As vaccine distributions continue to rise and the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths gradually declines, we begin to wonder what integrating into a post-pandemic society will be like. Last Friday, Los Angeles eased restrictions on businesses, stepping down one level on its four-tier scale from “purple” (most restrictive) to “red.” But as a resident of L.A. I nonetheless felt a nervous vulnerability on hearing the news, since I’m not yet vaccinated. My decision to come out of quarantine will likely depend on getting one. In the meantime, I’ve noticed that in conversations about social gatherings, my family and friends now talk less about quarantining and more about whether they’ve been vaccinated. There’s less talk about testing sites and more about finding a vaccination site that might have leftover doses. We’re talking less about what we’re doing while stuck at home, and more about what we want and don’t want to do as restrictions continue to ease. But our most intimate conversations are about what we want our lives to be as we move forward. Solitude, anger, and loss have led many to discover who they are, who they want to be, and what they value most.
With every announcement of progress, our emotions range from excitement over the prospect of enjoying social settings again, to dread at the thought of returning to the pre-pandemic grind in which work seemed to consume us. While there’s an air of regret for not having enjoyed each other’s company when we had the chance, there’s also a feeling of resolve to make sure we don’t set ourselves up to regret things again. Social media posts have begun to reflect what seems like a premature nostalgia for what might be lost as social restrictions are lifted. A humorous viral TikTok says, “At this point in quarantine, I am 97.3 percent feral and will not be able to integrate back into society.” Other images proudly depict homes transformed into multipurpose spaces. With an end in sight, we’re questioning whether our pre-pandemic way of living was, indeed, the best way to live. Everyone seems to be thinking about the kind of life they’d like to lead post-COVID.