What is normal? (10) / #100DaysToOffload

A while ago I wrote about the ‘new normal‘ about 4 months into lockdown, and before the restrictions were lifted) and how this phrase is really annoying. What’s worse is the assumption that heading to a new normal is actually a return to the old normal, plus or minus a few minor changes.

No, the new normal should be a completely re-thought out and re-imagined approach to how we should be living our lives, not returning to the damaging attitudes of what we used to do.

At the beginning of lockdown, when most of the country was still following the guidelines and being sensible and staying home and the volume of traffic on the roads were down to a level not seen since since the 50s, I’m sure the bird song was louder. Not only because the ambient noise wasn’t as loud or prevalent, the air quality vastly improved, but also that the birds were happy at being the loudest thing in the sky.

Jumping forward to the weekend just gone, there wasn’t as much birdsong and what there was wasn’t as loud either. Have the birds noticed the increase in traffic and movement, has increased air pollution from the traffic affected them again? Is this a new indicator on how well we’re doing in terms of adhering to lockdown guidelines?

So, my thoughts on what a new normal could be, or that what we should be aiming for? A lot of us have been able to demonstrate that a more flexible attitude to remote/home working can work, and as such, this should be a more welcome or welcoming attitude to how we perform our duties. A new standard we should be aiming for, instead of the use of ‘normal’, is one os sustained and sustainable recycling and reuse of resources, be it plastic, power, travel, etc. We can do better than we have previously and we’ve shown that with a little care and attention we can do this lockdown thing, just think what we could achieve with environmental issues if we all put a similar amount of energy to that?

In my new normal post I wrote this, which I still believe:

My ‘new’ normal will be something I develop for myself – use the car less, get out more, recycle more, keep in contact with local friends as much as I used to with those at a great distance. I’ll savour time with my kids. I’ll be kinder, more considerate, less judgemental. But above all else, I’ll be more aware of how easy it is to settle into a ‘normal’ routine controlled by others, and more aware of how this can affect me and those around me.

My friend Sheila MacNeill sums it up quite nicely, in terms of what we should be focused on at the moment, and the impact of ‘normal’ and universities – “But I do think that not being obsessed with getting things as close to possible as they were (but just online!!) isn’t doing anyone any favours. We need to be creating the new narrative about what the university experience is now, not what it used to be.”

For me, normal and whatever shape it may take is an empty box which we can put things we already have in, or look elsewhere to fill it with things we want in it. Just because we’ve done things a certain way for years doesn’t mean it’s something we should look to repeat and/or use again. Let’s use this experience to really reflect and consider what is worth having and how we achieve it.

I’ll finish with this quote from Dave Hollis:

“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash