“The New Normal” is a phrase which has haunted many of us, especially those who, like me, are highly resistant to change and who are now more than a year into a seemingly endless pandemic.
And yet, as I sit and draft this article in the peace of my own home, I am struck by the thought this isn’t bad. I have found that I am happier and loose-limbed, achieving a higher quality of sleep and not spending every spare moment worried about some little thing or another. My pets are happy, my home is clean, I have struck a balance in my life I have not had the pleasure of knowing since my early days in secondary school.
The three jobs I have had since last March have all had the unpleasantness of the daily commute removed and as a result, I am more focused and happier in work, as I am not spending an extra three hours of my own time, and at my own expense, traveling somewhere for the pleasure of being held captive in an office for eight-plus hours a day. The social pressures of small talk and endless cups of tea have been removed from the equation and finally, I am able to breath without the weight of social anxiety on my chest. I no longer live-in fear of breaking the printer, my lunches are diverse and exciting and often served on a plate! No one steals my almond milk from the fridge or uses my mug.
As a result of lack of physical office, I have managed to forge actual lasting friendships with a select few from these jobs as opposed to fleeting acquaintanceships with the hordes, I was a top performer in my previous role, something I never would have achieved in my earlier anxious, malnourished, sleep-deprived state.
I have fully embraced my inner introvert and found my voice. Pre-pandemic I was a noted people pleaser and often fully booked every day with plans for lunch and activities. While I miss my friends, I have found it both easier and more acceptable to refuse plans, be they via zoom or for a coffee, in person, during the brief periods when society is green lit to remerge. I have cut several of my “hobbies” out of my life and taken up cooking and hiking in their place. The sense of liberation is tantalising.
My hope is to continue to be able to say ‘no more’ once the world emerges again and that I can continue some semblance of the happy life I have known throughout the last year. I have learned to switch off and I have learned that the world – and more importantly work – will continue to spin, even if you put yourself first and say no on occasion.
Perhaps this “New Normal” is only a bad and scary thing for capitalism and for those who feel a pang of nostalgia and long for the endless days and hard grind of the pre pandemic era.