We can all agree 2020 has been everything but normal. In a world of turbulence, a mix of uncertainty and panic have disrupted both normalcy and routine.

As the year gracelessly stumbles on, we live in daily contradictions. There is a rare balance of chaos and simplicity – global news displays disorder while our everyday lives have been forced to slow down to some degree. Many of us are confined primarily to our homes or locations that have been transformed to accommodate safety measures. Life is passing by before our eyes at lightning speed while simultaneously crawling along. Months at a time can be considered “blurry” as we’re unable to pinpoint significant occasions we’d typically experience, like concerts, parties, or sporting events.

Outwardly, this pandemic appears to tear everything apart, but one could argue it has also brought us closer than ever before. Not one human life has been untouched by this global disruption. The human layer of interconnectivity has been strengthened as a result of collectively navigating the same problem. If we are all attempting to solve the same problem, why are there so many opinions and ideas on how to get there? In an effort to revolutionize medicine and nail down solutions, are we blinded by the desire to fight opposing views and allowing that to slow us down towards achieving a common goal?

While the pandemic does not discriminate against anyone, each of us experiences its affects differently and therefore develops unique thoughts accordingly. Regardless of where you land on the widening spectrum of opinions, we can all agree our lives have been forever changed. Our lives have been forever changed – have we even begun to comprehend this yet?

In the state of the world today, our personal beliefs could not be more crucial to impacting how society moves ahead. These days, personal opinions seem to span every end of the field, leaving many of us floundering for satisfaction in answers that simply don’t exist yet. In the absence of answers, speculation grows, and cultural and generational gaps widen – we disagree with our parents, start to question local and national leaders, and even tend to double check our own thinking. When we start to go down the road of questioning our beliefs, more things start to unravel, causing internal commotion and outward disagreement.

Our behaviors towards each other have certainly shifted. We are cautious to get close to strangers and feel a certain level of mistrust and judgement that wasn’t entirely there before. Some don’t want to share a sidewalk, while others are engaging in mass social settings. The personal relationships we hold are further appreciated as we cling to remaining senses of community and closeness. Those that are like-minded (at either end of that spectrum) seem to have banded even closer together, weaving their ideals in an effort to build support.

Not only our inter-personal interactions, but daily life itself has changed. Many of us were forced to slow down completely, initially living in isolation from family, friends, and coworkers. You could argue this was strange and debilitating for some. In a culture that is finally starting to promote mental health awareness, now more than ever, we must properly care for our mental well-being. Living in this bubble, has forced many to slow-down. Slowing down has surely resulted in more puzzles built, cookies baked, dogs adopted, movies watched, and let’s face it, babies made. Slowing down, was possibly a signal for some to re-evaluate their habits and behaviors in a world that is less than gracious for offering consistent opportunities to reflect.

Our work styles, shopping habits, eating patterns, media consumption, etc. has equally been impacted. You name it, it’s likely changed, and while some of us are readily eager for change and effortlessly prepared to adapt, others, especially those with anxiety, have to thoughtfully re-map out their new norm, only for it to be disrupted again by the latest news, trends, and guidelines.

In the theme of mental health, it is growing harder to keep yourself educated while trying not to also consistently overwhelm your mind with heavy topics –  just to name a few: the pandemic, the election, social justice… the list goes on and the news is everywhere. You likely can’t escape the news altogether, but just like anything else, over-consumption will lead to poor health. I’m not suggesting limiting your exposure because we must stay informed but allow yourself the permission to “un-plug”.

This year has proven that nothing is certain, and change is constant. But wasn’t that how it was before 2020? I can’t help but wonder, how much are we really in control? How much are we prepared for – are we considered equipped for another pandemic? Further, are we prepared to pivot from prior plans?

And when damage occurs, can we ever expect to return to “normal”? For example, when you get in a car accident, you can repair your car, but it will never be the same – it loses value and is often not desired the same way ever again. When a relationship falls apart due to infidelity, can it be fully restored, or will there always be cracks of deceit?

Just like the car or the relationship analogies, once the damage is done, a part of it will always exist – sometimes it will be hard to identify, but nevertheless it lingers. You can repair, fix, try again and again but the secondary version of that outcome will forever be altered.

Does the same hold true with our world? The world has been damaged time and time again – through war, depression, and conflict. The damage our universe endures subsequently re-shapes culture in significant ways – both positive and negative. It’s inevitable this pandemic has forced everyone to re-evaluate ways of live.

In order to move ahead and adapt, we will be required to listen to one another. The type of listening that requires intentional effort, without simultaneously formulating your next rebuttal in your head. We’ll be forced to be uncomfortable and to sacrifice, just like generations before us have been forced to do. We’ll have to adjust to a “new normal” or perhaps no normal at all.

One thing is for certain – life doesn’t have to be perfect to still be wonderful.

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