There is no single answer to the question of how the coronavirus pandemic has changed each of us.
But it has changed all of us, albeit some more than others.
As I listen to my family, friends and students, I hear four answers more than any others when this topic is discussed.
- I take some things less seriously
- I am more patient with other people
- I trust people less
- I am scared
I fall into the first category.
I’ve said to many students over the past few months that while I remain adamant about the importance of deadlines, I also am more tolerant in realizing that sometimes they can’t be met. Personal health issues, the need to handle family responsibilities and more have always been present in our daily lives, but I see them differently now.
The overdue application of easy-to-use technologies in the classroom means that faculty and students can now adjust quickly to real life. I haven’t kept count, but I think I’ve moved 6 of my planned in-person class meetings to online because of an unexpected event that complicated my day during the 2020-21 academic year. As just one example: My 17-year-old started puking one morning shortly after he woke up. My wife and I juggled our schedules so that one of us could stay home just to make sure we were dealing with nothing more than GERD issues. (Thankfully, we were.) For me, two planned in-person classes were bumped to online. My students were told why, and we moved forward as if nothing was wrong.
Compare that to the cancelling of two days’ worth of my classes roughly 18 months earlier when my wife had food poisoning. Sure, we can accept the two situations aren’t identical. But more importantly, how they were handled was different.
To those of you who say you are more patient with other people, I tip my hat: Patience and I don’t belong in the same sentence, so I admire anyone who possesses it.
For those who say they trust people less because of the pandemic, I say I get it. The morons who have carried on as if they are too important to wear masks or socially distance have put unnecessary strain on the rest of us. Those folks will rapidly get in line for a vaccine because, well you know, it’s their God-given right. And they paid their taxes.
Finally, to those who say that more than anything else they are scared, I say I agree. As much as I want to believe that normal life will soon reappear, I’m not sure if it can. Perhaps some of what we’ve learned about public health ought to remain in place in the future.
Whatever our feelings are about the past 14 months and how they’ve changed us, the reality is we aren’t the same. I don’t know how many of us will revert back to what and who we were.