Cliché as it might sound at this point, life is returning to normal for many of us living in countries lucky enough to receive vaccines, but after a seismic and catastrophic event in history like the COVID-19 pandemic, one has to pose the question; 'What is normal?'
Being 100% honest, I began asking myself this question months ago from a place of pure anxiety. After being cut off from the usual routine of day-to-day life, I adapted in a way that was surprising to me and in a way that felt comfortable. (I recognise the inherent privilege of being able to say that, as I did not have to experience life on the front lines of the fight against the virus, whether it be as a nurse, a salesperson in a grocery shop, or as someone who lost a loved one.) I mean to say that life slowed down for not only me, but everyone around the globe. And to my astonishment, I found this a peaceful experience and was sacred to go back.
After some thinking (and some scrolling of social media), I have come to the conclusion that this is because there was a lack of FOMO or fear of missing out. Everybody was in the same boat. Nothing happened, therefore nothing could be lacked in life. Call it cringe, but despite how ironic it sounds, there was a sense of togetherness tangled somewhere within the isolation. Life slowed down and so did I. I found my own pace, my own rhythm. I also found out that this rhythm does not adhere to the 'normal' that we are supposedly returning to.
I say this as sincerely as I can, no 'not like the other girls'-ing it over here, but I think that my pace does not necessarily match what is expected by the world of work or academia, and I just know that there are bound to be others who feel the same. Pressure, stress and speed are intertwined with 'normal life' so deeply in a way that I did not even notice before the pandemic hit, and while some may thrive under those conditions, I don't believe that they are for everyone nor should they be. We clearly live in a world that must become more accepting of itself and others in both big and little ways and should embrace its differences rather than shunning them for some societally accepted 'normal' decided by no one in particular.
One question I kept asking myself upon the return to normal was; 'What's the rush?' and it is one that I'm still asking. A lifetime is really a minuscule moment hidden somewhere along Earth's timeline, no matter how long it seems to be for us, so why are we rushing to (what feels like) get rid of our lives? Each generation is born with an incessant need to grow up. Each school births a pressure within its students that sits on their shoulders, telling them they must succeed and go to university or develop a lengthy and important career. Each company cultivates a capitalist mindset to earn, earn, earn, otherwise it's a mad scramble, ultimately ending with you sinking below the surface.
Why do we live our lives under pressure? Personally, I've concluded that if we constantly submit to this pressure in an unhealthy way then we are not completely living for ourselves. Pressure is healthy in certain amounts but it shouldn't be a driving force in how we live life. So, take a minute to pause and think about how you want to live and what you'd like to do. Move at your own pace and don't criticise yourself when it seems like others are ahead, you are right where you are meant to be and everyone thrives at their own time, your moment will arrive. Stop to look around and appreciate whatever you have, however small, whether it's the sway of the trees in the breeze, or how the moon gazes down at us each night. Life is hidden in the little moments.