Don’t Return to “Normal”

Don’t Return to “Normal”

For over a year and a half, we as a country, and arguably the world, have made massive concessions and lived in what amounts to an alternate reality. Each of us held our collective breaths for some bit of hope and a longing for the ever elusive “return to normal.” Now, as hope and guidelines ebb and flow, we are faced with the difficult question: can we ever really return to what we deem “normal?”

Many of our kids are facing this very question as they return to in-person schooling this fall after a tumultuous year of educational and social (dis)connection via screens. As they enter the familiar hallways and see the familiar faces, albeit slightly older, there may be a moment of disheartened surprise when they realize that something has changed. Intangible, it may seem hard to comprehend. For while things might look familiar, very little actually feels familiar.

Disorienting to say the least, this feeling is for good reason: we have changed.

On both an individual and collective front, we have each had to walk through, at varying speeds, a long corridor of uncertainty forcing us to encounter unknowns previously unexplored. And so, the longing for a “return,” regardless of to what prior, will always be fraught with the burden of that change.

The pain however is not in our inability to return so much as in our inability to see that as the case. That is, when we hold ourselves to the expectations of sameness and “normal,” we feel ashamed and confused when neither is found. There is an invalidation of our true feelings.

There is one greatest gift we can therefore give ourselves and our kids: the permission to not have to feel or seek “normal,” at least not as it was. Perhaps in that space of allowing the change, we are then free to create something new, something better. We can move forward in what is and recognize how much we have received and grown in the many losses of the past 18 months. We carry the knowledge of that which is most important — our families and friends, our connectedness, our mental well-being — and reflect on that which we used to think was so important, but no longer do.

This is an unprecedented opportunity for growth and reflection. We may all be tired or languishing as pandemic angst burns low, but we can seize this moment as a chance to lift ourselves back up, to take all the good, bad, and ugly from the past year and a half and make something useful.

As our children walk the school halls on those daunting first days back this fall — and students and parents see one another for the first time in a long time — let us show our support by not seeking to return to “normal,” but rather seeking to discover something new.

Article originally published on Medium