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Is there such thing as a "normal life" to return to after this?

More than one year on and we're back in quarantine. We had hoped for a change when the vaccines were first rolled out earlier this year. But up until now, the whole country's still waiting and is on the verge of collective pandemic fatigue.

Frankly, it is impossible to recover from a global crisis in less than a year. And if it were possible, are we even ready for what's to come next? Moreover, does "normal" even exist by then?

Since when did breathing freely become a luxury? How long has it been since we last took our time at the supermarket without fear creeping over our heads? When was the last time you were lured into a patisserie by the smell of pastries fresh from the oven and decided to sit down to pair it with a cup of coffee in hand?

Brushing past strangers at the mall on a busy holiday, at a lively party, or a sold-out concert for a sweat-soaked crowd all feels like a fever dream and yet here we are, wishing for it again as we sit in quarantine.

See also: Quarantine Routine: 7 Ways To Beat Boredom At Home

Many of us look back, retrieving lost memories of our old, unsuspecting selves from a lost time. Suddenly, we view the word "throwback" in Throwback Thursday in a different light.

But we have also learned to adapt to the world we've created on the internet. We practically live on the internet, most especially social media, as work, school, restaurants, stores and various communities have migrated online. 

See also: How Do We Move Past "Languishing" And Thrive Once Again?

It's how we stay connected as well. Now, it's all we ever do. After reaching out to people—including old friends—online, we reminisce and promise to hold on until we can catch up in an attempt to drown out a part of ourselves that is still "languishing".

And now, it's almost impossible to log off.

We’ve heard from our friends and family overseas how they’ve finally left their houses without masks. We had hoped for this day for such a long time, but why do we still fear for them? Is it because deep down we know and dread its recurrence?

If we do reach the end of the pandemic, I doubt it would be as "normal" as we had hoped it would be if "normal" pertained to the life we once lived before COVID-19. The scourge of the pandemic has immensely changed us in different ways. It has changed the lives of those who have faced it head-on including the bereaved, the sick, the survivors of the virus, and frontliners. As for the rest of us, we have dealt with other forms of grief. At the same time, it has taught us to seek depth and meaning. Surely, whatever it is that we find will stick with us for life. 

More importantly, we've developed a deeper consideration of the people we hold most dear—way more than ourselves—in a time where self-preservation is expected of us. The prevalence of community pantries, food donations to frontliners and the like proves this.

See also: Ana Patricia Non Reveals The Community Pantry’s True Purpose

This is why we cannot return to a "normal" life. We haven't lived this way for a long time. No matter how far we reach for the old versions of ourselves, the world will never be the same again.

But we do have a chance at a better life. For now, we can only do one thing: do our part until we reach the end of the pandemic, accept it for what it is and take the opportunity to start over.