What Comes After

The world seems to change every ten years, or so, doesn’t it? There is either a big incident that we forever attach a date to, or it’s just the accumulation of small things that eventually add up to a different world.

I think back to 2010 and how old-fashioned it feels to me. I had a flip phone and was pressing a number three times, just so one letter of a word would appear. That happened. That was real.

Sometimes, I’ll stumble across articles on the internet from 2012 and think, “Wow, that was so long ago!” And then I have an existential crisis.

Things are a lot different now.

Photography has completely evolved. Music has changed. Ownership and operation of technological devices is presumed. Social media has become a place where most individuals are either yelling, covering their ears, or doing both at the same time.

We drink more water. We track our steps. We watch our shows. We get mad about a lot of things.

It is the accumulation of it all that makes the past look so foreign.

And now to address the elephant in the room. No, it’s not Babar. Though, this is an open invita–…

For the rest of our lives, whenever we hear, “March 2020”, I assume we’ll all have the same general reaction. For me, it’s an acquiescent head tilt to the left and a 3/4 breath outward, as my eyes slowly close and reopen.

That is the reaction that will bind us together. It will sum up so much.

March 2020 felt like the week between Christmas and New Year’s, except worse. Much, much, worse.

With nowhere to go, we fell into different stages of the pandemic, in an attempt to keep busy. We were all mere mortals in terms of productivity, compared to Taylor Swift, but here are some things:

There was Tiger King – I’m sure at least one person will comment on this to say they still haven’t seen it. Hi, Becky.

There was a toilet paper apocalypse and empty shelves, except for that one brand of water.

There were oodles and oodles of puzzles.

There were, “How To Wash Your Hands” posters and videos. How embarrassing, that it came to that.

There was banana bread everywhere. It felt like there was an unofficial competition going on over whose loaf was bigger and/or had more chocolate chips. I was keeping track, at least.

There were videos of celebrities singing, that no one really wanted.

There were birthdays that didn’t count and still don’t.

There was a lot.

All the while, there was loss, sadness, grief, gratitude, anger, and defiance.

There was a world we had never lived in before and phrases we had never used.

Again…there was a lot.

Excuse me while I count my fingers for a second – okay, we’re 20 months into this pandemic. Eventually, this will end and there will be an After. When that will be, I have no idea. But there will be an After.

And when we reach that After and get back to living in a world where a pandemic doesn’t loom over all of us, we’re not exactly going back to how things were Before.

Take your pick of things that you won’t be getting back. I’ll start with something simple.

Personally, a couple of my favourite restaurants – the ones where I’ve made so many memories ever since I was a child – are gone. I’ll never walk into those establishments ever again. I’ll never see the staff members who were always excited to see me. I’ll never eat the delicious food.

It’s over. It’s gone. It’s all just a memory now.

And anyone reading this can probably relate to that, on some level. It doesn’t have to be a restaurant that you’ll never go back to.

Maybe it’s a business. A store. A person. School.

When this ends, it doesn’t mean we go back to Fall 2019 and say, “Okay, let’s try this again.” No. Life isn’t as simple as a video game where you can quit and reload old saved progress. Imagine, though.

“Our lives are forever changed, we will never be the same, the more you change the less you feel.”
– Smashing Pumpkins: Tonight, Tonight

Are we going to be more sanitary, going forward? I think public places will do a better job at keeping things clean, but I have my doubts when it comes to human-to-human interaction. I already see people shaking hands with multiple people at a time. It feels too soon. Spare me the whole, “the virus is airborne” thing. This isn’t even about that. It is about a habit called hand-washing and trust.

They go hand-in-hand.

We don’t want your pee pee hands contaminating shared surfaces, or us. There, I said it.

On top of that, apparently we’re back to standing right behind someone in line? It happened to me twice, within the span of three minutes, last weekend.

If we take nothing else with us from this entire experience, please let it be that there is never a good reason to be breathing down the neck of someone while standing in line. You don’t have to call it social distancing, or anything at all. Just back up, or I may be inclined to start swinging my arms and kicking my legs like Bart and Lisa Simpson did that one time.

“If you get hit, it’s your own fault.”

Sporting events are back to full capacity and patrons must show proof of vaccination upon entry (in Canada, at least). You know I love sports. Have I felt the urge to go sit in an arena or stadium yet? Nope. Not one bit. I don’t care if it’s safe. I just don’t feel like being in that setting yet.

That’s me. Maybe it’s a reflection of who I am or what the last 20 months have been for me, but I feel perfectly fine watching from the couch, for now.

When we reach the After, I imagine there will be a great sense of relief, as well as a rejuvenation of life. Or not, who knows? We’ll be coming out of a pandemic in the 2020s; I don’t know how helpful history will be in telling us what to expect.

This is where I momentarily direct your minds back to my introduction about an ever-changing world, as well as mention the word “unprecedented” to help tie in with the “phrases we never used before” thing. Now that I’ve sewn this blog post together, I can end it.

Things will probably (maybe?) feel brand new, different, familiar, peculiar, questionable, frustrating, daunting, joyous, and predictable. I feel like I just made a bunch of guesses narrowed down the possibilities to everything.

You’re welcome.

There is probably a study to be done on post-pandemic human behaviour at an institution of higher learning near you.

I intentionally didn’t put a question mark in the title of this post because I didn’t feel like I was asking a question. And I stand by that decision.

But now, I’ll add the question mark and direct this interrogative sentence toward all of you.

What comes after?

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26 Responses to What Comes After

  1. Bex says:

    Everyone does indeed have a somewhat unified experience from March 2020, but I feel like the odd one out. When things started to shut down, I was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Bahamas worried about whether or not we would be able to leave the ship or be quarantined for 2 weeks. Upon my return to work from said cruise (where instead of quarantining we were essentially told “get your stuff and get the hell out.”) I was thrust into the maddening daily testing routine, then to vaccination clinics and never really had that pause; the one where everyone felt slightly helpless in not knowing what the future was going to have in store. I’ve been wanting to write a post about me feeling like I’ve missed out on this great unifier; maybe I’ll get there someday…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Paul says:

      Oh wow! That is a unique experience. I feel like there’d be a lot of anxiety with the daily testing…you never know when one might come back positive. Hope you write about it all when you’re ready.


  2. peckapalooza says:

    I don’t know how to answer the “what comes after” question… I checked my optimism at the door back in March 2020. For me, after is filled with a lot more anxiety than before ever was. I used to be a really laid back kind of person. Now I dread shopping in public. And it really does bother me that people have just thrown out the whole “social distance” thing. So many times when I’m standing in line at the store, I don’t have to turn around to see that someone has come up right behind me. I can feel them there. I’ve gotten used to having a huge personal bubble… I miss it when people pop it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel all of this with such equal emotion! I have no idea what will happen “after” but I’m for sure not ready to give up my mask lol even though it is projected that we will have a no mask mandate by March. I know that my job will keep it and since i take the bus i will probably wear it a while longer into the “after”. Plus it really does keep your face warm 😅😅😅 she says while shivering at the bus stop waiting for the bus that is always late

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I feel like their March projection is wayyy way off. It’s false hope. I think back to when Ontario daily cases were like 50 and they opened everything up. What if we took an extra 2 weeks (which in the grand scheme of things is nothing) to keep things closed and really get rid of it? Just feels like they’ve tried to rush back to normalcy at every turn and it has set us back each time.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Bill says:

    I’ve said so many times that whenever this is “over,” we’re going to look back on how we got through it with amazement, awe, wonder, shock … whatever word you want to use to describe it. It’s also going to truly hit us how dark a time it really was.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Becky says:

    It’s like you took what’s been going on in my head and put it in a post. I’ve been wondering what will actually mark the “After” we’re all waiting for.

    Also: for anyone wondering, I am the Becky mentioned in regards to Tiger King. Still haven’t watched it 😅

    Liked by 3 people

  6. rebbit7 says:

    You put all of my conflicting, complicated sentiments of COVID-19 into such a well-worded article, Paul. I, too, will remember March 2020, the cruelest month of that year: not only did we go into lockdown in the US, but I also got laid off from my job then…all the while being my birthday month. Definitely something I won’t ever forget, no matter how much I want to…to be honest, I don’t think there will be a complete “After,” as the virus is constantly evolving with its variants and also plenty of countries (I’m looking at you, countries in the Western Hemisphere) which are too eager to get out of lockdown once cases go down. Sure, we can all “go back to normal,” but there will always be some sort of COVID out there. Personally, the virus has changed my perspective on things: I don’t think I’ll ever step foot into a gym or club (at least, not until five-plus years later), and I will be ready my face mask at all times whenever I go out, even if people stop doing so. I don’t mind this “new normal,” as we all try to move forward and continue with our lives the best we can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • rebbit7 says:

      *wearing, not ready, my face mask

      Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I’m sorry you had to go through that last March. I agree with everything you say here. The rush to return to normal has sort of created a “We’re going to ignore that we’re still in a pandemic because we’ve suffered enough” mindset, when this virus doesn’t care how we feel at all. I guess we just have to keep hanging in there and “do our part” even though many still refuse to do theirs.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Unishta says:

    You’re right about March 2020 changing life as we knew it but like you I doubt it has changed forever . In my part of the world people are breathing down your neck in queues like they always did , people are standing in overcrowded buses, weddings are back to what they were massless and all, movie halls and shopping malls are packed on weekends, flights are booked full and people have already forgotten what sanitizers were. Human behaviour cannot be modified in such a short while and the pandemic was not as catastrophic as the world wars were because societies like ours were already changing. Digital payments and online shopping have become more acceptable as have zoom calls and virtual working .
    We will never be able to tell the kids to stop screen gazing because they’ve become adept at figuring out different devices at as young as 5 ( thanks to online kindergarten classes ).
    I doubt there will be an official end to this pandemic

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Those things you mentioned – overcrowding buses, weddings, people standing too close – are all avoidable if people had patience and were mindful of others around them. For whatever reason, they don’t and it’s sad. You’re so right about human behaviour, especially as it pertains to children and screen time. There is no stopping it. It’s just the way life is now.


  8. It’s crazy to me how March 2020 still feels like it was a few months ago. Now I can’t even imagine riding the subway without a mask and being so crammed together on the way to work. Seems so gross ha and how people used to go to work sick because they didn’t want to miss work. On the plus side I got back into the habit of reading more and doing more yoga, so that was a nice benefit with the extra time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      It does feel like a few months ago, doesn’t it!? I feel like I have to keep reminding myself that almost two years have gone by. I agree about the subway. I already felt weird about being on the subway in the winter when everyone had a cold and was holding the poles with bare hands. And now, could get me to hold those things with gloves on.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. well said Paul, I don’t know what “after” will be like – will we ever go back to normal again – I’m not sure, so many anxieties came to the surface during this pandemic, not sure if many will recover

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I agree. It’ll be hard to just snap back to a mindset where I don’t feel weird when I’m crowded by strangers in public places. I’ve enjoyed the 6 feet buffer and can feel it slowly closing.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: The week gone by — Nov. 21 – A Silly Place

  11. Dutch Lion says:

    Don’t worry so much Paul. As you mentioned, it’s an airborne virus so none of the touching/cleanliness stuff matters. If you can get vaccinated, then great. Just think of it like a flu shot. Get one every year and move on with your life. Everything will be fine. Have no fear. “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”


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