It's Time to Design a New Normal
One of the biggest challenges that this crisis poses, is that, it presents a paralyzing uncertainty about the future. I'm a firm believer that the future is determined by the collective actions of the society in question. With that in mind, a future, post covid-19, will be determined to a high degree by what we do as a community. But how do we know how to act as a community? To address this question, we have to ask ourselves whether the problems that we face as individuals, due to the crisis, are unique? As I pondered over this I realized that in many instances, it isn't.
1. Parents with younger children face the same challenge of working from home while prepping their children for lessons online-an impractical demand. At best, its very difficult.
2. Businesses are constantly evaluating whether or not to keep workers, which expenses to cut, and how they can accommodate customers safely.
3. Workers who can no longer depend on the security of a payday are scrambling to find alternative means to keep their families afloat.
If we share the same problems as individuals in society, then our solutions must also be the same. In order for us to solve our problems effectively, we must have uniformity in our approach as a community. Thus, we must gather consensus of how an ideal future should look like, and take complementary steps to get there. This idea is at the heart of my newest project.
I want to speak with different people from different backgrounds, who are representative of the Silver Spring community. The idea is to establish ideals on the kind of life that we want to live as a community. Though Covid has made us nostalgic to the normal that we had, it has also exposed some inefficacies of the old world order. The new normal, must be determined by us or it will be determined by pure chance. This sort of uncertainty usually breeds panic, which will further exacerbate our current predicament.
As a first step in starting this project, I will be speaking with Danushka Nanayakkara. Danushka is an economist. Her work entails producing national, regional and long term forecasts for the National association of Home Builders. Danushka works out at my gym. I find myself wowed by the wealth of information she possesses, when we occasionally drift into conversation after our workout classes.
I feel like she is the best first guest because a lot of us would like to have some context on the economic implications of Covid-19. Danushka is going to help us with just that. Based on the problems that arise, I'm going to discuss with her the best ways to mitigate these problems as a local community. I also hope we are able to pivot these problems into potential opportunities. I'm going to share some of the ideas that transpire in our conversation. My hope is that we can take actionable steps based on this information, as individuals, that will greatly reflect on the community.
On the slate of subsequent interviews will be health care professionals, teachers, business owners, parents, students, artists, etc. If you are interested in participating in these, you will be greatly contributing to the problem solving process, and I would love to speak with you.
Why do I want to do this?
I can't tell you where the idea to do this came from. However, I have spent a lot of the shutdown period doing some reflection on a life after Covid-19. As a business owner, I am optimistic about the survival of my business, yet insecure about it. Any time I try to plan, there is no definitive appreciation of a future, so I find myself not making any progress. When I speak to other business owners, they all share the same feeling of uncertainty. It dawned on me that the future is very uncertain, because we haven't defined an acceptable future as a collective. This crisis has shaken the foundations of not just the present, but also our expectations of the future.
When I began to think more about how to define a tolerable future, I realized that I am in a unique position to contribute: Being a gym owner has exposed me to people from all walks of life. These people and their lifestyles are very representative of the Silver Spring community as a whole. Furthermore, I have been greatly inspired by friends with whom I have discussed this project with. I gathered that, inherently, we all believe we are in control of our lives. This project excites me because it puts that hypothesis to a test.
As much as I appreciate the toll of this crisis, I also feel that it presents a new opportunity. Among the daily dose of devastating news that we get due to the crisis, I also speak with people who have enjoyed taking a break from work. Others have been able to invest in a hobby, go for a morning walk, or bake cookies with their children. This suggests that the pre- Covid life was less than ideal in some instances. The new opportunity allows us to decide which aspects we liked and which aspects can be improved on.
We also have to be open to the possibility that a new normal could look very different from the old. It doesn't have to be a less tolerable normal, however, but there is sure to be an element of compromise. For example, you might have to wear a mask on a first date. That's reasonably inconvenient, but it also presents the allure of your first kiss being an unmasking event.
I promise the ambitions of this project are more serious than my last example would suggest. That notwithstanding, the attitude of embracing an inconvenience while finding a sliver of opportunity is the balancing act that we may need to do to dig ourselves out of this.
How does success look like?
Success at this stage requires participation. So chiming in on these interviews, starting a dialogue, sharing on social media and volunteering to be on these video calls, will be the first benchmark of success .
After this, my hope is that we can begin to adopt some mutual courtesies, based on a gathered consensus, that are grounded in the aim for a better life. Ultimately, we will be able to have a solid grasp on the kind of work-life balance that we would like, the kind of schools that we want our kids to go to, and the kind of institutions that we want to represent us.
Thank you for being a part of the solution!