Should a return to normal really be our goal?

It is crucial to consider the long-term effects of returning to “normal” on our society.

Leah Schroeder

It is crucial to consider the long-term effects of returning to “normal” on our society.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, we have all anxiously awaited a return to any semblance of normalcy. “Getting back to normal” is a phrase that has been exhausted in conversation, a goal that always seems just out of reach. Yet, a question has arisen from this abnormal situation: should normal really be our goal?

Normalcy seems like a natural benchmark to work towards when life seems anything but. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we were stripped of all routines, a majority of human contact outside of our family and the activities that made up our daily lives. We can all agree that this pandemic felt unprecedented, and it’s only fair to be desperate to return to life the way we once knew it. 

However, as we make efforts to build ourselves back up across the globe, we are presented with a unique opportunity. Very few times in history have we experienced a global event that devastated us so tremendously, and while tragic, this also means that very few times have we had a clean slate. As we begin efforts to put society back together, it is crucial to consider whether returning to our previous ways of life is truly the right goal to have. 

The pandemic had a dramatic effect on the human way of life and also exposed serious systemic flaws worldwide. In a dual effect, we saw the deep-rooted issues in both our individual and collective lives exposed at a severely heightened level. Our world came to a crashing halt, but this pause may have been exactly what we needed to reconsider the way that our society functions as a whole. 


Binging Netflix and messing up our sleep schedules was probably a universal experience during quarantine. However, between these not-so-favorable habits, many took the abundance of time to embrace passions. Whether it was digging your sewing machine out of the back of your closet or trying as many banana bread recipes as your ingredients would allow, many rediscovered old hobbies or set forth to build new ones amid unnatural times in a Renaissance-esque way. 

Rather than a daily rinse-and-repeat routine, many of us witnessed ourselves thriving in a way we had never seen before. Many took the opportunity to try something new, relieved of the crippling fear of failure. The constant watching eyes of society disappeared, if only for a moment, and the ability to be our true selves no longer seemed so out of reach. We had a seemingly endless supply of time and this abundance was exactly what we needed to function the way that we are supposed to. 

It may have taken a global pandemic for society to escape from the grips of comparison and toxic productivity—to an extent—but this situation taught us something. We should not be shackled to a routine, living out a schedule because some outside force said that that is how we are supposed to live. To erase this personal development would be to erase ourselves. 

Despite how simple it would be to return to routine, for the sake of ourselves and the human race as a whole, we must harness this newfound mindset to become a healthier form of society. We should view each day as a new opportunity to grow. With the ability to rebuild society right in our grasp, now is the key transitional moment to make the changes we’ve been lacking for so long.


The pandemic undoubtedly exposed some flaws within our current way of life, but it also inflamed many deep-rooted systemic flaws globally, nationally and locally. These past few years, we have seen racial protests across the world, demanding equality for all. We have seen political turmoil as politicians force polarization upon us, even though we agree on more than we know. We have even seen harsh disagreements within our community over seemingly warranted public policy. It is no coincidence that these breakdowns occurred in quick succession during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When COVID-19 stopped our daily life in its tracks, many of us were forced to open our eyes to the issues we have in our world. Returning to “normal” could bury the efforts that so many fought for just months ago. Although our own lives may transition back into a regular routine, these issues stay stagnant, awaiting action and attention. It is imperative that we do not return to normal in a world where for some people, “normal” means being discriminated against daily while others turn a blind eye to the issue, or where normal means unsustainable expectations for our time, labor and productivity. We cannot close our eyes to reality again; we must become active participants in our world, not passive viewers.

While the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of our social, political and economic weaknesses, it is also true that it has revealed the power that ordinary people possess in our society. During anything but normal times, we witnessed hordes of people coming together to help those in need. We experienced incredible resiliency in the wake of adversity. We felt our collective strength like never before. It is time to use these strengths to improve the world around us. Our “normal” form of society was already ripped apart nearly two years ago. Trying to haphazardly stitch back together the pieces of an overworked, inequality-ridden and generally unsatisfied society would ruin everything we have worked for. 

Now, it is time we build something new. Instead of succumbing to the lazy desire to “return to normal,” we must act deliberately and with intent. Do we really want to go back to the way things were? We have the opportunity to grow, to prioritize what should matter in our lives. Never before have we had such an opportunity for rest and reflection, and we should recognize that such an occurrence doesn’t have to come with a global pandemic. We must be allowed to step back from the constant work and effort we are subjected to, and the pandemic has shown us what is possible when we have this chance. 

On a systemic scale, the pandemic has shown us what needs fixing across the world, the country and even within Parkway. We must embrace, change and shift our goals as we begin to rebuild after unprecedented years. Will we be loyal to the same oppressive systems that have chained us to an unequal society? That has been the standard throughout our lives. It is not enough to recognize the struggles that oppressed groups have faced in our “normal” society as we strive to return to that society despite the costs. Normal should not be our goal.