One of the things I keep hearing in this era of Covid-19 and social distancing is that when this is all over, things will be different. As I mentioned here recently, it’s left me wondering what will be different, and what will be the same. Do my dreams differ from those of other people, or are we entering a period of collective consciousness that somehow mirrors the experience we are all living through?
Here are some of my dreams for a ‘new normal.’
And so I wonder – how do they compare to yours?
DREAM ONE: THAT WORK WILL BE MORE FLEXIBLE
If the Covid-19 situation has shown anything, I think, it’s that many jobs considered unsuitable for home or flexible working can, in fact, be done more flexibly. Can we find ways to carry forward the creative approaches shown by organisations and individuals determined to keep operating during this crisis? The benefits to those disadvantaged by lack of flexible working opportunities – often women and working parents – would be huge. Giving everyone the opportunity to participate more fully in the workplace would benefit an economy struggling to get back on its feet after an unprecedented period. Not only that, it would give all of us fair chance to contribute – in a society that appreciates not just work, but the importance of home and family life, too.
DREAM TWO: THAT WE NO LONGER HAVE TO ‘HIDE’ OUR HOME LIVES TO BE PROFESSIONAL
For too long, many of us have felt we have to ‘hide’ our family or care commitments in order to appear professional in the workplace. The online communication happening – often in the public domain – throughout this period has shown that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. Who hasn’t enjoyed seeing the odd dog, cat or child appear in a Zoom meeting, or on interviews shown on our TV screens? These are the things that make us real – not unprofessional. (If you need any further persuading on this, recall the 2017 video of Professor Robert E Kelly, who was interrupted by his children as he tried to discuss South Korean politics with a BBC interviewer, and try not to be amused).
DREAM THREE: THAT SOCIETY’S REAL HEROES WILL BE REMEMBERED
One thing that has come into sharp focus during the Covid-19 outbreak is the number of everyday heroes who walk amongst us. From NHS staff, to care workers, to supermarket employees, to refuse collectors, to delivery drivers – each and every individual involved in any ‘helping’ capacity deserves our undying gratitude and support. When this is over, can we ensure that those same individuals are never again allowed to be devalued and unappreciated in the ways they often have been? Can we take the momentum of our ‘claps for care’ and carry them forward into a new world, where these true bastions of society are never forgotten or ignored?
DREAM FOUR: THAT CREATIVITY WILL BE APPRECIATED, TOO
If key workers have been the backbone of our country in recent times, then storytellers, poets, artists and makers have added the colour to their rainbows. Where would many of us have been these last weeks without books, films, art and music to distract and soothe us? What would we have done without Netflix as we continue with our (isolated) lives? Too often we view creative work as ‘frivolous’ or having no real importance in the larger scheme of things. The last few weeks have proved that, on the contrary, art and stories help give depth and meaning to our existence. How do we ensure that art – and artists – are never again dismissed as something peripheral to our lives?
DREAM FIVE: THAT WE WILL BE KINDER (AND FAIRER) TO EACH OTHER
Something that has done much to hearten spirits during this period is the outpouring of collective kindness witnessed in communities up and down the country. From volunteer groups picking up shopping for vulnerable individuals, to people checking on elderly neighbours, to groups donating PPE to key workers – the way society has pulled together during this situation has been awe-inspiring to observe. Can we carry this into a new future, one that is also fairer and more compassionate towards those who are most vulnerable in society? Will checking on elderly neighbours become the norm, rather than something we only do when times are hard? Can we move towards a fairer society, where everyone has the same opportunities and access to resources? Can we shift the unequal scales that have become so obvious to us? When this is over, will we rail against them? Will we try?
DREAM SIX: THAT WE WILL BE MORE THOUGHTFUL TOWARDS OUR HOME
The way we have mistreated our planet has also come into sharp focus through the lens of the Covid-19 situation – the lens through which almost everything in life is viewed right now. We have been careless with the world that shelters us, rampaging around her, leaving a trail of debris in our wake. Will we learn to be kinder to her, and to all the other life she harbours? After this is over, will we tread a little lighter on her surface, knowing how connected we all are to each other, and to our – only – precious home?
DREAM SEVEN: THAT WE LEARN TO WANT LESS, LIVE MORE – AND REMEMBER WHO WE ARE
Perhaps the biggest realisation for many of us during this period is that the best of life happens in the small moments. That there is beauty in slowness, joy in togetherness, pain in the absence of family, longing in the space that exists between distant loved ones and a hug. That aspirations shrink to the point that all we truly desire are health, nourishment, and the safety of those dear to us.
A sort of remembrance of who we are, of who we have always been.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the wonderful Mary Oliver:
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.