It’s June 2021 – roughly 13 months since life in the US pretty much stopped and we all wondered what the hell was next. Surely lockdowns wouldn’t last more than a couple of weeks. Surely people would recognize the public health was more important than politics. Surely we’d all be okay.
Well, some of those things are true. Lockdowns lasted a hell of a lot longer than two weeks (and many people around the world are still experiencing them). Many people recognized that wearing masks, social distancing, and getting vaccinated were an important part of helping society get past this…but certainly not all people felt that way, even those we assumed would be first in line. And while most people who got sick recovered, not everyone was okay.
While we were all in the middle of this, it was really hard to have perspective on what was going on. I know we took it a day, a week, a month at a time. As more people get vaccinated and society starts to open up, we’re stepping back into our routines – some with no hesitation at all, others with more caution. We’re sort of in the middle – we got vaccinated as soon as we could, we wore masks for a week or two after the CDC said we didn’t have to, and now we’ve pretty much gone back to our old lives. Admittedly, we have done so with increased social distancing and a permanent supply of hand sanitizer.
I don’t think, though, we have taken a moment to collectively look back at what we’ve been through – at the complete and utter stoppage of life as we knew it, and at the emergence of cautious optimism for the future. This hit home when I was finishing up transferring some newsletter posts to a website refresh at work. Nothing terribly profound in the activity – but as I moved from the most recent newsletter to those written back in January 2020, the change was striking.
Posts from January 2020 were so optimistic and forward-looking – new year, new focus, LET’S DO THIS. Then we started seeing the reality of what was going on, and posts were more about staying safe, providing resources, and simply surviving – both personally and professionally. The middle of the year was a complete 180-degree turn from where we had started the year, like we fell off a cliff. Recently, the focus is back to business, back to looking forward, back to the wider world.
As someone who majored in history (true story!), I am so curious as to how future generations will look back on this period of time. What records will survive? How will they judge the way things were handled? In 100 years, what will society even look like? Were we irretrievably traumatized by the harsh relief of many of our fellow citizens exposing their true selves? Were we inspired by the utter selflessness of so many of our fellow citizens continuing to fight for the truth and decency? What perspective will distance lend?
I hope we – and I mean the global ‘we’ – don’t move on too quickly from what has happened. I hope we take some time to look back and marvel at the highs and mourn the lows. I hope we see this for what it is – a real-world scenario of what might (and did) happen if the world population is threatened. And I hope we recognize we could have done better.
We need to do better.
We need perspective.