Is the Old or New Normal Better For You?

Is the Old or New Normal Better For You?
New normal
Men settle to the daily routine at Redbank Camp c. 1939. Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

It’s been a while since we went into lockdown, and restrictions are finally easing. We can eat out, go shopping and send our kids to school.

Politicians have “won” the war on Covid, and are now talking about economic recovery and “getting back to normal,” even though many of us don’t have a normal to go back to. We have a “new normal.”

I’ve been talking to some of my friends about this new normal.

Some of them are afraid. And I can understand that. The old normal was a comfortable routine:

  • Get up at the same time every day.
  • Go to work at the same time.
  • Have lunch at the same place.
  • Go home at the same time.
  • Watch the same tv shows.

After my redundancy, about 100 years ago, I was lost and adrift without my working routine. And it was almost two years before I realised I no longer really cared about what the organisation was doing to itself. Before I had finally let go.

Some of my friends are afraid of being back in the office. And some are afraid because on top of everything else there is to worry about right now, they have to worry about writing job applications and attending interviews.

And some of them don’t want to go “back to normal,” they want to keep going this “new normal” they’ve become accustomed to.

In some ways, this enforced break has been a wonderful gift away from the endless grind of “normal” life. Like that game where you put your forehead on a cricket stump (or baseball bat or other pole-like thing) and spin in circles around it. Going nowhere.

Going back to normal will be a lot like when you let go of the stump and try to walk away – you think you are going in the right direction, but you’ve just slingshot off in another.

Wouldn’t it be better all round to let the dizziness pass and make an informed choice about where to go next? Whether you want the old or new normal?

When we complete personal projects, we step back and evaluate them.

  • The kitchen looks great, but I really wish I’d bought the marble bench top.
  • The bathroom would be so much more relaxing if I’d spent the money getting a decent plumber.
  • That plant looks too small where it is – it will be five years until it’s fully grown, what can I plant to temporarily fill the space?

And given that we spend more time at work than with the people we chose to spend the rest of our lives with, shouldn’t we do the same for jobs?

  • What did I love and hate?
  • What should I have done differently?
  • How was the location and commute?
  • Do I like the industry or is it time for a change?

And most importantly

  • What is it that I need to make me happy?
  • And is it the old or new, or some other kind of normal that will do that?

This chaotic time is actually a good time to be thinking about what makes you happy.

For example, if it takes you 90 minutes to get to work, is the trip a survival/endurance trial you hate? Or is it the only “me time” you get, where you can relax and read or listen to a book or think deep thoughts.

Should you look for a new opportunity with a shorter commute, or double down and embrace it?

  • What are the transportable skills you already have?
  • Can you make a difference to your community (for good not evil)?
  • Do you prefer public transport, your car, or a car that’s part of your salary package?
  • Do you want or need more ore less pressure or flexibility?
  • Full-time or part-time?
  • Permanent or contract?

Regardless of what normal you embrace, it’s going to be turnulent and terrifying. You will wonder if you’re making the right decision.

So give yourself grace. Give yourself time to think about all these normals, and choose which one will be best for you going forward. Don’t go “back to normal” if there’s a better kind of normal out there for you.

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