The trouble with talking about getting “back to normal” is that time doesn’t run backwards. It runs forwards.
We can no more return to a pre-Covid world than we can return to typewriters or gas lamps or steam trains or diplomacy without the threat of nuclear weapons.
The fact that Covid is likely to be with us for a while yet is not a reason to pretend it isn’t here anymore. It’s a reason to evolve and adapt and find better ways of managing and existing in our changed world.
Whether it’s learning new ways of socializing outdoors or improving ventilation indoors, learning to live with masking, getting better at quickly developing vaccines that respond to current virus variants instead of long extinct ones, or countless other things we haven’t thought of yet because we’ve been so busy trying to go backwards instead of forwards that most of us haven’t really stopped to think, haven’t really tried get creative, haven’t put in the hard work of finding new ways of being and doing—as well as the hard work of finding new ways of communicating the need for change, too.
If we keep trying to go “back,” we pay the price in human lives, all while grasping for something that’s well out of reach—grasping for a time and a way of life that are no longer ours.
But if we let go of what was and instead try to move forward—well, then maybe we can find our way through where we are now to something new. Something that works better. Something that costs fewer lives.
Something, even, that makes us feel hopeful about the future, instead forever sad that we can’t reclaim the past.
And maybe, just maybe, once we’ve done that for the pandemic, we can also do it for all the many other looming challenges we face together, as well.