I was considering the other day, that after a complete year of lockdown with no travel or conferences, I wonder who I have met for the last time? Over the past year I’ve seen a number of people I know take on different roles, or find the pandemic traumatic or withdraw from the worlds I occupy professionally. You get in a routine of attending the same conferences and meetings, often seeing the same people across some of these. And of course, at some point you will meet them for the last time, although you rarely know it then. But we’ve never had a global Ctrl-Alt-Delete before and when it all eventually restarts so many of us will be in different places – professionally, personally, geographically – that it won’t just be an unpausing.
And this naturally led to contemplation on what else may some of us have done for the last time? Commuting? Going to conferences at all? Ironing? Purely face to face teaching?
I have seen a fair bit of people dismissing the desire to return to normal, and I agree there are lots of elements that we used to view as normal that we now have an opportunity to rethink – international business travel, working in an office, campus based education, etc. But I also have a lot of sympathy for folks who want some return to normality. If by normal we mean kids back in school, secure(ish) employment, being able to visit family, going out with friends, attending sports/theatre/cinema, and a reduced anxiety about catching a lethal disease – generally having some sense of control over your life. It seems a bit privileged to admonish people who want to achieve these. So, yes, let’s return to that normal. But there will be aspects, large and small, that we did before lockdown that we now realise we have done for the last time. What’s yours?