Let's not go back to life as we knew it.
I catch their eyes, glued to the television screen and the latest 2020 Covid-19 figures for Melbourne. My youngest fears she will die or pass it on to us. My middle child doesn’t say too much, but her nightmares tell me all I need to know. My oldest, knowing too well the outlook doesn’t look good, keeps asking questions and needing reassurance she’ll be safe. I take three long slow breaths, switch the television off and get up from the couch to begin silly dancing. I jump around like a hip-hop star and gesture for them to join me. I’m defusing. Minimising. Providing some much-needed comfort during a time of unprecedented uncertainty for my children and me. We laugh at each other while blocking out the very clear realisation that life as we knew it, will most certainly never be the same way again.
I can’t help but feel as though the pandemic has drastically changed the way I view my life. What brings me joy? Where do I want to be, personally and professionally? How do I want to live this one precious life?
The pandemic came at a time in my life when I was already shifting my thinking. Our family life in Melbourne was full. Ridiculously full to be honest. Full to the brim and life was oozing out the sides of every little crack. As lockdowns took place. Family visits, travel anywhere, even next door to borrow some sugar, became off-limits and life as we all knew it changed.
Initially, I could feel my body take a giant sigh of relief. As each day passed and things emptied, life became simpler in lots of wholesome ways.
Our family cooked more meals together and the space in-between work and school were filled with play. Lots more play. We created more, danced more, nurtured new interests more. We laughed, cried and talked, a hell of a lot more. Our forced interaction in a small three-bedroom townhouse became our new normal. A normal that wasn’t bad for us. It was our safe space while fear and chaos became the dominant dialogue outside of it. We made it work and despite feeling isolated from family and friends, our little home felt loving and safe. We couldn’t have asked for more if we’d tried.
If you’re especially nuts, like us, you may have decided to sell your house during the initial outbreak and move interstate at the end of the year. Our desire to move away from Melbourne was not because of the pandemic. It did however provide us with the opportunity to stop and reflect on our life goals and dreams. A journey we’d always wanted to take became far more real and possible in 2020. So, we took the almighty plunge and did it. Turns out, we weren’t the only ones who paused long enough to realise that they too could chase their dreams.
Sitting here in Queensland and looking in on the heartache and pain that Sydney and Melbourne are enduring is gut-wrenching. Without a doubt, I can feel the incredible loss of life and tremendous pain that has taken place in these two gorgeous states.
Most conversations I have with friends in Melbourne leave me feeling helpless. Life in Queensland during 2021 has so far been relatively Covid-19 free. With outbreaks managed quite quickly and lockdowns short. Nothing compares to life in lockdown for months on end. Having endured it for 2020, I can’t even begin to imagine how people are feeling enduring it for yet another year.
Chatting with a friend, I mentioned to her that I felt guilty for living here, almost like survivor’s guilt. As my close friends and family all endure 2021 like no other place in the world. Lockdown’s hit them hard and it’s devastating chatting with family knowing they are suffering so much. I wish, like everybody else, that the pandemic was over and that life could swiftly go back to some kind of normal.
But I’m not keen on the version that follows. I’m scared we’ll all revert to our old ways and forget the important stuff that many of us have learnt while locked away. The stuff that counts. The stuff that helps us grow. The stuff that helps us see a better way forward, a much better version of life.
So, here’s what I’d like to see change.
That we place more emphasis on family and friends and time spent together than gifts and spending. A little less concern over the Christmas gift list and food requirements and more focus on what truly brings meaning, being connected.
That we still take the time to collectively slow down. Removing the emphasis on filling our weeks with activities and prioritising slow days and nothing days. A little less ‘YES’ and a lot more ‘NO’. Just because we’re open, doesn’t mean we have to keep filling our schedule. The pandemic brought family units together through cooking, board games, puzzles and more, a new sense of connection formed. Let’s keep this going and work hard at maintaining it.
That we stop the need to consume so much crap. The shops will open and the consumption will resume. I’m guessing, full speed ahead for many. But, do we really need to consume just because we can? Let’s put the planet first and say no to the crap that’s being purchased for the sake of being purchased. The pandemic has taught us to refocus on proactive measures, climate change is just one of these. Let’s consume less and support local businesses first.
That we continue to look out for and prioritise minority groups in our communication. Let’s embrace collective communication channels. Less talking 'at' minority groups and cultures and much more talking ‘with’ these groups. We learnt early on in the pandemic that a communication breakdown can cause catastrophic outcomes. When we work with key leaders and voices within different cultures and groups, we have a better chance at getting the message right. Inclusive dialogue, embracive conversations, messaging that’s clear.
That we learn from this! We’re all tired of reactive governance. Time for governments to start having a proactive agenda. What did we learn from this pandemic? What do we need to do now and in the years that follow to shift this space and make it better for generations to come? Less focus on reactive policies and a stronger stance on planning for the future.
That we continue to embrace a flexible work environment. Provide workers with the right conditions for their families because one of the biggest take-aways this pandemic has shown employers is that people are not robots. They have lives beyond the work sphere, families, health concerns, appointments, the list goes on. A flexible approach to work will yield the best outcomes for business.
That we stay connected and continue to reach out to those near and far. Despite our movements, despite our schedules, that we check in with those we love. The weeks and months that follow will feel differently for us all. Staying connected as we fumble our way through this new way of doing life, will make all the difference in the world.
I can’t tell you what the months and years ahead will look like. Whether we’ll all be gliding through 2022 in our new Covid-19 normal way. Whether much will shift. Whether people will change how they live and if they’ll keep at it long term. I can tell you that a lot can happen in two years. And, as each day passes, I take great solace in knowing that we’ll be okay. That this crap will pass. That those who want to harness the positive changes they’ve made because of the pandemic will do so. That resilience is built during hardship and challenging times and that of all the traits in a person, resilience is a pretty damn important one.
As I look at their little faces, all covered in smiles and ice cream, I know deep down that this strange old time has changed them. How can it not? I know that they worry, they have nightmares, they fear the worst and they hate the uncertainty. But I can see that in the years that follow, as they travel different paths and ride the rollercoaster that is life, that this period in time will have helped them. Providing them with a little extra coat of Teflon, a little extra layer of armour, a little extra determination to keep going, despite what lays ahead.