Since Covid -19 became an unwelcome household name, I've probably said “nothing will ever be the same again” at least five times a day – both to friends and family but also out loud to myself.
I think I’ve been saying it so much because it’s such a difficult thing to wrap your brain around. After all, within a matter of months, everything we have ever taken for granted, even the air we breathe, has been either ripped away from us or altered to such a degree that it is now simply unrecognisable. For me, coming to terms with COVID-19 followed the five stages of grief.
At first, I was in denial. It just didn’t seem real at all. Then, I was angry about the virus being so deadly and widespread, but also about the fact that it was going to affect our daily lives so dramatically. This was followed by bargaining with myself as to what I might be able to still do in a normal way.
As it slowly dawned upon me that there would be almost nothing I could continue in the same way as pre-COVID, and that all my plans for the year were essentially cancelled, a wave of depression washed over me – as I think it did for most of us. The inescapability of it, no matter where you are in the world, the uncertainty about the future, and the equally inescapable sense of anxiety that comes with isolation are great weights for the human psyche to sustain.
Then finally, the last stage – acceptance. I think this is a stage we’re all still working through at the moment, as we try to make sense of what our futures and what the new normal might look like. It takes a lot of work to envision what the future will be. Colossal foundational changes are underway in every vertical of business out there. Movie theatres are adjusting the way they release content, not to mention their entire distribution models.
The fashion industry, which is set to lose around $600 billion in revenue for 2020, is already seeing a massive purchasing shift from fast-paced, trend-focused styles and over-the-top luxury to more simple, classic silhouettes in comfortable, easy-to-wash fabrics. Travel, once a symbol of ultimate carefree freedom, is now one of the most feared experiences ever. Not to mention that the slowing of all exports and imports has multiple effects on commerce in general.
I also can’t help but wonder how many meetings will remain virtual after all of this, as well as how many industries will continue to embrace working from home as a mainstay. And what about the smaller shifts in behaviour on a personal level? Will we feel safe when we next embrace our loved ones? Or even when we stand close to them? Will we take our cue from the Japanese and replace handshakes with bows? I have to admit I would love this, as I’ve never been a fan of sharing too much personal space.
But if physical space still contains a sense of danger, how will we bond? Will we be more present when in each other’s presence than on Zoom or FaceTime? Or will we feel less present in person, consumed by our fears?
They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. So at this point, we’ve broken the habit of how we used to live and have begun to create the habits of a new way of life.
As the world slowly positions itself for what comes next, we all wait together, watching as the leaders of our respective countries struggle to determine next steps, weigh the consequences of lost lives against collapsed economies, and pivot with the ever- changing stream of information from experts. We wash our hands consistently and without thinking about it, we put on our face masks and gloves when we leave the house, we subconsciously categorise everything and anything into essential and nonessential, we save our money, and politely move away from anyone who comes within six feet of us.
There’s one thing I know for sure, however, and that is with each new freedom re-gifted to us, there is a new level of gratitude that comes with it. I am grateful for the reminder of what is important. I feel this with every loss, with every moment of hope, and with every baby step we take towards our new normal.
Styling: Ishka St. Hilaire-Morley, Photograpy: Aasiya Jagdeesh, Hair and Makeup: Laloge
From Harper's Bazaar Arabia June 2020 Issue