When the pandemic first hit the U.S, I thought it would last a few weeks or a couple of months at most. As the weeks went by, I realized I was very wrong. It started to dawn on me that we were living through an important moment in history.
In twenty years, our kids will be reading about the COVID-19 pandemic in history classes. They’ll talk about the economic and political effects and about anti-maskers and vaccine efforts.
I have always wondered what it would be like to live through an important historical moment. Hearing people talk about living during the Vietnam War or where they were on 9/11 fascinated me. Those times feel so distant to me, so monumental. But for some reason, this, a major global pandemic, has started to feel so normal.
Reflecting On The Pre-Pandemic Past
At first, I thought everything felt normal because my life hadn’t changed much. I thought everything was normal, but looking back on life before the pandemic, a lot has changed.
I’ve made sacrifices because of the pandemic, albeit minor ones compared to what other people have sacrificed. I didn’t get a high school graduation or a prom, I constantly miss seeing my friends, I wear a mask everywhere and I barely go to stores anymore.
I was excited to start my first year of college, but now I’m taking a gap year. My classes were going to be online and I was forced to choose between having a half-baked freshman year of college or putting my life on hold for a year.
It feels so strange to see crowds of maskless people when watching old YouTube videos or TV shows. When I see old pictures of my friends and myself squished together on a couch, I wonder how that was ever normal.
Remember the days when we could jostle people in long lines or hug our best friends? Doesn’t that all feel strangely bizarre now? Like somehow everything going on now was always normal and the past wasn’t.
My life hasn’t changed like some people’s lives have. The people who have lost loved ones or the healthcare workers that see the virus every single day. I’m sure this feels anything but normal to them. Though maybe it has become somewhat normal even for them.
But it isn’t.
A Monumental Moment In History
One day, my kids are going to come home talking about an essay they have to write on COVID-19 for class. They’ll ask, “What was it like living during the pandemic?” And I’m not going to know what to say. Because to them, it will be a huge event that has changed the course of history. For me, it will just have been a part of my life.
Sometimes it hits me. I’ll be checking the daily COVID-19 cases and realize how much destruction the pandemic has caused. How many people have died and how this will forever leave a mark on history. I’ll kick myself — how can I keep forgetting how big of a deal this is, how not normal this is?
It’s both scary and thrilling. How fast not-normal can become normal. How fast a society can adjust to a new way of life.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, let this serve as a reminder that you’re living through a huge global catastrophe, likely the largest pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu. Take a moment to step out of your life and look at what’s going on.
It’ll hit you like it hit me — what’s happening right now is crazy.
Living During Catastrophes
But despite that, we’re still living our lives.
Learning about world wars or plagues in history class always made me feel immensely lucky that I was living in this time period in the U.S. I assumed that people who lived during catastrophic events didn’t really get to live, that their lives were consumed by what was going on around them. Now, I realize I was wrong.
I’m not going to pretend this pandemic has uprooted my life or hurt me the way it has hurt some people, but it has made me realize that, as humans, we have a remarkable ability to adjust and to make a life out of what we have. Even during hard times, we find the things that are important to us, the things that make life worth living.
What feels normal today may seem monumental looking back, but for now, it’s just life, and we can live it.