Coming Out Of a Global Pandemic: What Now?

Let me start off by telling you that this is not a post with specific advice, I’m not going to tell you how to deal with coming out of a global pandemic. However, I am going to give you some insights into how different people are dealing with it, which can hopefully help you and make you feel more comfortable as well. I hope this post makes you realize that, however you feel right now, there’s no pressure to be doing anything, at all.

Now that more and more people are getting vaccinated all over the world, we can slowly see our daily life returning to the way to the way it used to be. Or at least, a new ‘normal’. We suddenly do not have to wear face masks in public anymore, restaurants and clubs are opening up, we are allowed to travel abroad, and many employers are encouraging their employees to start coming to the office again. As exciting as these changes may sound, it can also be quite overwhelming.

Some might feel like they are not ready to go out again, some might feel pressured to go out when they see all their friends hanging out again, and some simply don’t feel the need to be going out and be social again at all. When you relate to (some of) these feelings, you might also think that, by staying in, you’re isolating yourself and that there is something wrong with you for not wanting to be social. Well, let me tell you, your feelings are valid. Whether you spend every single day making plans and hanging out with friends or family, or whether you prefer to stay in and spend time by yourself like you have been doing the past year(s)- there is nothing wrong with that!

In this new era of digital media and social comparison, it is easier than ever to feel like you’re falling behind on your social life. It is kind of like indirect peer pressure. No one is telling you that you have to go out, but you still want to. Why? Because everyone else seems to be doing it and you don’t want to seem like a loser, right?

So, here are five situations you might relate to but feel unsure about. Which ever situation you relate to, they are totally understandable. It’s okay when…

  • You were never really an outgoing person before the pandemic, and you now feel pressured to go out of your comfort-zone and start going out more.
  • You were going through a hard time during the many lockdowns and you feel relieved to be social again, so you take every opportunity you can to meet up with friends.
  • You used to be an outgoing person before the pandemic, but the lockdowns taught you that it is okay to spend some time by yourself, and now you’re actually fine with not going out as much.
  • You were never really an outgoing person before the pandemic, but the lockdowns made you realize that you do crave certain social interactions, so you’re looking for (new) friends to hang out with now.
  • You used to go out a lot before the pandemic even when you didn’t feel like it, and now you’ve decided that you really only want to go out when you want to and feel like it.

One thing I frequently hear is that 2020 (and a part of 2021) has helped many people with getting to know themselves. Some realize that they are a complete mess when they have to spend more than a day without seeing anyone but themselves, and some realize that they actually like the peace and quiet. The thing is, even when you’re taking online classes or working from home, you still spend a great amount of time in your own head. You start re-thinking your relationships, you evaluate your past and present and start dreaming of the future, you criticize yourself and your (unhealthy) habits, and you learn things about yourself that you never knew before (for instance, you turn out to be a great painter or writer). So, coming out of a global pandemic, how do you move forward with this new knowledge about yourself?

It’s definitely scary. But, ever since things started opening up again in the Netherlands, I noticed one thing that I really liked. Whether it’s in the supermarket, in a shopping centre or at school, it’s obvious that almost everyone has been putting some extra effort in their appearance. In fact, I’ve barely seen students in sweatpants and hoodies; and there was a time when that seemed to be the only ‘appropriate’ college outfit. You can tell that people feel grateful for being able to go out again, and they appreciate the hell out of it by wearing that one outfit they were never too sure about, or by going for that bold make-up look. Or, something that I can personally relate to, I can see some people who have chosen to go natural. They’ve spent so much time by themselves in their natural look that they’ve grown to be comfortable with it. Going natural can mean different things to different people.

For me it meant growing out my natural curls and not straightening it at all anymore, not even when I’m going out. For others, it could mean wearing less make-up or not wearing body-enhancing underwear. People realized that they’ve been doing so much just to be liked by others. Whether that is wearing or not wearing make-up, wearing or not wearing that one outfit, straightening or not straightening our hair- we’ve all been changing ourselves because we think we’re liked better in a certain way. But now, we’ve realized that it really doesn’t matter if others like us, the only thing that matters is if we like ourselves. This topic might seem to come out of nowhere, but it matters because it’s part of how we developed ourselves during the pandemic, and how we maintain these developments moving forward.

So, what’s the takeaway of all this? However you feel about things opening up again, it’s okay. I’m not going to tell you to take it slow, I’m just going to tell you to do things at your own pace. Don’t let others (indirectly) pressure you into going out when you’re not ready for it; but also, don’t make others feel bad when they prefer to stay in while you want to go out.

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