Illustration by Caroline Bae
Illustration by Caroline Bae

Back to Normal

By Seth Haden

Roughly two years ago, spring break was extended an extra week for faculty and students to prepare for the shift to online learning. Part of the student population returned to the campus for the fall 2021 semester, but now in the spring 2022 semester almost all students are back on campus and most classes are in-person. During these two years, I had forgotten how many people attended LBSU, and upon returning in February my senses were dazed by all the stimuli. The sound of feet clattering against the pavement, hundreds of half-shown faces to see, and the occasional slight shoulder bump or run in. I realized that this was the first time in two years I had been surrounded by this many people. Even though it was a lot to take in a first, part of me will admit that I missed it. It's nice to see that my classmates are more than names attached to a black box.

Now a month after returning to campus, I overhear conversations and listen to sighs of relief. Everyone seems to be happy that “it’s all over now” and “that things are going back to normal.” I’m not sure what they mean by normal. Solicitors ask me to sign their petitions, but still I say no, I continue to walk through The Gap, and I can depend on the escalator to be under repair. Everything feels like it's back to normal, and yet part of me knows this isn’t true. I don’t think there is a normal to go back to.

All of us are eager to return to our pre-pandemic way of life, but a lot has changed for us over the past two years. People lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to pay rent, watched their loved ones pass away from Covid-19, and felt their mental health deteriorating from the isolation. All of these struggles change who we are and how we perceive the world. For the past two years many of us have only been able to view the world through shit-stained glass. Even though I’m a pessimist by nature, I’ll admit that the pandemic has only made me more bitter, but worse than that I believe I’ll never view humanity as the same again. The pandemic brought out the worst of humanity. I know there were many people doing good in the world, but all of it seemed to be drowned out by the bad. This was a time to work together as a collective, but we failed. I’ve seen now that we are inherently selfish and that we will always prioritize the individual over the collective. I can only imagine that if the next pandemic is worse, then we are certainly doomed. After two years of frustration, all of us are exhausted and all we want to do is go to sleep and wake to see that there are no headlines about Covid-19. As much as I want that and to return to the pre-pandemic world, I know it is not possible.

Everyone is running towards the future, so that the pandemic may be put behind us. One day, when we look back we’ll hope to have the faintest memories of these years, and that all of it will appear to be the fragments of a dream. Even though we may feel like we are moving forwards, we are only reaching for a life that is in the past. Progress cannot be made as long as we keep bargaining with Time, asking to take us back two years ago. We must face the fact that the pre-pandemic world is lost to the past, and we must leave it behind as we find our way into a post-pandemic world, one that will inevitably be new to us all.

I'm not saying Covid-19 will rule for the rest of our lives and we will have to wear masks until the day we die, because I believe that to be too dramatic. Eventually, most people will have gained resistance either by vaccine or natural immunity. The end will be anticlimactic and we'll hardly feel victorious. Life will carry on, and many of us will forget everything we learned during those two years. We are bound to repeat our mistakes, because that is human nature, and so I’m left wondering if all of the lives lost during the pandemic were in vain.

Even though it might feel as such, I don’t believe this has to be our conclusion. I know everyone wants to move on with their lives and cast these events into the deepest crevices of our minds to be forgotten, but that cannot be our solution. Everything we have learned during this time must be remembered, in order to not repeat the same mistakes in the future. We must trust our doctors and scientists. We must hold social media platforms responsible for the spread of dangerous misinformation. We must work together and approach the next pandemic as a collective. Maybe then we wouldn’t have to put our lives on pause for two years.