Culture Critique: This Isn’t the New Normal. It’s Anything But Normal

Photo by Shane on Unsplash

I’m genuinely the most tired I have ever been. 

Not physically tired, as the most I do each day consists of Zoom class and maybe the occasional Dunkin’ Donuts outing. Mentally, though, I feel like I’m just spent. And I don’t think that I am alone in this feeling. 

Between general anxiety, pandemic anxiety, overall stress about the future, school and family, my brain runs in circles most days. Pre-COVID, I would simply go to the mall and walk it off. Or stop by the movie theater to escape, but neither of those are an option right now. We are stuck in between a true lockdown and businesses being open, but it seems the only things open are designed for work, not pleasure. 

We go about our days doing silly little tasks for school or work and then come home to do more work and hear the news about how nothing can go back to normal. The holiday season has Santa behind plexiglass, and people are simply going along with it. It’s not normal, and I’m so sick of pretending that it is. 

Why does society have such a push on productivity during one of the worst times most of us have ever experienced? We are being forced to do the same classwork (if not more) than in previous semesters, most of us have part-time jobs that need hours, and the only difference is instead of being able to go out with friends to enjoy the evening we are asked to sit inside and keep people safe from this pandemic. 

Which, again, I have no problem with. I’m not here to comment on the lockdown, simply to say that every day has begun to feel like Groundhog Day. I have no doubt that everyone is just tired. And yet we as a society keep pushing for normalcy and productivity. It’s come to the point where I feel bad for taking one day to myself each week. 

I can only speak from the student perspective, but we are expected to be “performing” 24/7. Professors have deadlines throughout the week, not even minding the weekend or any other “break” that we might have. And while it feels nice sometimes to keep busy, it also feels like I haven’t been able to actually breathe since the semester started. 

We have to stop pretending that this is a normal season. It isn’t. Students are depressed because they can’t enjoy college the way it is supposed to be. Parents are upset because their children have such a toss-up schedule between remote and in-person learning, and they are expected to keep up with work as usual (if they even still have a job). Grandparents are upset that they can’t see their grandchildren and extended family for the holiday, even if it might be their last one. And none of this is normal. 

Normal would be smiles at the grocery store and Black Friday mad rushes. It would be Christmas concerts and Hanukkah celebrations and Thanksgiving dinners with friends and family gathered. It would be a packed finals week in the library and Christmas tree lightings and Secret Santa parties. Whatever normal is, this sure as hell isn’t it. 

I just wish everyone would stop treating it as the “new normal.” Give people a break from their capitalist-driven lives and put the pause on productivity. Things might look a little different this season, and we should learn to be okay with that. 

I’m sure we will make it back to normalcy once a vaccine has been approved and distributed. Once that happens, the pandemic anxiety might ease a bit. Until then, however, we need to stop expecting the same results from a completely changed worldview. We need to stop pretending this is a normal way to live and love our neighbors. It just isn’t.

About Shyana Fisher 60 Articles
Shyana Fisher is a fourth-year journalism major. This is her sixth semester on staff at the Oracle, previously serving as a sports copy editor and Features Page Editor. She enjoys writing profiles and has recently found passion in her radio station internship at WGNA 107.7.