Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post from Gillian Burkett.
The first time I used the phrase “new normal” was right after my father died. Learning to exist in a world without my dad was excruciatingly painful, but it was my new normal. Pre-Covid 19, I had my family surrounding me with plenty of love and hugs. Going to work everyday kept my mind busy, as did my daily workouts, quality time with friends, shopping, errands and chores that, up until now we considered routine. My new normal eventually just became normal.
Then Covid-19 struck. We watched it spread like wildfire, and we were all but powerless to stop this invisible disease. Our country, the greatest country in the world, was severely unprepared for this pandemic. If you look at the way Covid-19 has exposed the flaws of the federal health system, you can almost equate it to the way 9/11 exposed the flaws of intelligence sharing amongst federal law enforcement agencies.
Frustratingly, this country has not learned its lesson since its darkest day in history. Politics, ego and money still reign supreme. Those voted in or placed in charge of our well-being are just not doing it for the right reasons. Journalistic integrity is no more. Click bait is what gets the readers, the attention, the money.
We believe everything we read, without questioning the validity of the source or the information. Those sources often come in the form of talking heads and pundits, overpaid celebrities and athletes. We value their opinion more than we do legitimate experts and practitioners in the field, scientists and historians. We pay them more than we do police officers, firefighters, teachers, health care professionals, and WAY more than supermarket clerks, gas station attendants and customer service representatives. As a country, we have prioritized power, wealth, celebrity and fame over all else.
And now we’re in the apex of Covid-19. Stores are closed, except for the essentials. Those customer service reps, gas station attendants, and supermarket clerks we pay minimum wage are now considered essential workers. In addition to putting their lives on the line everyday under normal circumstances, public service workers like law enforcement and firefighters now have to fight for the basic PPE to keep themselves safe, while ensuring the safety of communities they serve and protect.
Doctors, nurses and other health care workers, now also serving on that same front line are exhausted. They have seen and fought the worst of this pandemic, with no end in sight. Parents have turned into teachers, entertainers, chefs, therapists.
The internet has become our lifeline to the world. Social media has allowed us to stay in touch, we can stream any movie or show on demand. Thanks to modern technology, we can play games, have virtual happy hours and exercise classes, and if we are fortunate enough, we can work from the comfort and safety of our homes.
In this 24/7 news cycle, we are bombarded with constant updates and frightening statistics, enough to scare us into never leaving home again. But we can also see the good in this world. Inspiring videos and stories of everyday people who want to make a difference. People are preparing food and delivering meals, sewing homemade masks, dancing, singing, reading stories.
Our friends and neighbors are doing what they can during these scary and uncertain times just because it’s the right thing to do. On the front lines, on the supermarket lines, and in the food pantry lines. All the while, we have listened to overpaid celebrities complain about quarantining from their palatial mansions and making this pandemic about themselves.
When this is all over, what will we value more, those real heroes who put strangers’ lives, their country and community service first, or the reality star living that unattainable lifestyle we incorrectly equate with success?
In these most unprecedented times, the whole world has been given the rare gift of a hard stop. A reset. We can change what isn’t working. You don’t like it? Vote. If you are unhappy with the status quo, and those who have been making the decisions for this country for decades, vote. They are there because of our apathy. The cost of living, health insurance, college tuition, home loans, gas, is astronomical. Up until now, we have had relatively little control if any, over that.
What we have learned over these few weeks is that we can adapt, and we can overcome. Classes are done online. Tele-medicine has taken the place of office visits. Toilet paper is worth more than gold. It has taken a pandemic for us to realize we can evoke change. We need change.
So what will be our “new normal” post Covid-19? Will we continue to go along with the status quo, or will we make some changes? Will we continue to frequent “big box stores” or will we support local and family owned business? Will we begin to value what truly matters the most in this world again- love, family, friendships, faith, purpose, freedom, respect, and the ability to look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day, and know we tried our very best to make the world a better place.
Born and raised in Cherry Hill, NJ, Gillian Burkett is a criminal intelligence analyst for a statewide law enforcement agency. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Criminal Justice, and received her Master’s degree in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Crime Analysis from St. Joseph’s University. She serves in a leadership capacity on several professional associations and is constantly trying to satisfy her curiosity about human behavior and what makes people tick. She spends her free time enjoying her passion for photography and spending time with her adorable niece and nephew.