With vaccinations spreading rapidly like millions of bees pollinating prairies, the United States is finally starting to come out of its hibernation. Even Disneyland has announced it will reopen in April.
This reopening is uneven, to be sure. Some states are bolder than others, and new variants of the virus suggest we’re not out of the woods. But the overall trend is clear: We’re starting to see the light on the other side, that long-awaited ray of hope.
This is cause for deep gratitude. After a year of utter devastation, how vaccines have come so quickly to our rescue deserves to be celebrated as a near-miraculous development. For those who are vaccinated, the mere reduction of anxiety feels like a rejuvenating tonic.
So, as we squint our eyes and crawl back to our old lives, how will we reengage with this new/old world?
I can’t speak for everyone, but my hunch is that many of us have taken on hibernation habits that may take time to shake. One of them is the extreme comfort of communicating virtually, from Zoom to Facetime to anything digital.
We may express exhilaration at finally “getting our lives back,” but how prepared are we to leave our cozy cocoons and reembrace our old ways? How ready are we to engage people and groups in person and in real time after being so snug and comfy in front of our digital screens?
We will soon be reminded that meeting in person—whether in offices, places of worship, parties or events—is demanding. Most of our in-person interactions during the pandemic have been with family and close friends—people we’re already comfortable with. But in our “normal” lives, we also engage with the world at large. How will we deal with that world as the masks start to come off?
There’s something oddly exciting about all this. It’s like starting something familiar for the first time. Personally, I don’t mind the pressure of social environments because it brings out the best in me. I must look presentable, have interesting conversations, show respect and curiosity and meet those social norms that make us civilized.
Sure, it’s a lot more convenient to sit on a comfortable chair and do all of that human engagement on Zoom. It still amazes me how easily I have been looped into Zoom events from around the world during the pandemic. I have no doubt much of this will stay with us. It’s simply too convenient and effective.
But I know my weaknesses. I know, for example, that not schlepping on freeways to attend events is a habit I can happily get used to. That’s how convenience works—it sucks us in.
I also know, however, that what I gain in convenience, I can lose in humanity. That’s why I’m looking forward to jumping back into the give and take of human interaction, seeing real faces, real smiles, real reactions unfiltered by the comforting distance of digital.
And let’s not kid ourselves: Compared to what some people have had to endure during this horrible year, re-engaging awkwardly with people and schlepping in traffic feel like the biggest blessings in the world.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish News Syndicate