Our Old “New Normal”: A Pandemic Retrospective

A little over a year ago, I was sitting in the living room of my sister’s Seagrove beach house (good lord, the privilege and pretension in that comment makes me cringe) on what I thought was just a quick spring break trip before rounding out the school year and preparing for our usual summer travels. On our last night there, we were discussing the outbreak of the coronavirus with my sister (a doctor) and her husband; they commented that they thought their European trips that summer would be postponed. We were all confused and concerned. We were still hopeful.

Three weeks later, the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt.  As a public school teacher, I’d worriedly watched as districts struggled to make the call as to if schools should close. I just wanted to be safe- for my family and my students to be safe. When the word came that public schools in the state would be on hiatus until the contagion was controlled, I heaved a breath of utter relief.

I thought we would be returning after Easter break. What a joke.

Weeks turned into months that turned into stir-crazy. Pandemic life kicked our asses in ways we didn’t expect. We are rule followers by nature in this house, especially when it comes to public health, it seems.  We did our part- we quarantined (isolated more often than not), we masked, we canceled all of our travels- but all the while, my husband and I mourned our normal lives.

While I am by no means or by any definition an extrovert, I missed peopling. Despite the fact that my kids found the joys of unplanned and uninhibited outdoor play, they missed people, too. No amount of renovating, landscape maintenance, or unfettered outdoor play could replace normal life.  Sure, it was nice for a while. Until a while turned into indefinitely.

Life on Pause

A year later, I still feel like our lives are on pause. Vacations= ZERO. Dinners in restaurants= ZERO. Holidays celebrated with extended family= ZERO.

We go to only a few places: school, work, the grocery store, and the hardware store. I alone have eaten IN a restaurant (ONCE) in the last year. There have been no birthday parties, no group celebrations, no lazy weekend afternoons with my siblings or our parents. I wish I could say that we’ve acclimated to our new normal, but in truth, we haven’t.

Three hundred and sixty-five days and some change later, and we are still confused and concerned, but we are no longer hopeful. Instead, we are tired.

We are over the (old) new normal.

We want to travel again, to share the world with our children so they can see the beauty of diversity.

We want to go on a date night WITHOUT the kids without having to worry that the sitter we’ve left them with has been exposed to the ‘Rona.

We want to have a holiday meal with our extended families INSIDE one of our homes without worrying that we will potentially spread COVID to our medically fragile parents.

And very, VERY selfishly, we want to ship those little suckers off to their grandparents so that we can binge watch whatever the hell we want without having to pause the viewing when a kid busts in so we have to yell, “YOU CAN’T BE IN HERE WHILE WE WATCH THIS!”

Praise be for vaccinations!

At this point, all of the adults in our immediate family are vaccinated. My son, the oldest of the littles, is vaccinated. We are S.L.O.W.L.Y. moving forward in a (possibly) post-pandemic life.

Are we still kind of worried? Yep.  Does my anxiety-ridden brain yell at me to stay the hell home? Yep. Do I still wonder if we are on the way out of this nightmare? YEP YEP YEP. But I no longer wonder if I am doing my part as a responsible member of society because I KNOW I am.

One day, all of this will seem like a bad dream- hopefully, while I am sunning myself on a Greek isle- and then, I will, WITHOUT A DOUBT, be grateful because of what we have been through.

More importantly, I’ll be proud of what I’ve taught my children- hopefully, they’ll have learned that sometimes there will be times when one must sacrifice personal comfort for the greater good, that it is our responsibility as good humans and stewards of society to protect those most at risk, sometimes with individual inconvenience as a result.

And now that I think about it, I ain’t really all that mad at our new normal.  Maybe it’s what we’ve been needing all this time.


Julie Lee
Julie is a mama, wife, teacher, writer, photographer, designer, and basket case—jack of all trades, master of none. She lives in Ascension Parish with her husband, her two hooligans, and her quarankitties, Stella and Luna. She’s an English teacher by day, and a lover of words by destiny. Her favorite word is schadenfreude. When she’s pretending she isn’t too busy to breathe, you can find her curled up in her hammock with a book.


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