Life has been all zoom all the time. We’ve celebrated weddings on zoom, birthdays on zoom, we’ve gone on facetime dates from Hinge, we’ve taken cooking classes online, and we’ve had virtual happy hours with our colleagues. I don’t know about you, but I’m used to my virtual social routine.

After a year in isolation, seeing just the core members of my family and the occasional other “pod” member, this notion of picking back up to the “normal” of before the pandemic has me both anxious and completely nervous.

As the vaccinations continue to ramp up and mask restrictions start to lift based on each state, it feels like a quick push back into the world we knew before. But are we ready yet? And after so much time apart, can we even think of things to say to one another? I know my small talk has gone to pieces.

The feelings of stress are only natural after a year living in a completely different way. And you need to know that you’re not alone. The person opposite you is probably feeling the exact same way, they’ve also been out of practice for over a year, let yourself live in the awkward, it’s ok.

When I went to my first outing after staying in my house for a year, I went to a spinning class with this girls networking group in New York City. I was so scared to talk to people, to even make eye contact at times, but they were just as scared too, and they even told me so! Ultimately, when we all shared our vulnerability about coming to the event and chatting with each other, we were able to all laugh and manage our awkwardness. I even made some new friends I wouldn’t have made otherwise!

A graphic about getting back to normal after COVID by starting small

Start Small!

You don’t have to dive back in to everything you did before the pandemic. I’ve been dipping my feet in the pool, slowly doing just one social thing a week, whereas before I was never in my tiny NYC apartment (now I LOVE being at home!).

I also feel much more tired after social interactions. As an extrovert, they used to really recharge me, but now I’d much rather pick and choose what I do, and see the people I really want to see.

We’ve all been having the same conversations for a year, what are you doing in COVID, how are you, are you ok, can you believe our world? Why not opt for some other questions, I love playing would you rather to get the conversation started, or I even look up “fun get to know you” questions on google. A little crazy, but don’t we all need a boost sometimes?

A graphic about getting back to normal after COVID by acknowledging that you've changed during the pandemic and it's ok!

You may have changed during the pandemic, and that’s OK!

You may be a homebody now (like me! Never in a million years would I think that would happen). You may have gotten into gaming, you may be crocheting, you may be doing so many other things at your home than seeing people, and if that’s what you want to do, go for it.

You don’t have to pick back your life from before, you get to decide how you want to move forward.

We also only have so much energy and free time after work, you can say yes or no to plans, and make sure you’re checking in with yourself about what you want.

I can’t even imagine going back to my life from before the pandemic. Not only did I work for Jubilance during the day, I had a night job as a director, constantly running from rehearsal to rehearsal. I barely had time to see friends, and I saw my boyfriend after an exhausted day once or twice a week. I love being with him after work, cooking together, seeing my pod friends, and being in three different book clubs this year. My priorities about where I want my life to go have shifted, and that’s ok!

A graphic about how it is hard to return to life after the pandemic because our flaws are all on display.

It’s hard to return to life after the pandemic put all our flaws on display

A lot of people are also anxious to return to a “normal” world when the pandemic threw open the door about the flaws of our society, racial unrest, economic inequality, and adequate healthcare for everyone.

You might be one of these people that can’t fathom returning to this “fake” utopia we call America. With Black Lives Matter protests, people not being able to get the health care they need, and homelessness on the rise after people were unable to pay their rents, flaws in our mental health system, it’s hard to stick our heads in the sand.

It’s important to continue to fight for the causes you believe in, to fight for equality that we’ve witnessed we need during this year at home, to push for universal healthcare and communities where everyone can afford to live. Start to think about how you can continue to make an impact, what little things can you do? What is meaningful to you?

Life during the pandemic put on display everything about our lives. Suddenly we were stripped of our worlds, from our offices to even being able to hug loved ones, to seeing clearly the inequality in America and the World. Now as we move forward, into the New Normal, it’s up for you to decide how you want to live in this next chapter. You can say no, you can say yes, you can take breaks, you can continue to be at home, you can acknowledge the awkwardness, and you can continue to fight for social causes.

Just know that you’re not alone. Open up the conversation about how you’re feeling, your friend might feel that way too.

About the author

Alice Cash is the Marketing Manager for Jubilance by day and an award winning Theatre Director by night.  Leading the podcast Weekly Woman, she loves her candid conversations with women from all over the world about how they live and the amazing things they are doing to make a difference. Alice is also the editor of the bi-monthly newsletter the Jubilee, a blog dedicated to the power of female wellness especially concerning menstruation.  She’s worked in France creating theatre pieces and taught drama and filmmaking to women and children in Haiti.  She graduated from Georgetown University and holds two master degrees from NYU and The New School.  Alice has traveled to  40+ countries, including Tibet.  She is a New Yorker and can often be found in Central Park, searching out the best bubble tea, or directing a play, you never know where she’ll show up. @alicesadventuresinwonderworld
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