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Things we’re looking forward to in the post-COVID normal (and some we’re not)

As a glimpse of normality appears on the horizon, it’s a good time to take stock of what we miss — and what we don’t.

While the ultra-contagious Delta variant is spreading, and it seems unlikely the US will achieve herd immunity from COVID, there have still been momentary glimpses into a return to “normal” for many of us, especially those who live in areas with a high amount of vaccination. And as that sense of pre-COVID normalcy creeps in, it’s worth considering all the wonderful things we’re looking forward to experiencing again — and some of the less-wonderful things we’re, well, kind of dreading.

First and foremost, the most important part of getting past COVID is the huge reduction in death, suffering and economic misery. But beyond that, businesses are reopening, adults are returning to offices, and many children will be returning to schools this fall. So what are we looking forward to about a return to normal(ish)? And what are we not?

In this article:

Things we look forward to

Family visits

We’re not sure what’s better: Being able to hug your parents without wearing a mask or worrying about getting them sick, or watching your parents hug their grandchildren (in some cases, for the first time). Both are a powerful reminder of the important things we sometimes take for granted.

And let’s be real: Beyond the joy of seeing your loved ones IRL again, for many of us, another advantage to family visits is suddenly having childcare, which means the opportunity to reconnect with a partner or spouse you’ve been seeing at home round-the-clock, but without really seeing. Yep, the only thing that equals your parents’ joy in playing with your children is your joy at not having to, at least for a few hours.

Schools reopening

Before COVID, less than 4% of children in the US were being homeschooled. This suggests that the vast majority of parents believe their children will receive a better education at the hands of professionals, and that they’ll learn important lessons about dealing with other people by being at school. It also suggests that most parents simply do not want their kids at home with them all the time. So, yes: Thank goodness schools will be reopening. Parents can now work from home while focusing on, well, work—and can stop studying algebra for the second time in their life.

More importantly, COVID has been tremendously disruptive for kids, and the fact that yours can now return to a more normal, consistent groove (we hope) is cause for celebration.

Going back to the office

Hear us out: The office gives you regular contact with other humans without having to organize anything. There’s camaraderie, teamwork, and, ideally, engaging with people from all sorts of backgrounds as you work toward a common goal.

Going back to the office means your home can be a home again, not a hybrid space where you never truly feel like the work day is over. It lets you bounce ideas around with colleagues, it provides surprise encounters and it’s a good excuse to go and eat something new for lunch. You can even end meetings without saying “bye” and doing that strange kind of half-wave as you fumble for Zoom’s hang-up button. What’s not to like?

Bowling

It’s not that bowling itself is so special per se — it’s more about what it represents: Getting together with friends to do something whose only purpose is fun in a crowded indoor space, surrounded by other groups of friends doing the same thing. And not feeling nervous about it. After the year-and-a-half we’ve had, even the questionable food sounds like heaven. (Note: The sentiments expressed in this section can also apply to going to concerts, movie theaters, arcades, libraries, coffee shops, and watering holes of all types.)

The freedom to work anywhere, any time

In a recent survey from Haven Life, 49% of respondents expect more options for hybrid/ flex work from home, and an additional 8% say they don’t expect to go back to an office again. Depending on the nature of your job, this might mean you can choose to keep working from your kitchen table, or to spend time in the Bahamas, Grenada, Dubai or one of the other countries that now offer remote work visas thanks to COVID. If you’re in a professional rut, you might find new enthusiasm for your job if “the office” overlooks a beach.

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Things we’re looking a little less forward to

Family visits

Let’s be real (again): Family can be tough. In-laws can be tough. There are all kinds of reasons why that might be, and in 2021, conversations around COVID (and how governments have responded to the pandemic) can add even more strain to difficult relationships. Moreover, seeing other families’ joyful reunions on social media might only remind us of that pain — or remind us again of those we’ve lost. Everyone’s family is different, and we recognize that not everyone gets to experience an all-smiles reconnection.

Commuting

If you enjoyed having a commute that could be measured in feet instead of miles — and didn’t require the wearing of pants — then a return to the office might fill you with dread, not excitement. There’s time stuck in a slow-moving car; the scent and sound of other people on crowded trains and buses; getting up way earlier than you want to in the morning. Our recommendation: If you can, take public transportation instead of driving, and commit to reading (or listening to) a certain amount of books per month.

The obligation to work everywhere, all the time

During COVID, many people who were working from home found that the line between work time and free time went from blurry to nonexistent. When you work from home and/or on mobile devices, your boss and your colleagues know that you are basically always in the office, which makes it hard to ignore after hours emails or “urgent” work matters. Plus, what else have you got going on, while the pandemic is still raging outside? Hopefully, as regular life returns, the new normal of remote work will allow us more time that is truly ours when we’re in our own homes, but it remains to be seen.

Handshakes

Do we really need to explain this one? Okay, fine: They spread disease, they sometimes turn a friendly exchange into a whole awkward gamesmanship, and they occasionally include sweaty palms. We’ll take fist bumps, bro hugs, or a friendly wave every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

FOMO

Ah yes, the fear of missing out. Many of us have forgotten what that feels like, since there has been so little to miss out on lately (apart from normal life, which we were all missing out on together). Now that your friends’ Instagram feeds are full of more than sourdough, you may feel the familiar pain of old anxieties, and that nagging feeling that you could and should be doing something more exciting. If you can ignore those feelings, this post-COVID moment may provide the opportunity to decide what you really want to do with your spare time, and to see what you were only doing because you thought you had to.

Our pre-COVID mindset

For many of us, this crisis has fostered a renewed sense of the fragility of life, and a deeper understanding that it can be snatched away from us at any time. The pandemic has also had unequal effects on our society, and the burdens — in economic terms, and in life-or-death terms — have largely been shouldered by the old, by the poor, and by those with Black and Brown skin. Seeing this reality in such brutal ways has added urgency to everything from social justice movements to how we think about our work and living a purposeful life. The price of that knowledge has been steep, but as Churchill once said, “Never waste a good crisis” — if we fail to act on the lessons of this time, it could truly be a lost once-in-a-generation opportunity.

And finally, what we’re really looking forward to: Choice

Above all, the eventual decline of COVID signals the return of options. You can choose to go out or to stay in, to work at the office sometimes or never, to see your friends in real life or not right now. One of the worst things about COVID, beyond the truly terrible stuff, was the feeling of not being able to make our own decisions, no matter how trivial they were. (Pre-pandemic, did you ever think that going to the store to buy milk would feel like a kind of freedom?) Perhaps the thing we’re most looking forward to about a return to normal is the simple, banal pleasure of normality itself.

Well, that and bowling.

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About Michael Davis

Read more by Michael Davis

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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