Life stories Science stories

Didn’t get the memo

Although time is relative and we are living on a pale blue dot and nothing we individually do matters in the grant scheme of things, time has taken an entire new meaning in our vocabularies since 2020. Yes this is another covid-related post. Yes we’re still on this page, on a slightly different narrative. Stolen time is no longer arbitrary, we don’t count the minutes, hours and days since the pandemic affected us. We count experiences, lessons learned, wounds healed and the ones still gaping open. The first half of 2022 is almost here and some people are gearing up to a wild wild summer; mask-free, vaxxed on unvaxxed, contagious or not. Others are not ready yet. This is the third attempt to a summer since covid landed on us and speculations have begun on whether it has already been ruined or not.

Although arguments can be used by both sides – the “free from covid” and the “still cautious” movements, their guesstimations are just as good as yours. If you happen to catch the C-virus now, there’s a good chance you will recover faster and with fewer restrictions. Statistics show that the 7-day mortality average of mortality due to covid-19 is as low as that of March 2020, but in reality, people are still dying. So who’s to say what’s wrong and what’s right? Eventually, if you need to spend a “normal” summer, (finally!), you should totally kick back, relax and expect the unexpected. Given the current situation, the summer mood is not causally correlated to your personal infection record. That is of course true only if you’re living in any one of the many countries that have relaxed their stronghold on restrictions and quarantining. In a mostly shocking turn of events, the ropes have tightened now more than ever in certain parts of the world. During spring of 2022, residents of Shanghai are not allowed to exit their homes amid new lockdowns, with reports of inhumane treatment and house arrests monitored through door censors circling the news. It’s the Big Brother and he’s government-approved.

It’s a hot mess and certainty is not guaranteed. The only certain thing is that our worldview has been modified and it will take some time to get used to the new view. Scientists are trying to make sense of it all through many avenues – postpandemic economic recovery strategies, factors of faster recuperation and mental health amelioration, among others. Kids caught up in this s***storm are a special focus and rightly so; their lived experience of the educational system has been monstrously disruptive at best, with the real manifestations on their soft and cognitive skills still unseen – a treat for them and us in the near future.

Image by Erik Mclean on

While our major concern is and should be the young ones and how to guide them through this chaos, normality for the rest of the population is also a touchy subject. Digitalisation of commerce, work and reality in general is fast progressing and while workers are now encouraged to get back to their desks, some people may opt to stay online for a while. Working from home has been a preferred option for a niche of professionals who preferred managing their own schedules and avoiding needless, time consuming in-person meetings, even before the public health crisis. During that time, an online working mode was no longer optional; it became a life-saving strategy, just like baking banana bread in between meetings. Fast-forward to two years later (how can it only have been two years?), and most of the workforce has successfully adapted to fully remote, business-as-usual or hybrid versions of operation, situationally and preferentially. All is good and all is sane.

Except it’s not. Some of us got out with their sanity intact, and some of us are still challenged by the isolation imposed so unexpectedly, periodically and forcefully. We didn’t all get the memo at the same time. This kind of adaptation and readjustment does not happen overnight, and that is why some are anxious to hit the beach bars and others are too stressed to be in a social encounter involving more than three people. Whether that’s because of surprise (or planned) covid babies, or just because structure in everyday life never materialised, does not matter. What does matter is ultimately acknowledging the impacts of this major cultural shock, something which can be a difficult task.

Thankfully, people are now seeking professional help more than ever – covid burnout has therapists busy and their waiting lists full. Regrettably, those who came to realise late that they need expert help are now finding it impossible to find an empty seat in a therapist’s office. Still, knowing what’s wrong and facing the music is the first step to a “normal”/livable existence and talking about it helps. In the lack of a skilled therapist, locate your closest (balanced) friend with the most therapy experience and have an honest chat. And if you fancy a mojito in a busy bar, go for it.

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