HOW TO BE “NORMAL” IN THE “NEW NORMAL”? by Charmaine M. Esteban

HOW TO BE “NORMAL” IN THE “NEW NORMAL”? by Charmaine M. Esteban

Department of Education

Cavite National High School

Division of Cavite City


By: Charmaine M. Esteban

Although it holds true that learning can take place anywhere and anytime, it is unexpected that it will occur to me in the middle of an almost empty convenience store with an eerie silent surround and spreads of plastic cover curtains hanging in every aisle.

Had it not been for the signature slush machines that breaks the deafening silence once in a while, I would say, it was more like pacing in hospital labs where the sight of alcohol, face masks and hand sanitizers is just conventional. My attention went through the closed section of the store where bold letter signage of LIQUOR BAN is screaming. Well, we had been under ECQ or extreme community quarantine for several months and prohibition of alcoholic drinks is part of the mandate, so, knowing about it must not surprise one that much. However, the half covered box of Heineken beers caught my interest … it reads “Being together while staying apart, will only bring us closer”  I had it etched on my mind just like how I encoded it here in this article … set in bold, italics and underlined. That’s how hard those words hit me!

Who would have thought that in a span of almost three months sans contact with the outside world, people will get used to the so called “New Normal”? Is it a fad? Is it something worth adhering to so as not to be blasted by this world full of bashers and trolls? Such thoughts kept me pre- occupied for a couple of days and fortunately, though painfully, I was able to find sensible answers to these questions.

“New normal”, in today’s context, may mean change in routines as people’s lives change brought by the upheaval of Corona Virus. Society adapts to shifting aspects of life physically, spiritually, socially, mentally and economically. The definition goes on with less emotion involved. However, looking beyond the real implication of the term, “new normal” means forgetting about being sentimental and thinking about being practical. It is a period where non-verbal communication will confuse itself as to whether it was able to convey its message clearly or was it a less courteous way of responding to one’s action. 

Kissing, shaking and holding hands, striking high fives, hugging, sharing food and drinks or even patting a shoulder seemed equal to a taboo. Special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and parties should be celebrated with controlled number of guests, or worse, in solidarity. Not even the most sacred sacraments like baptismal, wedding and funeral are spared from the fist of this new setup. At the moment, farting and belching is more acceptable when done publicly as compared to sneezing, coughing and spitting which nowadays are considered as crimes if done indecorously.

This is also a period where gregarious characteristic of humans has turned into aloofness, detachment and unapproachability which automatically lead to a reflex twenty seconds or more hand washing and sanitizing or self – drenching with 70% isopropyl. This is an era where hospitals, schools, churches, malls, amusement parks and hotels, which once served as establishments for health security, educational advancement, spiritual growth, leisure and relaxation, appeared to be daunting places to stay, thus, need to be restricted or set to lockdown. Lastly, that is, for me,  “new normal” is an instant where air, land and sea needs to stop ferrying people and set borders in order to hamper the mobility of the public and control the sweeping spread of an unknown enemy.

So, how to be normal in the new normal? This will entail a great amount of getting used to not only for me, but I guess, for most as well. Examining the adjustments mentioned previously, going about in everyday life as if everything is just as usual is far from being “normal”. For it to be as typical, it should mean going to work taking all kinds of public transport from cramped jeepneys to jam packed MRTs; sharing pleasantries with colleagues or friends with a little touch or peck on the cheek for greetings; dining out for lunch or snacks in fast food chains or street food stalls without a care whether you had your hands cleaned first; strolling in the mall teeming with shoppers taking advantage of the super sales and payday Friday; going home late at night without having to worry being a curfew offender; spending weekends in salon, spa, or resort and leisure parks for that much deserved  rest and relaxation or having a quiet time with God and the church community on a Sunday morning. The list of mundane things could go on forever but these are what I used to consider as “normal”. The very same things that I am deprived of enjoying now.  Should I be resistant to these changes and take my stand on social media because it disturbs me from living comfortably? The box of canned beer gave me the answer.

Turns out, I have given too much attention to trivial things and tend to absorb all the negativities around me without realizing that this so called “new normal” will teach me how to seek people who have always been around. People who are just a couple of steps from my house but will have to wait for months or even years to earn my visit or call;  people whom I call family but more of a stranger to me.  After months of being in quarantine, a sense of longing to connect with people whom I had the chance to spend weekends with for a sleepover or a cookout or just night caps, enveloped me so suddenly. Those things which I can do with them intimately years ago before this Covid 19 managed to set people apart.  As of now, I just have to contend myself with talking to them over the phone or drain my laptop or cellphone for hours of video calls… something that I could have done with them face to face.

It will take a while before I get used to this “new normal” thing along with other terms such as pandemic, quarantined, social distancing, modified isolation schemes, etc. However, I came to reconcile with myself that whatever the world presents to me in the future, I will overcome all the challenges and I will always be confident that I would not have to face them alone. I guess I am ready to be “normal” in the “new normal”.

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