Sometimes in conversation I, or the person speaking to me, will say “post-pandemic” and then quickly correct to “not that we are post-”. We need better language. We keep talking about the pandemic as if it were a single solid thing, but at this point, more than two years in, we need eras — like in prehistory.*
This is how it’s felt to me:
-Those determined first weeks of staying home to #flattenthecurve
-An increasingly dystopian summer as fire season (for those of us on the US west coast) and election season overlapped
-The frightening winter-holiday surge and even more frightening insurrection in January 2021
-The double exhale of the inauguration, and not too long after, vaccines
-The weird, exciting, staggered spring of first, second, or one-shot doses
-Gloriously hopeful early summer brought to a screeching halt by delta
-The incredible relief of youth/child vaccines almost immediately neutralized by omicron
-Post-omicron (which is where we were when I started writing this post, but I think we might now be moving into something else)
Most of the people who know me now probably don’t realize that I trained as a historian. History, as we all know by now, is fraught — a subject defined by humans, and a tiny subset of humans at that — but as humans, we respond to stories; we look for patterns. Naming things helps us to see them, and seeing them helps us process, digest, move forward. As a former student of history I’ve thought so much about the difference between reading about periods of upheaval, and what it feels like, in our small human lifetimes, to live through one (or, more likely, several, simultaneous). And even though I’m no longer an academic, much of my creative practice has also been about chronicling and documenting, and what I know from both writing and visual art is that you really don’t know what you’re looking at until you take a step back — whether that’s a step away in time (hindsight, etc) or in physical distance.
We’re still in the midst of this pandemic, and we don’t know what comes next. At this point it feels like it could be anything. But we’re also months or years past certain iterations of it, which gives us distance to understand (or start to understand) what we’ve come through to get here. It is, as it always has been really, a strange time to be alive. I’m grateful to be here, writing and seeing, and I’m grateful you’re here, reading, being.
*And probably we need variations on all these eras depending what part of the world, or country, you spent most of your pandemic in.
**I’m calling it the vaccinated pandemic because vaccines changed things so substantially for large swaths of the population, but I recognize that vaccines are not accessible or effective for everyone, and that very young children still can’t get vaccines.