COVID-19 has taken much more than I would have liked away from us. One thing it hasn’t taken is the media, and so the vast majority of top ten lists have been centered around good entertainment for a while now. And while I am a huge fan of movie and music lists alike, there is just something about consuming media from personal devices that doesn’t really do it for me anymore. Sure, it passes the time, and it can be enjoyable to listen to music in the car or on a stereo, but I miss experiencing life instead of watching it from afar. I’m not really in the headspace right now to be grateful for everything and learn from the hardship, but I can fantasize about what we can do once restrictions are lifted and the pandemic is “over.” In no particular order, here is my top ten list of experiences I won’t ever take for granted post-pandemic.
10. Going to a concert
Yes, this is cliche. But I don’t just mean standing in a crowd of people screaming Taylor Swift, I’m talking about the entire experience of attending a concert. From receiving the concert tickets, to the anticipation of the entire night and even the slow walk out of the venue, reliving the experience in your mind; there is nothing quite like seeing your favorite artist performing live. Surrounded by people who you might share nothing else with besides a common interest; bodies pressed up against the backs of complete strangers. It’s a weird thing to think about, but once the world is normal again I look forward to spending an evening focused on nothing other than the symphony of lights and sounds on a stage.
9. Seeing a movie in theaters
I don’t know if anyone else misses the movie theaters as much as I do, because in every sensical way streaming movies works better for the evolving world. But man, the feeling of walking out of a movie theater after viewing a really good movie for the first time is a high like no other. Dazed, confused, a little nauseous from the popcorn, but willing to take on the world with a brand new view on life brought to you by whatever cinematic universe you walked into. Technically, some theaters are open right now, but movie production is severely limited and it is hard to forget we are in a pandemic when you are wearing a mask in an almost-empty theater.
8. Diner Toast in the dead of night
This is almost too specific, but I have a thing for diner toast. It’s cheap, and almost always a little bit too burnt. But going to a diner and eating that piece of bread with someone late at night is one of my all-time favorite experiences. Diners bring out the best in people, and sometimes it isn’t the toast, but the conversations I have with those around me that make the night so memorable.
I won’t forget to mention, however, that it has to be grape jelly on the toast. This is non-negotiable.
7. Live Theater
As a former musical theater kid, this one really weighs on my brain. Knowing that Broadway has been shuttered for almost a full year is heartbreaking, and that doesn’t even start to cover what has been lost. Community theater programs, high school drama and touring productions all are at a standstill, and I cannot wait to see them come back in the future. It’s the experience of losing yourself in a show performed by random strangers and seeing characters come to life on stage. I used to feel so incredibly inspired each time I saw a live performance, and I miss that rush of adrenaline.
6. Theme Parks
This one might be the most painful of all, because though I will argue to the end of time that I am not a “disney adult,” I am an adult who enjoys Disney in all capacities. I hold a special place in my heart for Walt Disney World in Orlando. Though waiting in lines all day is what most people think of when they picture a theme park, I imagine meeting princesses and watching fireworks shows. For me, it is a shared experience with millions of strangers gathered together for one purpose. It is strangely comforting to be in a massive huddle with families from all over the world watching Cinderella’s castle light up the sky. And even just walking around a theme park; smiling at strangers and waving to little kids who stuff their faces with Mickey bars. At this point, I think I might even be grateful to stand in a two hour line in the Florida heat.
5. The Mall
Right now, the mall is open. Most stores are even open. But the vibes are not the same as they were pre-pandemic. The mall used to be swarming with groups of teens and adults and families, all shopping for different occasions or looking for a place to escape the weather. Now it is just a building with four walls. The energy is gone. I know shopping isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do, but for me it was a break for my brain for a couple hours where I could just focus on the store I was in and nothing else.
Yes, really. I’m not the biggest fan of sports and I’m still going to be grateful when I have the opportunity to see a basketball game in person again. Here’s the secret, though: it’s not about the game. It’s not even really about the team. What a lot of these things have in common is the people. A shared experience with strangers. We weren’t meant to live this life alone, without meeting new faces and sharing stories. A sporting event where we are cheering for athletes is just one of those collective moments.
Truth be told, it wasn’t like I traveled all of the time before the pandemic hit. It wasn’t a weekly ritual, or anything that truly affected my routine. But the option would be nice again. Just the hope of traveling in the future would be enough, but bad news keeps arriving when we least expect it. I want to go on an airplane again without a mask and PPE. I want to see how people live their lives, and it is hard to do that when no one is really “living” anymore. We are just surviving at this point.
College really is about making memories. And when I say parties, I don’t even really mean frat parties in weird-smelling basements with sweaty dudes. I’m talking about celebrations for birthdays or graduations or even just a simple dinner party. (Okay, and maybe the bars after a gross frat party). Mingling with acquaintances and making new friends in the bathroom is something I never thought I would want back, but here we are.
1. Planning for the Future
Alright, this one is going to get a little hard-hitting. But if there is one thing I know how to do, it is plan for the future. Whether it is escapism, to get out of the present or simply being excited for what is to come, there is a large part of me that loves the idea of an open future with so many possibilities. Or loved the idea, once. Right now, with everything so uncertain, it feels like a sick joke to plan anything for the future. And yes, one could say it has taught me that nothing is set in stone, but there is still a sense of longing for the certainty of little things.
I always thought it was a given that we would have a physical workplace, or be able to move out and find ourselves through our young adult life. This “in-between” life we are living right now isn’t cutting it for me, and I am anxiously awaiting the day I can start to build a future for myself again semi-safely.
There are so many stupid little things I miss about pre-pandemic life. I used to hate walking to class at 8 a.m., but I would gladly set an alarm and travel through slush and snow if I could have a “normal” experience on campus again. Things like eating at a restaurant have become dull, and I would pay money to be able to walk down the street again without a mask covering my face. I miss people. This isn’t the article I thought I would be writing this week, but it is what I needed to get out.