It’s been said countless times, but still rings true - this year has been a doozy. “Unprecedented” is a word that has been repeated more times this year than I believe I'd heard it used in my entire life up to this point. So many people have gone on record as saying that they are done with unprecedented and are ready for some “precedented” times - that what they’d really like to do is to get back to “normal.”
This month, we have been exploring the theme of hope - what it is and how it can help us create and lead lives that are meaningful and authentic. When thinking about the year that is coming to a close and this narrative about a return to normalcy, I believe that our focus on hope can actually help us to better understand what it is we are wishing for - and maybe what it is we should actually be working towards.
Hope is an interesting thing. It’s more than a wish, more than a desire - hope is a feeling and a source of motivation. Hope is empowering in that it requires a plan and action in order to work. Hope is rooted in a desire for change, usually positive, and is dependent on a specific event or outcome.
Over the course of this year, and as events and circumstances continue to unfold, we have been hearing a lot of people talk about hope for a return to normal. So let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about what “normal” means.
The dictionary defines “normal” as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” It’s what we are used to. What we have come to expect - ordinary, habitual, common. Normal may look a little bit different for each individual - it comprises the routines, habits and patterns to which we have become accustomed in our daily lives. The way we eat, sleep, work, care for ourselves and our families. The way we exercise or prioritize friends or keep ourselves busy, happy or comfortable.
But our “normal” went beyond our individual routines. Beyond our jobs, commutes and schedules. Normal also includes those things we tend to just… accept. Or those systems in which we are ingrained that we don’t even take the time to consider or, really, acknowledge. Things in our society, in our community, in our country and in our world. Oftentimes our “normal” includes ideas or opinions that are so ingrained in us that we don’t even remember how they got there - they’ve just always kind of… been there.
This year of disruption has brought to light many of the systems and circumstances that many of us have just accepted as “normal” for years - generations, even. The sudden stoppage of life as we knew it has highlighted and maybe even called into question the way we operate as a society. Everything from the way we prioritize work to the way we educate our children. From our focus on obtaining the latest and greatest “stuff” to the way we treat those who may seem different from us.
So while so many people are hoping, yearning for and craving a return to “normal,” I think this may be the perfect opportunity to consider the possibility that we have an opportunity here to hope for something more. Something bigger. Something more beautiful than the normal that was disrupted.
Let’s hope for more compassion. Let’s hope for more understanding. Let’s hope that we take the lessons of a pandemic, of lockdown, of quarantine, of drastic, radical and oftentimes frightening change and apply them to times of health, prosperity and abundance. Let’s hope for humans to remember their humanity and their connection to their fellow humans. Let’s hope for true equality and an end to structures and systems built out of fear, inequality or injustice.
I don’t want to return to the normal that we know. I think that we’ve learned too much during these months of change and upheaval to wish to go back to that. We’ve learned of the suffering of our fellow humans. We’ve learned that the systems that we thought were in place to help us were hurting others. I also believe that we’ve learned that we were taking way too many things for granted, making assumptions that we’d always be able to see, do, go, have whatever we wanted whenever we chose.
I don’t want to go back to that.
So my hope is for a new kind of normal. A normal in which we remember our humanity. A normal in which we value connections in all forms. A normal that we can be proud of.