Opinion: We Can Never Go Back to Normal

We talk about going back to normal—but we’re far beyond that


Finally there is a foreseeable end to the pandemic, but things might never be the same.

Over a year ago, COVID-19 completely disrupted life as we knew it. We lost so much we hold dear to us as humans–small things like visible smiles and communal dining, but also huge things like the actual lives of loved ones.

For most of 2020, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be further and further away. Now that light seems to be just over the horizon; discussions about going “back to normal” have begun. But honestly, is going back to normal even really possible?

As a country, we’ve witnessed astronomical losses in lives, jobs and overall mental health.

As of right now,there’s been 544,495 deaths caused by Coronavirus in the United States.

From December 2019 to March 2020, the unemployment rate rose from 4% to 16%. As of now, it’s averaging at about 6% which is a 2.5% increase from what it was pre-pandemic. That’s almost 20 million people in the country currently without a job; this is not even mentioning those who are still only working part-time or on call due to safety and protocol restrictions.

Experts have been continuously reporting the plummet of mental health throughout the pandemic. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in February that about 4-10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. This is up from 2019 which reported only 1-10 adults experiencing these symptoms.

With this information in mind, is it fair to expect the country to go back to normal?

The pandemic has caused major strife and division in the country that, to me, doesn’t seem fixable. How can we ask those who’ve lost a loved one to forgive and forget the actions of people who didn’t care about others safety, or maybe didn’t even believe that COVID-19 was real? How do we ask “essential” workers to continue to put their lives on the line, while also paying them an unlivable wage? How do we expect people who’ve just gone through a prolonged emotional, mentally challenging and traumatic event to flip on a dime and be fine again?

A tweet by user @kaylangela, shows just how broken and distraught the U.S. is right now.


People are angry and they have a right to be. The public’s perception of basic human decency, belief of good in others and belief in the state’s protection has all gone out the window. There were times when thousands of people were dying each week and the rest of us were expected to put on a brave face and keep working or studying virtually. We as a country really haven’t been given the space to stop, breathe and grieve that was promised to us by our government, workplaces and institutes; instead, we’re suffering through it.

It’s not fair to ask or expect people to be normal or back to how they were pre-pandemic. People have suffered immense loss, been forced to self-reflect and deal with inner demons, have had to cut off relationships, have become homeless, have had past or new issues with mental health come up and so much more. We can open the economy back up; we can send people back to work or school; we can go weeks or months without new cases, but that doesn’t mean we’re back to normal.

There’s no back to normal. We can celebrate the ending of this catastrophic time in history, but there’s still a giant scar looming over us that could take years to heal, if it heals at all. Our country is hurt, angry, bitter, hostile, depressed, anxious, etc. and it’s going to take a lot more than just saying things are back to normal, for it to be back to normal.