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The Column: ‘Normal life’ is coming back again, but are we ready?

Hello everyone,

We have all spent the last 15 months trying to adjust to the (term we all hate) ‘new normal’, but now as vaccination numbers rise, and the country continues to re-open, I feel like now the challenge is getting used to being ‘normal’ again.

Ever since the entire world went into lockdown back in March 2020, people all over the world changed their routines, changed jobs, stopped seeing loved ones, broke up with their partners, walked away from their businesses: we have all been trying to adapt to what felt like a Hollywood end of the world movie.

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Personally, I spent more time by myself than ever before, I let our offices go, and I swapped dinner dates and nights out for Netflix binging and studying for a law degree.

Since getting vaccinated my life has returned to somewhat normality. I’m no longer terrified to stand close to someone, I physically do my own shopping now, and I jump at the chance of grabbing dinner with a friend.

But while my COVID fears are waining, my social fears are increasing. “Please God I don’t bump into anyone today,” I think to myself, head down, walking around town. On this day a year ago I would have loved to have seen anyone to be honest, and now I feel the opposite.

I think the pandemic has taught us all very different, important, lessons. For me, I’ve learned just how short life really is. How miserable I have been during most of it, and how uninterested I am in having people and situations in my life that don’t make me feel joyous.

So now, that acquaintance I used to nod and smile at, I no longer care for (cutting I know). I would rather be on my couch curled up watching my favourite show, than pretending I like people or things that I really just don’t.

The only issue is, we can’t really use COVID as an excuse anymore, can we?

I was on The Hard Shoulder earlier this week on Newstalk talking about how so many young people now have been “lonely” and that most people under the age of 35 only have one friend on average.

We discussed how so many young people (myself included) have had to cultivate relationships online. Be that via Zoom, text or dating apps.

The question arose “but are those relationships real?”, there is an ironic disconnection in these online connections, and maybe we’re all just a bit too used to it now? The fact I would rather message someone on Instagram than go to the effort of meeting them in real life is reflective of both the fear of COVID and the behaviours we have all had to adapt to.

It has been a tough time for the social butterflies, those who flourish on their sports teams or thrive on people’s energy. But there has also been a lot of introverted people happily hiding in plain sight, enjoying the quiet, and who are now worried about the noise.

Are we ready to party again? Are we ready to mingle? To socialise? To say yes to every invitation? To jump on a plane? To shake hands with strangers?

I’m unsure.

Personally, the thoughts of a full ‘normal’ life has been scaring me the last few months.

I only want to dip my toes into normality, but as the weather gets better and life moves on, I feel like I will be ready to dive right back in.

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