It has been six months since the world has withdrawn into a pandemic-induced isolation. And it’s been almost five weeks since the university has once again opened its doors for the new study year. More or less opened, that is. I have not once looked for a seat in an overcrowded Refter or set my foot into the Central Library since the new year started in September. You can reserve spots in both, sure. But then again, why spend time on an empty campus? A campus lives from its crowds. And crowds, well, crowds are probably the one thing everyone should avoid at the moment.
This is not the first semester throughout which I have taken courses and worked from home. Social distancing has been the norm for some time. People own masks. Everyone knows Zoom. The only company whose board probably has had a field day since this pandemic started. Next to Amazon. But that’s not the point. The point is that we have ’been there, done that’ when it comes to the pandemic lifestyle – but the pandemic lifestyle isn’t over.
The pandemic is not the only thing we talk and care about anymore. While it was virtually impossible to talk about anything that didn’t have something to do with it in March and April, attention moved on in May. News surrounding Covid-19 is still being posted, but so is news about the American presidential election and the Black Lives Matter protests. That doesn’t mean the pandemic isn’t relevant anymore – it very much still is. But it does mean that we have reached a plateau of news reporting. There are no great new developments. There haven’t been for some time. And with that, the pandemic has become part of the status quo, not a deviation from it.
The entire year 2020 has been a paradigm shift in the definition of the word ’normal.’ There was a normal before March. Then there was a wild period of everything suddenly being different. And now, this different is our new normal. Writing down private information when entering a restaurant is our new normal. Attending lectures from home is our new normal. Social distancing and excessive use of hand disinfectant is. My home is not a castle anymore, it is a godforsaken fortress. And overall? This is still a small price to pay. We’re humans, we’re pretty good at adapting to new circumstances. I’m not worried about that at all. I am, however, a bit concerned about the normal we will adapt to once this is over. And the fact that, however you see it, the post-pandemic normal will not match the pre-pandemic one. For the best and for the worst.