Endurance got us through multiple lockdowns
And it’ll help us coming out of the pandemic too.
The coronavirus, or rather the measurements taken against it, changed our perception of time. For many, the attempts to prevent the spread of the virus resulted in a feeling that time had come to a standstill.
When the pandemic first hit, this notion of stopped time was at the core of a widespread sense of crisis.
For a while, many existed in survival mode, reacting to the demands of the day while unable to plan ahead.
However, around the world, humans also began to deploy what in my work as a social anthropologist I call temporal agency – the ability to deliberately restructure, speed up or slow down the times we are living in.
Many of us learnt how to trick time in order to get through the new COVID-19 way of life.
People restructured their daily lives by establishing new routines.
Many had to navigate the differences between home and home office time,, when both were spent in the same place.
Some of us even learned how to tentatively plan ahead in a reality where the future was uncertain.
Many lockdowns (at least in the UK) later,
I’m still impressed by the creative responses to the pandemi, particularly the many ways in which families and friends learned to share time at a distance.
However, the one feature I particularly believe we should carry into the post-pandemic future is not that COVID creativity, but perseverance itself.
Endurance, maintenance and tenacity – the ingredients that make up perseverance – are under-appreciated even in times without crisis, however, they kept us going when life was hardest.
Humanity surprised itself by quickly adapting to the new pandemic normal, but what counted more was the perseverance we deployed for more than a year without giving up, creating a sustainable post-pandemic future will depend on it, too.
The pandemic taught us to appreciate, and even celebrate perseverance, not least the continuous daily work of all the heroic frontline workers (whose everyday work we’d taken for granted for too long).
It also provided us with a chance to reconsider what’s important in our lives and how we want to organise our societies in the future, many of us were made aware of what counts and what was missed the most.
Prominent amongst those things are the social relations that make us who we are -– with family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues, even those we had all those unnecessary fights with during lockdown.
In the post-pandemic future, we should never again take them for granted, nor all the hugs, kisses and handshakes.
We avoid doing that by appreciating the work that goes into maintaining these social relationships.
Apart from time for family and friends, we also yearned for other times -– for travel and leisure, for example, we’d taken for granted the distinction between work and leisure, office and home time, and we’ll have to take time again to renegotiate these distinctions.
Whatever we come up with in the end, this new work-life balance will also have to stand the test of time – whether it can endure in the future and we are in it.