Normal is beginning to sink in.
I forgot to take my mask when I went shopping last weekend. I forgot it again at the doctor’s office — whoops.
I’ve sat at a desk in the middle of the newsroom with staff around me sharing stories about their reporting that day and proofed pages with a red pen.
I’ve taken a couple of newer staff members out to lunch. I’ve shown off photos and videos of my kids’ latest escapades to co-workers.
I’ve had family come over for a dinner to celebrate a Pre-K graduation. I’ve dropped my kids off at church, grabbed a doughnut and coffee and gone to a service.
At the end of the strangest stretch of months in my lifetime, and probably yours, too, I’ve got a few hopes moving forward. Some are new, many are just all the more obvious after this pandemic separated us physically and seemed to etch the metaphorical lines between us even deeper.
We will seek deeper connection. We may be able to connect with hundreds, even thousands, on social media. But a like on a post is not the same as a genuine smile from a friend. A conversation. A hug. I was tired of the shallow interactions before, now I’ve got the chance to find something better.
Related to the first point, we will learn to be more vulnerable. Fears of not fitting in, being disliked or judged are real. But after a year away from acquaintances, that fear has less power. I must be myself, and you should be, too. And if I’m not your cup of tea, or vice versa, let’s move on to find the people who are. I missed connection, but I didn’t miss biting my tongue, feeling misunderstood or worrying what people think of me. We can stop pretending like we have it all together, like platitudes make us feel better, like we don’t need more from one another.
We will leave behind the things that don’t fulfill us and pour ourselves instead into what does. I’m thankful to have a job where I find purpose. Others may have found new hobbies — walking around their neighborhood, baking bread — whatever it is, keep doing it if it brings you joy.
We will go to lots of parties. I’m not talking flappers and Prohibition-era drinking like after the 1918 flu pandemic, just gatherings to celebrate — a kid’s birthday, a sister’s wedding, a friend’s baby.
We will see worth in one another. Whether we agree on politics or sports teams or religion, we will want better for ourselves than reducing people to arguments over one hot-button issue. The outrage of the internet doesn’t need to spill into our in-person interactions. We can all find some point where we can connect.
We don’t have to work all the time. It’s frustrating to show up to restaurants that aren’t open certain days of the week, but it’s also nice to hear when locally owned restaurants or shops can close for a holiday, vacation or staff celebration. This was done before the pandemic, but perhaps we feel a little more freedom now to close up shop every once in a while. As many noted at the beginning of the pandemic, we were forced to rest. And we needed it. We can find purpose in our work, but there is also purpose in resting.
And on that note, for those following along since last week, my hopes for this summer are quickly becoming reality.
My kids have been to the pool and to the lake. They’ve dug a hole with the neighbors, filled it with water from the hose and pretended it was a pool.
They’ve been to the playground. Their dad strung color-changing strobe lights up in their playroom and they had an epic dance party.
And they’ve napped.
Week one of summer is the stuff of dreams — the memories they’ll look back on one day and say “oh, to be a kid again.”
Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.