As a generally anxious person as well as a progressive person, there are a lot of things I believed way before COVID-19 appeared on the scene. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, I am happy that other people are coming around to my point of view on several topics. My prayer is that these pivots in actions and beliefs are not temporary responses to a global emergency but fundamental changes that last as long as the economic effects of a multinational pandemic.
What changes exactly?
Well, seeing as to how this virus has caused ripples and waves in different domains of life, I will categorize my hopes: professional, educational, political, hygienic, and social changes.
- Working remotely. We were all told it couldn’t be done for workplace morale or logistical reasons yet here we are. It makes work more accessible to those who need to be at home due to disabilities, family matters, and transportation access. Beyond that, I have seen an increase in productivity when unimportant meetings are reduced, workplace distractions are removed (albeit replaced by WFH distractions like streaming sites), and people are allowed control over their own time where importance is placed on completing a task, not on the hours of completion (cheers to the night owls). Working remotely also allows us to drop the masks: no nit-picky rules about dress code when you can only see me from the waist up and a lot less code-switching and general emotional labor, especially from people of color, allowing me to do my job and worry less about how you think I look while doing it. I’m not saying positions need to be 100% remote but I love HubSpot’s model of trusting their employees to know themselves, their hours, and their work style best. It’s not a mistake that it’s named a best place to work year after year.
- NO HANDSHAKES. Jesus Christ, I hated handshakes even as a child. The act itself is nasty and their historical origin is also nasty. I’ve been a long time advocate of the friendlier, more hygienic fist-bump for years. As someone with hyperhidrosis, handshakes are my downfall despite my otherwise pristine and presentable appearance. Now that everyone knows just how vile they are, I hope we can make it a more commonplace thing to do away with them, replacing them with a fist-bump, smile and wave, or even a bow.
- As a first-generation, low-income student, I’ve experienced for decades the inequalities of education and access. From using recycled cardboard for a poster presentation project to missing events because I couldn’t afford to get to them all while living in a toxic home environment and visiting my sick mother on the weekends, I’m well aware of how something that seems like a simple assignment becomes a mountainous task when you bring it home. Professors and teachers are being forced to be aware of the disadvantages certain students face while students on higher socioeconomic rungs enjoy being told that their achievements buoyed by expendable finances, connections, and stability are earned only through their talent and hard work. Teachers are being ‘enlightened’ as to why requiring a scanner, subscription-based software, or an access code only ever used 3 times are implicit methods of stratifying students by wallet, not by work ethic. As with all the other non-essentials cut out during quarantine, I hope all the non-essential ways that students are assigned work, evaluated, and elevated are done away with. As with wanting workplaces to place more trust in their employees to do the work they best they know how for themselves, I would like all educators to prioritize judging their school of fish by their ability to swim. Because if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will go its whole life thinking it's stupid.
- All parents are being hit right now with how much more a school is than a place for class and how much more a teacher is than a lecturer. Star athletes make millions per year and star educators have to buy their own classroom supplies despite serving several society-enriching duties day-in, day-out. In my ideal world, teachers' salaries should be envied, not pitied. They have to watch your kids for the large part of the day, assign homework that keeps them occupied in the evening, manage social, behavioral, mental, and emotional issues, all while being underfunded and overworked. On that note, anyone you used in a ‘teachable moment’ when you were explaining to your kid that they need to study hard so they don’t become a *insert low regarded but highly needed job title here* should also be getting paid well. You’re clapping for how essential they are to you being able to live your life and, in turn, their wages need to match the standard that allows them to live their life.
- Bernie 2020. A man who many saw as ‘too radical’ became the leader behind a campaign that called for exactly what people are currently seeking: accessible healthcare, paid sick leave, regulated private sector, living wages, environmental justice, and more. I’ve had friends debate me on why military spending on the Iraq war alone costing every American taxpayer $8000 is necessary but any form of socialism, despite the comparatively low cost to taxpayers, both immediately and in the long-run, is ludicrous. It’s funny to watch how those who yelled at people with no shoes to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ are now feeling the burn of hot-and infected-gravel under their toes because they didn’t realize just how thin their own leather was. I am a part of r/LeopardsAteMyFace, a subreddit where people post anecdotes from people who are “suffering consequences from something they voted for or supported or wanted to impose on other people.” During this time, the social media posts throughout the internet of people complaining about the very same things they called Senator Sanders outrageous for trying to solve serve as entertainment for those of us who have been calling for these types of measures all along.
- Abolish prisons.
- Wash your hands often. Please Google how to properly wash your hands; it’s not a quick rinse of the water at the tap like some people think it is. What’s worse is the hoards of people not washing their hands at all. My college peers and I would often comment on how many people leave the bathroom stalls without washing their hands with no shame. Even making eye contact with you, perhaps with a smile, on their way out. If you don’t wash your hands when you use the bathroom when else do you plan on washing them? You had one job! And ya blew it. Hand washing should increase in frequency than the rhythm of our digestive system but make sure you do it for real: with soap, 20 seconds (sing the song), and get all those nooks and crannies.
- DAB (destroy all bacteria) when you cough or sneeze. I’ve never understood why people who accidentally cough on my phone before they hand it back to me found burps more disgusting when it’s coughs and sneezes that expel illness. I want sneeze-guards at any establishment serving food in the manner that we expect lunch ladies to wear hairnets. No, puking mucus into your palm and fingers then wiping it on your pants IS NOT covering your cough. The point is to contain the infection, not transfer it to your hands which will now touch everything you come in contact with for the rest of the day. At that point, you were better off suspending influenza in the air and letting your respiratory droplets sink to the floor like snowflakes to be squashed by passing pedestrians.
- Carry hand sanitizer. Some of us have been toting that Bath and Body Works (currently Delta Airlines for me) clip-on hand sanitizer since middle school and actually use it. Although 2020 has made sanitary sexy and the Supreme face mask bros are having a blast taking designer hazmat suit photoshoots in the airport before flying back home from study abroad, hygiene IS NOT an aesthetic. One of my greatest frustrations during this pandemic is the extreme measures taken to hoard supplies that many of these very same people were never using before: toiler paper for people who don’t wipe their ass, hand sanitizer for people who don’t realize their bottom shelf vodka does the same thing, and N-95 masks for people using them to watch Netflix instead of for those on the front lines of this disease every day. Put all that aesthetic and paranoia to good use and start doing things that actually bolster your immune system, life expectancy, and general well-being like eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, engaging in regular physical activity, getting vitamin C and sunlight, and reducing/effectively managing stress.
- If you’ve taken the 6 feet social distancing recommendation seriously at any point, I expect you to never again engage in the bullshit “5-second rule” at all points.
- Leave your hands below your neck (and above the belt ;p ). Okay, maybe the latter part isn’t as relevant, but stop using your saliva to turn pages, picking your nose when you think no one can see you, licking your fingers because you don’t feel like getting up to get a napkin, and biting those dirty nails. Now that you’ve seen just how much you’ve transferred infectious particles to yourself while doing that, you also know how much you may have been infecting others unknowingly in the process. Coronavirus isn’t the only illness with an asymptomatic incubation period. Even the common cold can be in your body and spreading to others through you for 3 days before you start to notice something’s up.
- Know where it came from. Any energy worker will tell you that people leave traces on the spaces and objects they interact with. With companies making moves towards more tamper-evident packaging and people washing everything because who knows who in the supply-chain may be infected, what behaviors were once joked about as “OCD” are more commonplace during quarantine. Cleansing the things you receive and send out and taking appropriate measures to make sure the restaurants you go to have good staff safety and health practices, your friends followed the right procedure with their homemade treats, and the spaces you enter have robust etiquette is a habit I hope remains.
- Be sure you are truly prepared to raise a child. Us childfree folks are having a grand ole time right now (although I do wish I had a fur baby). I’ve always questioned people’s misguided intentions behind having a child, or several. Now that they’re all “stuck” in the house 24/7 with their little angels, I’m seeing a lot of parents start to question their own intentions 9 months before each of their cherubs came into the world. I’m not saying don’t have kids; I leave that choice up to every individual to make. I’m just saying why bring someone into the world that you’re not ready to accept except on your terms? Whether those terms be that they get handed off to a sitter or school most of the day, they’re cis and heterosexual, they have no disabilities or illness, or they spend the entirety of their lives trying to please you as you live out your dead dreams through them regardless of what they may have truly wanted for their own lives and happiness?
- Keep in touch. TikTok is flooded with people going stir crazy from not going anywhere, seeing anyone, doing anything. I’ve been in a sort of isolation since I graduated from college and moved abroad on a budget so this is nothing new to me; I’m just getting the opportunity to welcome my peers to the life I’ve been living for a year now: relying on texting, meme tags, and video calls for social interaction, doing the same thing pretty much every day, wondering where life will go from here and why I am not doing a better job at making my best self arise from the ashes of the precious time I’m burning through. I’ve been really happy ever since stay home orders were enacted because my friends are calling and video chatting me more; something I’ve been trying to initiate every week for months but received little reciprocal energy on because everyone was so ‘busy.’ People are taking up hobbies they let gather dust, having birthday parties over video conference, and just finally getting rest from the hamster wheel they got sucked into when they walked across the stage at graduation. It’s beautiful. We are social creatures and watching all of us embrace those underlying needs that we had pushed aside to be more productive, build better habits, and have more efficient workweeks in the name of paying the bills has been really wholesome.
There’s a popular Medium article circulating about why we shouldn’t forget how this Great Pause affected us as companies try to lure us into false normalcy. I also urge you not to forget how this period has been for you, not as an act of resistance to capitalism’s revival, but as an embrace of your own renovation into the person you’ve been under all the noise.