When we look back, I suspect that one of the impacts of the pandemic will be how we got to see each other more for who we are.
Pre pandemic, most of us had, often unconscious, routines to convey to others how we wanted to be seen. Where we lived, the clothes we wore, the cars we drove, the holidays we took. As businesses, carefully crafted PR campaigns, Instagram imagery, smart offices in smart locations.
Then, the pandemic.
Zoom calls in tracksuit bottoms nobody could see—a choice of aspirational green screen background or the reality of the home office (I imagine sales of bookshelves rocketed). Outside the theatre of the office, we started to get a better understanding of who we are. Dealing with the reality of homeschooling, supporting wider family and local community, and understanding the reality of where we live when we cannot escape to the office or meetings far, far away. The unnerving realisation for many managers that their jobs existed because the office existed and gave them a platform to look busy and hold meetings. No office, no platform, yet the work got done regardless by those who created output.
Our education and training systems sell us on the idea we are being expensively prepared for a star-studded career in the West End. Instead, the pandemic meant suddenly finding ourselves in repertory, lugging the scenery around and not entirely sure if there will be an audience tomorrow night. We have learned to improvise.
Part of this is deeply unsettling, whilst another part is liberating. For the last eighteen months, with the routine infrastructure of our lives disrupted, we have realised that who we are, and how we treat others is far more important than what we know and where our office is.
For me, it has been a revelation and often a joy to see people coming home to themselves. Removing the carefully crafted mask they have been wearing and finding how much more comfortable their life is with them off, rather like the facemasks we have had to wear and with the benefit our glasses get less steamed up…
The pandemic still has a while to run, and may yet prove to have sequels. It is being followed in short order by the realisation of what we have to do now as the IPCC report on climate change emphasises the ongoing changes we have to make to how we live.
The pandemic has given us a glimpse of the benefits, as well as the challenges of addressing how we live as ourselves, rather than the fiction that is commercially convenient to those who want to sell us things we do not need.
What we face now will not be easy, but the freedom to be ourselves is to be welcomed. We should grasp it.