I've heard elders take note before that my generation has never had a war. While they wouldn't wish it upon us, some have even noted that this lack of suffering was the cause of what was "wrong" with our generation. I not sure if that statement can be held as true, but I was told once that "there's nothing like watching your friends die to make you feel grateful to be alive", and I'm certain that is true.
My nana's generation were forever shaped and changed by the war years they lived through, namely the shortages and rationing they experienced and the impact this had on their mindset forevermore. I remember vividly every Christmas Day at my nana's house, after the celebrations began to wind down and the food comas set in, my nana would quietly collect up the wrapping paper from presents which had not been torn. This would be taken aside, ironed flat, and stored in a box in the wardrobe.
It is of note that I don't believe anyone ever received a present wrapped in paper from years prior- nana was not being frugal (or perhaps you would just call that plain cheap), she would buy and use a new roll every year. But there was an abundant supply of wrapping paper stored nonetheless, presumably in the event that one year we would be unable to buy wrapping paper (a hypothetical scenario which would have then seemed illogical and now seems plausible).
It stands to reason that our current generations will also be forever changed by this pandemic. In fact, it is guaranteed. It is those changes I have been pondering over the past week, trying to look beyond the wealth of information about the present. Here is the good, bad, and ugly of what comes to my mind.
Personal hygiene will never be the same, and how wonderful that is. I am sure that for whatever member of the house is currently venturing out of the house for essentials, they would agree that keeping two metres away from others is already second nature by now. My money is on the fact this will be a permanent change, and I couldn't be more chuffed about it.
Buffets and self-service dining setups are now gone. Yes, they have caused no concerns in the past. No, it is not logical. But muscle memory is a powerful thing, and the last thing people will want to do is line up with others, let alone pick up food from where they have done the same.
We have now been desensitised to people wearing face masks in public. Do you remember 2019, when you had only seen tourists doing it? Did you know at the time they were most likely doing it not for their own protection, but for yours - that they themselves had a cold or something similar and didn't want to share it around? That is a level of intelligence that I hope we can ourselves harness and utilise moving forwards, now that wearing a mask is less social pariah and more social distancing.
Technology is king right now, is it not? Well it shall never be relegated from this throne. Working from home will now be commonplace for the business doing it right now. School work for students will be increasingly online and home based - could we even see a four-day "in-school" week, with a fifth day of home learning to allow teachers greater time to prepare resources and mark tests or similar? Clearly sometimes it takes force majeure to demonstrate the practicality of long overdue change.
Add to that one change I have noted within myself already working from home - with my experience of teleconferencing over the past few years, as well as keeping in touch with family from across the ditch, I have always (as most have) been averse to using video in addition to audio. With apps like "Houseparty" now everyday aspects of life, we are permanently accustomed to sharing face on FaceTime, and this is good news.
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Our tourism operators have taken a beating and will continue to for the foreseeable future - perhaps even after this is long over. I may be in the minority, but the border closures, flight cancellations, and stories of people stranded in faraway lands have made my world feel a much bigger, scarier place than prior to this ordeal. As a frequent traveller, I've been fortunate to treat planes as little more than an extended bus ride, with a hop-on/hop-off-in-another-country approach for the past few years. Now, I don't feel nearly as inclined to put myself in a country a world away, due solely to that realisation of just how far from home it may be. Currently in Australia with no way home, even this little skip across the Tasman now feels the full couple of thousand kilometres from family that it is.
At the very least, people will be less inclined to book travel or holidays far in advance, lest something like this happen once more. Which leads onto another point: what level of fear will people retain after this is over, keeping in mind it is just as likely to happen again with a new disease next year as it was to happen with Covid-19 this year? How will this impact mental health long term? Certainly, this fear will continue to reinforce the hygiene habits I mentioned above.
Part of this fear stems from job losses caused in these events. We will see an inevitable interest in retraining to essential services work. My grandfather always said to work for the Government, and it's rather clear why right now.
What I am most excited for, however, is not the personal space bubbles, nor the incredible advances in how we incorporate technology into our lives. Rather, it is the worldwide rejoicing that will come when this is over, and at every major milestone along the way.
It is for the day when my extended family can reunite once more, and marvel at the times we have lived through. Our world will relish in the joy and pleasure of the small things in life which we have taken for granted and then longed for in their absence - little social interactions, outings, freedom. It will be one big party, and there will be hugs.
Because the one societal adaptation I refuse to have stick around after this is touching elbows as a greeting.