As we lurch further into 2021, many of us — if not all of us — are finding it hard to move forward. While the prospects of a next-to-normal summer seem encouraging, pandemic fatigue has set in. Perhaps an extra hour of sunlight and warmer temperatures will combat this fatigue, but as we learned one year ago, sunlight and warmth do not feed the soul by themselves.
Many of us now have the opportunity to be vaccinated thanks to Mississippi’s expanded vaccination availability, yet it still takes time to schedule appointments and become fully vaccinated. In the meantime, we are forced to seek comfort from our “old reliables” that have gotten us through a year of the pandemic, but is this mentally sustainable?
Just over a year ago, many of us entered an unknown space: fully online classes, Zoom and quarantine. We entered this space with hope, wanting to reinvent ourselves, learn new skills and finally getting to relax from our stressful social schedules. Instead of attending parties or going out to eat, we filled our time watching “Tiger King” or by baking bread — partially because the store was sold out. Once that hope quickly evaporated, many of us relied on our old sources of comfort: our families’ recipes, our favorite shows to binge-watch and our favorite songs. They helped us feel a short-term sense of normalcy, but, now, they have taken on a new role in our lives.
After watching the standard “COVID-19 Canon” of Netflix shows and semi-permanently dying my hair purple, I reverted back to my favorites: watching Parks and Recreation and listening to 70s Rock, John Mayer and Harry Styles. I hoped it would get me through to the summer when I could finally re-enter society. Spring, summer, fall and winter have, of course, come and gone, and I am still relying on the same media to get me through —except for Parks and Recreation after NBC stole it from me. The media that once gave me comfort now serves as background noise for my descent into detachment; it was once “quirky and cute” to know every line, but now it’s a reminder of my isolation and dependence.
In what do we, as individuals, have left to find comfort? Maybe some of us find comfort in a seemingly promising future, but we have been burned by that promise before. Hopefully, the pandemic will pass as vaccinations increase and we gain herd immunity, and society can regain a sense of normalcy. Even so, can we regain a sense of comfort in our favorite songs, movies and hobbies?
Physical health is, of course, the main priority in leaving the pandemic behind, but we must consider our post-pandemic mental health. Will we be forced to embrace new remedies because our old comforts leave sour tastes in our mouths? Twenty years from now, will “Golden” by Harry Styles remind me of the “good times in college” like Peter Gabriel and The Clash do for my dad, or will it remind me of the year I spent stuck in my house and the headaches I got from staring at my computer all day?
This is a much smaller issue than the loss of life and ongoing medical issues caused by COVID-19, but it is still something to think about. While the future is as promising as it is intimidating, we have all but lost our safety net of comfort in case things don’t go as hoped, as they have for the last year. This uncertainty of comfort will either be quelled or expanded as we return to in-person classes, return to the Grove and re-enter society.
Londyn Lorenz is the assistant opinion editor majoring in Arabic and international studies from Perryville, Mo..