The only certainty in these times of great uncertainty is that nothing is the same anymore and major shifts and changes are and will be taking place in our immediate and near future. Massive changes have already taken place in the form of travel restrictions, working from home, online schooling, Zoom and yet more Zoom, staying cooped up in our homes for what feels like eternity…. the list is long. Not knowing when this will all end is what drives this uncertainty up the wall! Will we get our old norms back, or will we have to accept and embrace a new way of life moving forward.
Sadly COVID-19 took away so many precious lives and with it our normal lives, our ability to plan, for some it took away their livelihoods and incomes, it took away some friendships, and our ability to look forward to life’s little and big pleasures. However, many believe that this quarantine was a blessing in disguise; for mother earth, for our environment, for our sanity and frantic daily lives. It was as if the universe was telling us…hey there… slow down…. you’ll soon burn out. And then everything was halted, just like that and we were left to deal with us, ourselves, me myself and I. For those who were lucky to work from home, it was a blissful time, if only at the onset simply for the novelty of it. Others however took to their kitchens, their exercise mats, their online courses or workshops, or simply sat there absorbing all the sordid news coming their way.
When the novelty wore off we were stuck with the realisation that our ‘old normal’ might in fact be replaced by a new reality dominated by ‘fear of disease’. Even if travel is allowed again, and if schools and universities are back to actually teaching their students rather than virtually, if restaurants are back to welcoming their guests rather than catering for them remotely, even if most of life goes back to semi-normal we would still be somewhat uncomfortable with human interaction because we’ve been though some from of trauma and we should accept that.
However, despite our changing schedules, routines, friendships and lives, all is not lost. Despite the shifts in economy and in our expectations, the decreased revenues and the cancelled events, there is always a glimmer of light and hope at the end of it all. The world has survived infectious diseases since the beginning of time and it always bounced back stronger than before. Historians keep reminding people that the proof lies in history; countries hit by pandemics always managed to create better job opportunities with hopefully higher wages after the eradication of disease. True we should expect many aspects of our day-to-day lives reshaped, shifted and changed but these are perhaps welcome changes that were much needed in the first place.
Cities with dense populations will have to think of creative ways to solve problems of transportation, families with children or with elderly members will perhaps aim to move out of cities or trade their apartments for houses with gardens or back yards. This crisis is expected to provide a window of opportunity for the unaffordable cities around the world, thus providing chances for diversification and resetting of norms. However, your ability to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee by yourself or with friends might still be questionable for now. Again taking our lead from history, during ancient times, plagues often caused the disappearance of service-sector jobs, and if the powers that be do not inject these sectors with much needed dollars then we should be worried about that heavenly cup of coffee.
The world’s major cities are putting plans underway to incorporate social distancing at their core, be it in transport, public spaces, and health systems. The retail business is also moving towards major digitalisation with the move towards a cashless economy seemingly inevitable. The option to work remotely will become encouraged and the virtual delivery of services will become mainstream. The struggle and perhaps collapse of many small businesses should entice big business to become not only incubators, but more like regenerators. At this point I cannot but thank Instagram for their latest gesture in supporting small businesses in their own way.
Shedding light on all the ways we feel that our world will shift and change does not mean that the shifts will only end there. This is unchartered territory for all and change is the only certainty. However, one must equip himself with the capacity to accept and embrace the changes, for if history is any indicator, it is only a matter of (some) time before we witness another boom in our lives, be it economical, social, or perhaps spiritual. Wherever the road takes you and me let’s be ready for change.