People are yearning to return back to “normal” life and I don’t speak for myself on this. For Malaysians, at least, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel but the light is not too bright – yet. The fact is, there will be no quick return to our lives after the pandemic. Even when we fully return to “normal” life, it will not be completely normal. Our world will be forever changed by this event.
Initially, governments in many countries spoke of societal lockdown in terms of weeks, which has turned into months. Dozens of experts are saying it will take years for any form of normalcy to take place. Hard to swallow, let alone endure, but what we can do is come up with the best laid plans.
As businesses begin to reopen, new precautionary measures such as social distancing in restaurants, limiting capacity at social venues and wearing face protection when doing day-to-day activities is a way of living that we will be seeing for a while. The way we interact and greet people will change, the way we operate within our workplaces and with colleagues and customers will be limited, school calendars will change, methods of teaching and learning will be blended between virtual and face-to-face, social and cultural events will be kept small and sparse.
I was all for the work-from-home setting. As a mother, it is a lifelong dream to be able to spend quality time with my family whilst doing work. Little did I know that the term quality time quickly changed to amateur juggling. I pictured leisurely mornings, with all the time in the world to do everything that I needed to do for the day. Now, it seems my showers are touch and go, I chop vegetables during virtual meetings and I finish work right around midnight. Do I hate it? Truth be told, not at all. Mainly because I feel I can accomplish so much in a day when I am in control of my time. I don’t need to endure early morning commute to work and rush hours. That, in itself, saves me many hours of physical and mental drainage. Yes, I miss socializing and talking to people in the flesh, but I got used to the different way of life and I am happy to continue as I am.
Adjusting to change is always challenging, whether big or small. But after adapting to change for a certain period, you discover the change has become your new normal. We should see life post-COVID that way too. It will be exciting in the beginning, then it becomes frustrating, and finally it becomes normal. Humans adapt at their own pace, so you need to find the pace that suits you best (if you have the choice).
One healthy thing you can do is to tactically curb disappointment by readjusting your horizons and set new expectations. Looking forward to plans can be psychologically beneficial, keeping us engaged in life. But given the current circumstances, make a choice: either focus on the ‘right here, right now’, the immediate days and weeks, or a year or more from now.
So what would my exit strategy be?
Follow orders and rules and have the highest degree of self-discipline. This is not an easy option and will require an entire nation to work towards the same goal – flattening the curve to an absolute ZERO and maintaining this zero forever or at least until there is a cure. My exit strategy will require us to cooperate and work together like we have never done before. Not as individuals but as a responsible family, an employer and employee and a citizen of our beloved country. We must prepare to continue to practice caution as if we are still living in the MCO era, after lockdown is lifted.
In effect, this strategy is to “allow” the virus to spread at a controlled rate while we get back to some normality in life. It would be ideal to eradicate it but currently, that seems unlikely. This exit strategy assumes that we can control the current outbreak at a reasonable level while minimising the impact on our economy and society. However, we must expect that COVID-19 cases will rebound periodically after we control each “wave” of outbreak. This will continue for some time until it gradually fades.
Although life as we know it will look drastically different once we return to what used to be normal life, as a nation, we need to continuously work together, cooperate, and maintain discipline. It is undeniable that it will be extremely hard to accept changes in our status quo, but that’s the thing about growth – ugly at the beginning, harder in the middle and rewarding in the end. I believe we will get to see the bright light at the end of the tunnel and get ourselves on the other side as a nation reborn.
Continue to stay safe, dear readers. We can do this!