On being … different

By Ingrid Sapona

So much of the news these days is talk focused on the question of when we’ll “return to normal”. Most analysis and discussion of that question is focused on timing and economics is a prime factor motivating the discussions. In this regard, most commentators talk about wanting to reverse the economic devastation.

I think talk about reversing, or reverting, to the way things used to be is naïve. The reality of life is that there’s really no going back. Think about the last time you said, or did something, to someone that you regret. Even if your explanation or apology is accepted and the relationship continues, it’s never be truly the same – it’s different. Or think about something you’ve broken and repaired – it may be close to the way it was, but it’s structurally never the same.

Undoubtedly, the way things were before was great for some. But the pandemic has laid to bare many of the disparities, inequities, and problems with the way things were. You need look no further than the conditions faced by workers in meat processing facilities, or global supply chain issues, especially with respect to healthcare supplies and equipment.  

I don’t think we should be focused on returning to normal, or even the ever-fashionable notion of “the new normal”. I think we’d be better off if we start to focus on – or better yet, start adjusting to – all the ways things will be different. There’s been some public discussion about differences in the way certain things are going to be in the near term. For example, we’ve all heard that restaurant seating is going to have to be more spread out. Or that sports teams may have to play in empty arenas with fans cheering them on from home.  

I understand that right now many people are missing what they had and so talking about making things different is unsettling. But focusing on what we can do differently can be empowering. A business article I read recently suggested that if companies to see the disruption caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to reinvent and reimagine things, they can come back stronger. That seems like a good way for all of us to look at our own lives and livelihoods. The author points out, however, that to do that will require foresight, courage, and action.  

I think the sooner we accept that things are – and will be – different, the more likely we are to find contentment and happiness in the way things are.

© 2020 Ingrid Sapona


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