Picture it: It's the first week of May 2020.
Despite the fact that I've been self-isolating for what feels like approximately 38,672 days, the month of April somehow felt like a week, and my wardrobe consists solely of sweatpants. I've already downloaded TikTok, only to delete it after a truly horrifying three-hour-long deep dive.
I'm working from home six days each week, which means I'm usually on a computer from the time I wake up until the time I fall asleep, aside from my weekly grocery shopping excursions and the occasional walk/run/bike ride to remind myself what mountains look like.
Both my home container of Lysol wipes and my car container of Lysol wipes are starting to run low.
Life in early-May is a vast departure from my pre-pandemic routine, but I'm hanging in there.
By that I mean I'm pushing the limits of what's considered sane and my eyes are starting to strain from staring at screens, but I feel at least somewhat comforted by the fact that I'm following the rules; I'm keeping myself and others safe from a scary virus that is without a doubt lingering on every single surface outside my apartment door. (Told ya I went bonkers.) What I couldn't tell you is how often over those 38,672 days I wished everything would just go back to normal.
Then, all of a sudden, a light flickered on at the end of the tunnel. On May 6, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced some businesses could begin reopening on May 19, as the second phase of the province's restart strategy kicked off.
"This is not a return to normal," he said at the time. "This is a new normal."
While I expected to be stoked at the prospect of drinking on patios again, my gut reaction surprised me. Instead of excitement, my brain started ping-ponging between "It's about time!" to "It's too soon!"
How could quarantine be ending already? I haven't baked a single loaf of sourdough, planted a vegetable garden, or tie-dyed a sweatshirt yet. More importantly, people are still falling ill and dying from the virus, based on B.C.'s daily health briefings.
Since that announcement, businesses continue to gradually reopen and restrictions slowly but surely continue to ease, all while my thoughts about it continue to flip back and forth.
I know that only a tiny fraction of B.C.'s population is currently sick with this virus and the risk is generally low. But after being told for weeks on end that certain behaviour is risky or discouraged, adjusting to the fact that it's now all of a sudden OK is trickier than I expected.
I get that our "normal" moving forward will be new, but I'm still unclear as to what, exactly, that entails.
For example, parks are open and we're encouraged to go outside, but as we've all seen from last weekend's Trinity Bellwoods fiasco, at what point does that become a horrible idea?
Is it OK to go camping with five friends? What about a bigger group? Can I hop on a ferry and head to Tofino for the weekend yet? If the answer's yes, would I? Is it OK to hug the friend(s) I'm letting into my social bubble or should I stick with the awkward wave?
I'm sure local businesses are following health and safety protocols carefully, but honestly, how good of an idea is it to go to the gym right now? If I do go, will I feel relief and a renewed sense of normalcy, or am I going to be a ball of anxiety and spend half my workout Lysol-wiping dumbbells? Can I have a raging indoor house party as long as I invite fewer than 50 people? (That last one was a trick question. Please don't do that).
Over the past couple of weeks, I've definitely eased up on the hardcore isolation. I've seen a couple of friends outdoors, I've been to coffee shops, I worked an afternoon from Pique's office, and even went over to a friend's house.
Best of all, I gladly gave in to her dog's demands for attention after months of ignoring every dog I passed on the Valley Trail.
Those are the things I'm currently comfortable with. I'm sure that list will grow slightly as the weeks go on, but for now my desire to keep my anxiety levels low are outweighing my desire to lift a barbell or be blonde again.
The point I'm trying to make is that this pandemic is confusing for everyone, and won't get any less confusing as society slowly reopens. Give yourself time to adjust, do your best to follow public health officials' guidelines and support our local businesses—but go easy on yourself and others. Do what's necessary to keep your health, both physical and mental, in check.
Unless that's throwing a house party. Seriously, don't do that.