It’s a beautiful day today, wouldn’t you agree? The sun is shining, trees are full of birds incessantly chirping, and the mercury recently crossed the 20-degree mark. It seems the time to dig deep into the recesses of closets and fish out flowery shorts, worn flip-flops and half-used bottles of SPF 50 sunscreen is upon us, because -wait for it- summer has finally arrived! Yay!
As the world emerges from a two-year, pandemic-induced slumber, people are especially excited this year to return to their favourite summer rituals, routines and pastimes. And judging by what’s going on outside, we’re off to a good start.
Businesses of all stripes are re-open. Live concerts and sporting events are back on. People are hugging each other again. Across towns and cities all over the globe, folks are socializing again, and restaurants are packed with patrons eating and drinking and enjoying themselves. Heck, even in-person conferences and gatherings are happening again, many with nary a mask in sight.
As the lockdowns and restrictions end, even a surly curmudgeon like this guy feels a sense of hope and promise for the future. But to be clear, I’m not 100% ready to shout an enthusiastic, “We’re back, baby!” from the rooftops, but rather scan the landscape from the third floor of an outlets mall while quietly thinking, “This looks promising; but let’s wait and see, shall we?”
Because when it comes to Covid recovery, I’m going one cautious day at a time, and purposely keeping my expectations low. This isn’t just to proudly uphold my hard-earned “wet blanket” status (confirmation that’s a welcome bonus!), but rather because of an important truth many are ignoring, which is this:
Despite the positive signs of recovery (and there are many) the fact is that we aren’t completely there yet; “there” being that Covid is dead, deceased, contained and/or slain like the dragon at the end of Sleeping Beauty, where rolling credits imply everything is back to happily ever after, just like in the good old pre-Covid days. Because they aren’t.
Like Sleeping Beauty’s dragon, life being the same as it was pre-pandemic is pure fiction. What we used to call “normal” is gone forever, but do you know what isn’t? That would be Covid. To think otherwise is foolish.
Because like it or not, we are still living in a pandemic; one with its own rules and agenda. Sorry to be a wet blanket (told you so!) but Covid’s not magically disappearing simply because (a) it’s been too long, (b) we’re fed up with it, or (c) Facebook told some flag-waving morons it’s really a cover for nefarious government shenanigans. These are also the stuff of fiction.
So while lots of good stuff is coming back, it’s important to understand the world today is not the same one that was put on hold three years ago; not even close. We are living in uncharted territory, and it’d be wise to exercise a little caution along the way.
This “reopening” of the world reminds me a bit of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary”. If you’ve read the book/seen the movie, you’ll know that grieving children buried their deceased pets in the Pet Sematary, which not surprisingly, turned out to be cursed. C’mon, what did you expect? It’s King, after all.
Anyway, after a few days in the Pet Sematary the pets would reappear, only as ratty, smelly and slightly “off” versions of their former selves, and with nefarious overtones. Once a pet (or a little boy; oops! Spoiler Alert!) has spent a few days in the dirt, they’re never quite the same again.
To me, it feels like our world has spent two years in the Pet Sematary, and true to form, has returned with subtle (and nefarious?) changes. Oh, sure, it still looks like 2019 out there, but some things are definitely different. If we aren’t careful, these differences could hurt us over the long term.Take personal finances for example.
Post-pandemic, prices have drastically risen on everything from fuel to groceries to entertainment to services. In fact, Canada’s annual inflation rate quickened to 6.8% in April, 2022, the highest it’s been since January, 1991… And while there are other factors at play (a war perhaps?), the bottom line is post-pandemic living costs more than pre-pandemic living… a lot more. Damn you, Pet Sematary!
Anyone responding to the world “reopening” by wildly consuming at pre-pandemic levels is likely in for a nasty shock when the visa bill arrives at the end of the month, probably by about 25%. This problem will be compounded by (a) if their wage hasn’t risen by 25% as well, or (b) if they even had a wage for the past two years. Remember, we live in a new world; and it’s wise to use this information before spending like drunken sailors on shore leave.
Then there’s the labour market; or what’s left of it. For reasons nobody can explain, it’s like Thanos snapped his fingers and half the workforce turned to dust. Post-pandemic employers struggle to find crappy employees, let alone good or even qualified ones. It’s absolutely mind-boggling; I mean, where the hell did everybody go?
Oh sure, some took early retirement, but not all. After two years without a clock to punch, many simply decided to no longer work at jobs that (a) they didn’t like, (b) didn’t pay enough, (c) where they didn’t feel appreciated, or (d) all the above. For many who previously slaved away for minimum wages, who could blame them?
Pre-pandemic, shitty bosses had an invisible hold over some employees, knowing many who did certain jobs had few options. They’d use threats, intimidation, etc. to keep these poor saps in their employ (The idea of being good bosses rarely crossed their walnut-sized brains) before Covid showed up and levelled the playing field.
As businesses closed and employees were unceremoniously laid off, it triggered different reactions for different people. Some realized there was more to life than working at jobs where they weren’t happy and began small businesses instead. As they gained their independence, they also gained their power.
Others used two years of government subsidies to pay the bills until they could figure out what they wanted to do. The time away from the old job helped them evaluate what they wanted to do in the future and provided a cushion while they figured out how to best achieve this.
Then there are those who, after exhausting the government dole, were so used to doing nothing they failed to even look for work. Many (often unskilled) people spent years saying they wanted a better job, or more money, or better bosses; but when the world suddenly became their oyster, they’ve collectively decided they’re allergic to shellfish!
So yeah, we find ourselves in this weird, Twilight Zone style post-Pet Sematary landscape where everything costs more, yet some spend like there’s no tomorrow. Where there are loads of jobs, but few people willing to do them. Where people want to spend money yet few are willing to work to actually provide the goods and services they want.
I wonder how long this economic model is sustainable? How long will prices remain high? Will the marketplace desperately welcome back those who’ve enjoyed a self-imposed employment absence? After the success of Maverick, will Tom Cruise make Top Gun 3?
I wish I knew the answers to these important questions but I don’t. However, after spending two years in a weird Pet Sematary called Covid, here’s what I DO know.
- I plan to enjoy my life in a way that feels safe and comfortable to me
- I’m grateful for the chance to reconnect with friends again
- I’m excited about travelling again
- I’m ready to enjoy the summer and the renewed freedoms it brings
- I’m proud that when a job came my way, I took it. Rather than the alternative, a job provided me -an able-bodied man- a reason to get off my ass and maintain a sense of integrity by contributing to society
I’ll continue to base all decisions for success over the long term; because when things level out (and they will) I plan to be on the right side of the curve; you know, the side where I don’t worry if I’m employable, or if I have enough money to live, or need to explain the two-year gap in my employment, or to obsess over the microchip Bill Gates may or may not have planted in my brain…
But that’s just my experience of the past couple of years. Your’s may be, or probably is different. Either way, I’m just suggesting to keep an eye on the long game, that’s all.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and wash this weird damp earth smell out of my clothes.
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 112,000 times, and his book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 37 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. and spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.