What Now?

It feels as if we’re on the precipice of a new era. Spring is about to burst forth, and the trauma of the past two years is hopefully behind us. So much has changed. So much has stayed the same.

For those of us who languished over the past two years, the urge to stay in the same lane is too compelling. It’s easier to do nothing, stay at home, avoid the world, than it is to face the potential danger of being around others and getting sick. Even if, for most of us, that illness might now actually be minimal. Sure, there’s always the risk that you’re one of the unlucky few who get hit badly. But the majority of Covid cases post-Omicron seem to be people who were bewildered at how mild it actually was. Especially if they’ve been vaccinated and boosted. We all have to determine our level of comfort and assess our own risk, but I think I’d prefer to get out into the world than hide from it and continue on this downward spiral of sadness and despair.

Okay, so that’s the Daylight Saving Time angst talking there a little bit. Every year, even in the Before Times, I joke that everyone should just take this week off, have a vacation of sorts, in order to better adjust to getting up in the dark again after a month or so of mornings where the sun is already colouring the sky before the alarm goes off. (Is this why March Break coincides with the time change?)

The US government appears to be set to do away with time changes, but they will likely stick with Daylight Saving over Standard Time, which means we’ll have months of waking up in the dark each day to allow us more light in the evenings. I guess adopting Standard Time would mean summer mornings where the sunrise started at 3am, so there’s no good option either way.

Coming out of this two-year stretch of languishing, I’m excited by, but unprepared for, the changes. Going out to be around others again means confronting the fact that we’re different people than we were in 2019. I’ve come to terms (or am trying to) with the fact that I can’t do many things I could just a few years ago, and that I might never be able to again (like a deep knee bend or belting out a song at the top of my lungs).

My isolation means that I haven’t really kept up with acquaintances, and my brain is not ready for them to have changed over these years. I’m startled when they show up in photos on social media with new wrinkles, grey hair, a more huggable mid-section (interpret that as you will), or complaints of creaky knees. I’ve been self-conscious about my own changes and health concerns, about teetering down the path into old age, but it’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone.

It would be easy to get angry over the loss of these years. Not just the quantifiable loss of loved ones, jobs, or good health, but the general ennui of this wrinkle in time that feels like the world stopped for 24 months. As if we’ve all been in a weird coma where we’re aware of things going on around us but cannot move or speak or participate.

Of course, some people didn’t experience this wrinkle at all; they still had to go out into the world to work, their lives made more complicated and dangerous by the pandemic and unable to hide away from it as so many of us did. Respect and gratitude to them.

And that’s the real point here isn’t it? That we all experienced the past two years in such vastly different ways. Where we are now, physically and mentally, depended so much on a huge array of variables that no two people have a truly shared experience of these past years.

I’m always bemused at how there are so few real references in literature or film to the Spanish Flu. It’s an afterthought, if it’s addressed at all, or a quick plot point to move the characters to the real action of the roaring 20s, but there are few stories set during the time period where that pandemic is intricate to the plot. (There was that one episode of Downton Abbey that killed off an inconvenient fiancée, but that kind of proves my point.) I often thought this was because, for people who lived through it, it was too terrible to revisit, and that might be part of it, but I wonder if it was the same time-wrinkle situation we’ve experienced with Covid… that there’s just a weird mist blocking people’s vision and those years feel so compressed and twisted that people avoid them because it makes their memories feel untrustworthy and lacking in stability.

This just makes me more enthusiastic to get back to real life, to activities and people that are solid and real and meaningful. To forge new connections, and maybe repair old ones, especially in cases where I literally can’t remember why I pulled away from someone, or what that last bitchy argument was about. A fresh start, for spring, for a new era… because after two years of sitting around, stuck in our own heads, languishing in our own ennui or general fear or everything, what better time is there?