In the “before times,” my days consisted of an hourlong commute (round-trip!) on the subway, long workdays spent in an open-plan office surrounded by colleagues, a post-work gym class (in person!) and then usually a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner.
I’d get home around 8 p.m., having just a couple hours to wind down until I went to sleep and then did it all over again the next day. And the next … and the next. Honestly, I thought nothing of it — it’s just how things were, and most of my friends and colleagues had similar schedules.
Even having a child didn’t slow me down. I’d strap my tiny baby onto my chest and ferry him across town for a baby-and-me yoga class, or to a restaurant to meet up with friends. My bag was stuffed with items to keep him happy in case of an emergency: string cheese, rattles, a bottle of milk, those weird puffed snacks that babies eat. My shoulders had long grown accustomed to the weight — an entire life being schlepped from place to place.
And I loved it, truly. It’s also simply how I thought my life would always be, at least until I retired.
Then — then. The story you all know: Then the pandemic happened. I stopped doing, well, nearly all of it. I worked from home, I worked out at home, I ate all my meals at home. I moved to a bigger home, I settled into the permanence. I found peace, or at the very least, a new routine.
Yet now the world is reopening and I can’t imagine going back to my old life. Don’t get me wrong: I’m plenty ready for the pandemic to end. I miss restaurants. I miss my friends. I’m so sick of the lower half of my face being concealed by a scratchy mask that I could scream. But my ways have changed in the past year. I’m a homebody now. Sometimes an entire day will pass without me leaving the house.
The other day I was browsing Twitter and I stumbled across this tweet, as did the hundreds of thousands of other people who “liked” it:
It put into words precisely how I felt while giving me reassurance that I’m not alone. The writer of that tweet, British editor Katie Packer, told me that she composed it after going into the office for one of the first times since the pandemic, and after one or two meetings, found herself “completely exhausted” — even though she used to easily handle a much busier schedule before the pandemic.
“The difference between my energy levels was just crazy,” Packer said.
I know what she means: The energy required to do almost anything feels overwhelming these days.
Deborah Serani, a psychologist at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, said there are two reasons why we’re feeling this way. The first is simple: We’re exhausted, all of us.
“There is a true physical fatigue from living in the margins of trauma,” Serani told TMRW. “We know from people who have been through extraordinary experiences that a lot of the time, what you were once able to do, you’re kind of baby stepping as you enter back into the new normal.”