Spring Reawakening 2021

SPRING REAWAKENING: Your Guide to a Reopened Portland

The pandemic isn’t over, but we’re inching toward a more open Portland. We’re here to help you make sense of what just happened, and chart a new path forward.

Editor’s note: This article includes references to depression.

As the world slowly but surely returns to “normal,” society is once again faced with a seismic shift in the way we think, function, and experience things.

It has been a time for those of us who live with a fragile mental state. But at the beginning of lockdown, I was actually in a great headspace despite the crisis we found ourselves in. Amid a reset of what daily life looked like, I actually fell into a better routine than the one I had previously been keeping. Even though my gym was shuttered, I prioritized working out more regularly. Without events and an IRL social life, my sleep schedule improved slightly. I had extra time to focus on myself, my wellbeing, and my goals.

Along with this came guilt. Guilt for “thriving” when so many others fell into a deeper pit of sadness, and people who weren’t depressed before suddenly found themselves unable to cope with the new normal. A deluge of financial pressures, isolation, and so much more were all suddenly thrust upon us with little support to meet it.

In a silver lining, I felt there was a kind of camaraderie with people I’d never identified with before. For a time, we were all in the same boat even if we weren’t on the same page. In a way, I had been a bit more equipped for this new world: “Hey friends, welcome to the existential crisis. I’ve been having one for the past decade!” Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s the cynic-slash-philosophy-major in me. Either way, I’d been managing my depression (to what degree of success is questionable) for a while, and wasn’t thrown off by this curveball.

It was incorrect and wildly irresponsible to say the pandemic is the “great equalizer,” and that the virus doesn’t discriminate (we know that it disproportionately affects Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folx, so all the politicians who use that line can go shove it). That said, it was oddly comforting to be united in our fear of the unknown; for once it was all of us against a common enemy.

Once we settled into the pandemic era, my faith in humanity plummeted again. There are friends I have lost respect for or will forever view through a different lens because of their reckless choices. I felt a hopelessness in seeing others take a blasé attitude towards community care and shirk their individual responsibility. Aside from the obvious, there are a myriad of things that the pandemic leaves in its wake—we have likely sustained invisible wounds we won’t even know formed until years down the line. (Side note: I can’t even fathom what it must be like to be an adolescent right now, or on the flip side, raising kids.) See y’all in 20 years when we’re all in a case study about this wild time!

It’s just ironic to me that this country holds the value of sacrifice in such high-regard, but when it came time to make sacrifices, a good chunk of the population was like nah, I’m not doing that. The same type of people who like to espouse the notion “freedom comes at a cost” ultimately weren’t willing to pay the cost, more concerned with their individual liberties than the common good. The pandemic both highlighted and exacerbated these divides in our society, and it’s a frustration that I’ll find hard to forget in a post-pandemic world.

Still, it gives me hope that we were able to reimagine ways of living. We saw how things could be different from the hellhole rat race we’re all so used to. Those with anxiety were more suited to the rhythms of a slower paced world. Going back to what was, with a society that prioritizes profits over people, scares me more than a shutdown ever did.

I just hope our memory doesn’t go the way of a goldfish, and that we remember the lessons this harrowing time taught us. How to not take things and time for granted, be mindful of each other, and cut out the bullshit. We’re in such a rush to return to “normal” that we still haven’t fully grappled with whether or not that normal is worth returning to.