as possible around the table? Or meet someone for the first time and instead of only being met with their eyes, getting to know their smile?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I suspect that just as we adapted to pandemic life, we will also be able to successfully address this new and exciting chapter. Instead of moving back to a time before the pandemic, we are moving forward into a new space as better people, neighbors, students and friends. Changes in our ways of life will be gradual, as we have already seen in many instances. An important step is recognizing that the future’s not set, and may not be familiar, and that’s OK.

Over the course of this strange time, we have learned about humanity. Together we are equipped to support one another in moving forward towards a fresh beginning while still not forgetting the lessons we have gleaned and the experiences we have had. I have learned that transition is challenging in any facet, and that feeling anxious about the reopening of our society is normal, perhaps even expected. It’s okay to feel nervous or sad or scared, or even hesitant. These emotions and apprehensions are what make us human. And who are we really, if not human?

Haley Hutchinson is a member of the Class of 2023.5