Monday, 12 April 2021

No Back To Normal, Please

By Amelia Ranger, Aged 20

Youth Opinion

Posted 24th April 2020

If there’s one statement that’s been thrown around excessively during the pandemic that’s turned 2020 upside down, it’s “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.”

It’s a phrase we hear all the time, and it’s had its fair share of use currently thanks to COVID-19. Normal was safe. Normal was familiar. Normal was a world before viruses cancelled our concerts and our pub nights and our days sat in school. It makes sense to want to go back to normal.

Only for some us, now is normal. Whilst it’s unimaginable to most, days spent housebound and cancelled plans and an uncertain future is familiar, and the increased presence of online learning and resources for coping in isolation is a welcomed change.

Hi. That’s me. When conversations about the at risk population for COVID-19 crop up, they focus on the elderly. Only after that do people like me get a mention. I’m 20, but I have a chronic autoimmune disease, and unlike the traditional understanding that poor health is only for those who are older in age, my autoimmune disease is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 15-35. I’ve longed for increased online learning at my university since my diagnosis at the end of my first year, and I know the pain of cancelled plans very well – I was supposed to spend my first uni summer break in Europe, but I ended up spending it recovering from emergency surgery. It sucked, but there was no safety net for me in those situations. There was no press conference outlining the support available to me. For those of us with chronic illnesses, it’s something we navigate alone, and if COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that when we’re faced with encompassing and overwhelming life changes, it sucks the energy out of us. We need support for instances like this.

And sure. COVID-19 is a once in a lifetime bizarre event and we’ll hopefully never have anything like this again, or at least not anytime soon.

But when restrictions get lifted and we go “back to normal”, some of us will still stay inside. Some of us will still be cancelling plans due to unreliable and unpredictable health. Some of us will still struggle to make it into uni, still need to wear face masks when out in public, still require increased wage support to make up for the fact that the lives we live don’t fall under a definition of “normal”.

So I don’t want to go back to normal. I don’t think we should want to go back to normal. Normal was inaccessible, unsympathetic, and presumptuous in thinking every person is able-bodied and those who aren’t have the responsibility to keep up. I want something new. Something that welcomes people like me into the world and accommodates for those of us who are different. It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic for the world to become more accessible in the first place, but it did, and I sure don’t want to wait for the next one to struggle less when it comes to living again.

COVID-19 has shown us it is possible to make things like work and learning accessible, and quickly. Hopefully, the world has been listening. Only time will tell, but let’s stop hoping for back to normal. There are better futures to strive for than what we once had.

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