Two summers ago, I squeezed myself into an overcrowded Skytrain every day.
My routine back then was simple: I’d wake up at 8 am, head to school where I was volunteering as a research assistant at a psychology lab, meet with a handful of participants to run them through the experiment, have picnic lunches with my lab teammates, and then head home at 5 pm. Typical.
At the time, I was just like any other busy student trying to finish their degree, too worried about the future and what to do after graduation to worry about anything else. The world continued on as it normally did in the background while I focused on thinking ahead for the upcoming year about places I wanted to go, things I needed to do, things I had to do. Even then, there was no real sense of urgency behind them, since the days, especially during the summer, felt like they stretched on endlessly. Those things I planned to do solely depended on when I decided to do them.
That was the mindset I kept when I graduated that November. Through the mixed feeling of being excited to step out into the real world yet uncertain about where to start, at the back of my mind was the constant reassurance that there was no need to rush—the world would continue on.
Until 2020 came.
2020 was the year that none of us predicted, and the pandemic quickly put the world on pause, shifting a lot of things into perspective. It made us realize how much we took things for granted. Our face-to-face interactions, our everyday routines, and even those mundane errands we usually dreaded doing suddenly became things we missed. On top of that, when I started studying at BCIT, our learning environment had changed so most classes shifted online. Years ago, I would’ve been more than willing to attend a lecture right from my bed, but while going to campus and sitting in lectures felt almost like a chore sometimes (shh, you didn’t hear it from me), at least being there made me feel like I was a part of something. At least I didn’t feel like I was alone, in my bed, only knowing my classmates by their names without a face to match it to.
It’s scary to realize that the world could change so much in such a short amount of time. For many of us, the abrupt transition of having to isolate ourselves for a year took a toll on our mental and physical health, and every day started to blend together monotonously; it felt like there was nothing to look forward to. Compared to the summer of 2019 where the days felt endless, the days of 2020 made us feel lost. Now, as those days slowly bleed into the summer of 2021, we start to wonder when will we get back to that normal we were once so familiar with.
Looking back at how the world was like pre-pandemic feels both bittersweet and nostalgic but looking forward to how the world will be like post-pandemic seems too hopeful. It’s hard to keep optimistic when the world around us is still so unfamiliar. Even as we’re slowly progressing and vaccines are being rolled out, ironically, the thought of returning to that normal we knew—like the news that we’re expected to transition back to campus in September—might make us feel wary, too.
It will stay that way for a while, that faint, creeping feeling of uneasiness. Just like how seeing crowded Skytrains and buses during morning and evening rushes will feel unsettling, and how the friendly faces around us will continue to be masked (literally) by a feeling of unfamiliarity, serving as a constant reminder of our current reality. I don’t want to be cliché and say that we have to stay optimistic, but the important thing to remember is that life will move on, so we will have to keep moving forward, too. Things are difficult, things are scary, and it’s easy to fall back into that negativity that the good days still feel so far away. But eventually things will pass, and they’ll get better.
As we head into the summer, relax. Do things you enjoy. Find a new hobby. Bask in the sun. Although our plans and routines might be different from how they were two summers ago, the world as it is right now won’t last forever. So, through that uneasiness we feel now, let’s keep our heads up and look forward.