Everyone’s saying it: “We’re living through history.” Doomscrolling through pandemic pandemonium, divisive politics leavened only by photos of everybody’s sourdough bread—2020 has been a year that will not soon be forgotten, no matter how hard we may try. Yet while the headlines mark important events sure to go down in future textbooks, day-to-day life seems less momentous and more monotonous. Days and weeks blur together and life just feels—pretty weird. We’ve met all our co-workers’ cats when they derail video meetings. Unaware instructors give lectures while accidentally muted. Grocery delivery apps feel more like a game of Russian roulette, with only a slim chance you will get everything you ordered (seriously, what happened to all that toilet paper?).
Yet, we’ve adapted. Some of us have even tried to make the most of it. We took up gardening, adopted dogs, started running, and got famous for our dance moves on TikTok. The campus also partially reopened this fall; the semester started just before Labor Day and ended at Thanksgiving to minimize travel for the on-campus population. Though the majority of classes were held online, exceptions were made for courses where face-to-face instruction was absolutely essential. Students with in-person classes were allowed to live on campus under strict health guidelines, and everyone was tested for COVID-19 frequently. Even the award-winning UMass Dining Services revamped campus eateries to provide outdoor seating and a simplified menu to minimize wait times. But these steps toward normalcy only seem to highlight the strangeness of life in a pandemic. Perhaps it’s better for all of us to stop chasing what was, learn from this moment, and embrace “the new normal”—as these members of the UMass community have done.