Never has ‘normal’ been craved so much than in the past six months.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our perceptions of the mundane in our lives; of the routines we live each day.
Our personal worlds were torn apart – and that little bit of selfishness we all have inside was exposed.
Whether it was your gym or favourite restaurant being closed, or not being able to get a ticket to the footy or go to the movies, things that were once a given in our lives were suddenly taken away, or heavily restricted.
And then there’s the bigger, and far more important picture. Tragic deaths, families torn apart and livelihoods destroyed.
COVID-19 has hurt the world hard, and as we’ve begun to come out the other side of the pandemic, we’re starting to ponder what will change forever.
I’ve heard many say our world will look totally different; we’ll never do this again, won’t contemplate that again. So many of us will work from home, travel will never recover… the list goes on.
But here’s the reality: the time will come when COVID-19 is but a distant memory. Social distancing will be a trivia question at the pub on a Wednesday night and not something we live by.
Horrible as the thought may be, we’ll be back crammed on peak hour trains, packed into lifts in office buildings and sharing pens and salt and pepper shakers.
The 24 hour news cycle and social media may make the path out of COVID-19 a little more difficult than would have been the case in the past, but history shows us the world moves on from pandemics, and usually does so in a strong and effective manner.
So many of us reference the 1918 Spanish flu when looking for a comparison to COVID-19’s devastation, but there’s more recent and far more relative examples to fall back on.
The Asian flu of 1957-58 was a significant influenza pandemic that is estimated to have caused more than two million deaths worldwide, mainly in children and the elderly.
And a little over a decade later, in 1968, the Hong Kong flu caused about a million deaths worldwide, mainly impacting the elderly.
Neither of those pandemics reached anywhere near the catastrophic impact of the Spanish flu, which was responsible for some 50 million deaths – many in the 15 to 35 age bracket.
But it is the Asian and Hong Kong flus that perhaps bear the best comparison to COVID-19 and the likely ‘new normal’, given their death tolls.
After all, COVID-19’s worldwide death toll is yet to reach one million, making comparisons with the Spanish flu a little too much of a reach.
The fact that the Asian and Hong Kong flus barely rate a mention in our thoughts when it comes to global pandemics suggests the world will most likely move on from COVID-19 much like it did those tragic events.
Back then, the new normal was much like the old normal, and most likely will be again.
Most of us didn’t even give a second thought to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, and it still has more recorded cases in Australia than COVID-19.
I’m certainly not suggesting our protective measures such as social distancing, lockdowns and restrictions have been unnecessary, in fact they have certainly prevented a far more deadly crisis.
But history shows us that normal will indeed return; that COVID-19 is not the dramatic permanent world-crushing event that it is portrayed as by some.
A vaccine will of course be critical, as it was in the 1957 and 1968 pandemics. Those viruses still circulate today, but only as a strain of seasonal flu.
The belief that something as simple as a handshake will forever disappear, or that Aussie 20-somethings will no longer head off on their big dream holidays to Europe, is far-fetched.
The big difference in coming out of COVID-19 will be a drama-obsessed media and the social media generation.
We’ve come out of pandemics before, but not with that sort of scrutiny and lunacy.
It is important we look to these past examples to provide light for the future, rather than rely on what a Facebook meme or some bloke with a fake name on Twitter is sprouting.
Mental health concerns have been at the forefront of the current health crisis and I have no doubt that a big part of that is people being unable to see past the pandemic; believing that a normal beyond COVID-19 is out of reach.
History shows us that the world will bounce back, and probably quicker than you think.
That’s an important message to spread, especially to those still dealing with lockdowns and restrictions on their lives and livelihoods.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.