Zoom gatherings, such as this event by the Penticton Tune-Agers, became common during 2020. This was one of many changes to come during an unprecedented year. (Penticton Tune-Agers - YouTube)

Zoom gatherings, such as this event by the Penticton Tune-Agers, became common during 2020. This was one of many changes to come during an unprecedented year. (Penticton Tune-Agers - YouTube)

COLUMN: Our world will not go back to normal in 2021

Attempting a return to pre-pandemic conditions would be nearly impossible

For many, the end of 2020 could not have come soon enough.

It was an unprecedented and challenging year as we faced a pandemic, and the many restrictions and directives to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Now with the rollout of the vaccines, 2021 is off to a positive start.

There is hope that by the end of this year, the pandemic could be behind us. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on all of us, in one way or another, and many are hoping life will soon go back to normal.

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But my hope is that we all see 2021 as a step forward, not a return to the world we knew in 2019 and earlier.

I don’t think things will go back to normal, because the normal of past years no longer exists.

Attempting a return to pre-pandemic conditions would be nearly impossible. Our world has changed and our experiences over the past year have changed all of us.

For many, the pandemic has resulted in changing priorities.

All around us, the change in priorities is evident in the value placed on family relationships and friendships today.

Because of the restrictions, it became difficult to get together with family members and friends in 2020. Celebrations, weddings and funerals all had to be done differently.

The time spent connecting with others became more important than in the time before the COVID-19 pandemic.

I noticed this when phone calls with family members happened far more frequently than in 2019 and earlier, as we all wanted to make sure everyone was safe and healthy.

Even my work-related telephone calls took on a different tone.

Some of the calls lasted longer than planned, because it was now more important to stay in contact with the people I know.

Phone calls, video chats and Zoom meetings were good, but none of these are the same as in-person gatherings.

When the restrictions are finally lifted, I think time spent with family and friends will be more precious than it was before the pandemic began. I know I will value such meetings more than ever before.

The past year was also a time to slow the pace of life and appreciate each moment.

For many of us, our calendars cleared considerably as concerts, festivals, spectator sports events, religious services and recreational options were cancelled because of pandemic restrictions.

The change of pace was most noticeable in December.

In past years, there would be winter concerts, holiday work parties, get-togethers with friends and acquaintances, large-scale reunions and more. This year, with those things off the calendar, there was time to slow down and savour the holiday season.

In past years, December was often hectic, but for me 2020 ended on a calm, relaxed note. It was okay to sleep in. There was no hurry. As an introvert, I valued the slower, quieter pace of 2020, but some of my extraverted friends also expressed similar thoughts.

Several have said how much they appreciated a calmer pace.

While there were significant challenges, there were also some great things to come out of 2020.

While we are not through this pandemic, the choices we make now, as vaccines are rolled out and as restrictions are lifted, will set the tone for our future.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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