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Looking Back, Looking Forward

As we emerge from this long, protracted, global pandemic, many of us are expressing a strong desire to get back to ‘normal.’ We are eager to hug family and friends. We can’t wait to return to gyms, schools, shops and salons. We crave evenings of live theatre and music and we lust for food prepared and eaten at our favourite restaurants. We yearn to travel and experience the world again. And we feel excited about the prospect of reaching that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ that will allow us to re-enter the world as we once knew it.

But having shared this pause with billions of others and having had the time to step off of our treadmills long enough to break free from our usual patterns and really hear and see what’s going on around us, are we sure that going back to exactly the way things were is what we really want? As we think back on the past year, let’s consider whether there are learnings and changes that we want to keep personally, communally and globally.

For example, over the past year, many of us have rediscovered old interests or developed new talents which have given us great pleasure. We have grown closer to and more appreciative of family members and friends. We have successfully transformed ourselves from technophobes to technophiles. We have surprised ourselves with our creativity and ingenuity in making do with what we had when we couldn’t get what we wanted. And after years of living next to them, we have finally learned who our neighbours are. It would be a shame to lose all those gains once we go back to ‘normal.’

What about having our consciousness raised? In witnessing the unsanitary and overcrowded conditions of our long-term care facilities, we have become acutely aware of the neglect, isolation and abuse that many of our seniors have been living for years. In becoming more aware of our impact on our planet, many of us have taken action to reduce our carbon footprint by walking, riding bikes and staying closer to home. For years, disability advocates have been asking for the option to work or study from home and had been told that it wasn’t possible. Yet, within days, we pivoted to all-digital spheres of remote learning and working, making the playing field more accessible and equitable for all.

We heard stories and learned histories that made us more keenly aware of the inequities and injustices that separate those of us who are lucky enough to come from privilege from those who are disadvantaged and marginalized. The issues brought up by movements such as Black Lives Matter are not new. But until this past year, when the world was put on pause, when we could not turn our heads away and were forced to confront the realities of systemic racism, our voices grew loud enough to make our leaders notice that we wanted change.

So yes, it will be wonderful to get back to some sort of ‘normal.’ But let’s also look forward to continuing to learn, grow, and demand change to make the world a safer, more inclusive and more accepting place.

What light do you want to see at the end of your tunnel?

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