Mask up. Wash your hands. Avoid public spaces. Avoid your friends and family. Be indoors by midnight. Live in fear. A few years ago if you had told me this would be our reality, I would have laughed. Today, I am not fazed because this is the new normal.

As a society, we are experiencing a collective trauma. News of rising COVID numbers, deaths and new variants have become commonplace in the news. Over the last two years, I have become used to hearing the worst of things – even expecting it. Nothing is shocking anymore.

My mom told me about a colleague who was taking time off to care for and assist her family members. According to her they, “tested positive for COVID-19 all in one household”. She thought this was risky behaviour; I thought it was selfless.

A week passed by and she told me that two of the family members had died and now instead of going to nurse them the colleague was going to bury them. We are living in a state of anxiety that seems impossible to escape.

Last year the whole world was shaken by this pandemic. Never did we anticipate the new normal that we have been forced to accept. It started easy enough; we had a nationwide lockdown that was initially meant to last 21 days. It felt like forever at the time and that’s because we had no idea that life as we knew it would take such a drastic turn.

Many employed became unemployed and a lot of the self employed people took a hit as well. Businesses that have made sense all along and generated profits that provided comfortable living for the owners were closed down. These include bottle stores, Taverns; day care centres, restaurants, event retail outlets etc. Some of these businesses did not make it and up to this day remain closed.

My son turned two years old in April. What’s scary for me is how his little life has been affected by this as well. At this young age, he knows the functions of a sanitiser. You cannot fool him; he knows all the hiding spots and has the desire to use it constantly. He wears his mask and makes sure I wear mine. He looks at people funny when they are not wearing their masks and asks them where their masks are.

I had hoped my son would have a carefree childhood. Instead, him and other toddlers, wear masks, sanitize their hands, stay away from everyone they know and love, and wonder why grownups object to doing the same.

My maternal grandmother died last year August from COVID. She died in the hospital alone because we could not visit her. We could not have an open casket and we never got to properly say goodbye. We should never underestimate just how much this virus has stripped us of our humanity.

In January, my mom also contracted the virus and I had to watch her survive it. She was weak and unable to do simple things like take a bath. She was burning up most of the time and we got accustomed to the nudist in her. I saw life draining out of her body. I thought I was losing her. She thought she was not going to survive as well because the state she was in was terrifying. It was like watching a horror movie.

I watched her get sicker and sicker everyday despite the many medications she took, struggling to swallow. She tried her hardest to consume food but the best she could do was liquids.

My mom works at a pharmacy so she did not fall short of medication. We tried everything that people told us to try; we exhausted our small budget in a matter of days. Something eventually worked because she survived.

Some days, I realise just how much life has changed. Other days, I do what I can to get through – because life must go on. For me, the saddest part of the new normal is how this pandemic has changed the way we relate to each other. You see people move away from you when you sneeze and you see the disgust in their eyes when you are coughing. I am scared to hug, I don’t shake hands and I keep my distance. This is not how humans are meant to live.

My hope, is that one day soon this will all pass and we can go back to a different normal – one in which we are safe, but connected. Until then, we need to make this work for us and continue living our lives under these conditions. This is why we need to work together to fight this thing – so someday soon we can reclaim our lives.


Read more about one writer’s mental health struggles here.

Tell us: How are you dealing with the new normal?