Now that we have had enforced time on our hands and our everyday lives have become anything but normal, I am hoping that most of us will have put this time to good use to re-think our priorities personally and as a nation about what we want going forward when public mobility returns. We say “when life gets back to normal”. But what is normal and the million dollar questions: was our normal a healthy and fulfilling way for us to live? And how well has normal been serving us as a society? Big questions – but offering a unique opportunity to reflect and make life-changing decisions.
This has been and continues to be a uniquely scary time for many people. Too much information, some of it conflicting, coming at us too fast by every means of communication available. The fear of being infected by the coronavirus is real and protective measures are being taken, but then there are the associated anxieties to deal with: shut downs and closures; the worry about income loss or getting food and medical supplies. The biggest stress is probably the restrictions on our freedom of movement – especially hard for anyone who has never experienced having their personal liberties curtailed. This is particularly challenging as, despite understanding the necessity, it has caused panic, seeing it expand to include almost every country in the world.
No surprise then that we wish to return to what we know as a state of normality. We know that these prohibitions will end eventually even if we can’t control or put a date stamp on it – so now is a seriously good time – and we have a lot of it – to think about how we would like to realistically restructure our future. Normal life is as different to each one of us as there are people in the country. There are some basics that we can all agree upon: stores and business up and running again, transportation available, bars and restaurants open, socialising with friends and family, enjoying leisure activities. Ask yourself what has being confined to a particular space meant to you? Once the initial frustration passed, did you take time to do some of the things you haven’t bothered to do or haven’t previously had time for? Were you glad to be able to spend more time with a partner or with your immediate family? Did you use the time to re-evaluate your priorities? Did you stop and think about how much time you spent before this, wishing things were different, that you had more money, a bigger house, a nicer car and now realise that while those may or may not make life more comfortable, they’re not as important as your health or your democratic freedom.
We are all going to have to re-think many aspects of our lives, maybe our jobs are in jeopardy or no longer exist; if we own a business we may have to endure more hardship to get it back up. We may also want to take this opportunity to make changes to our personal lives if we think they could be more satisfying and we most definitely should be thinking about our own health and well-being. It’s a sad fact that the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other serious ailments are a major concern in the Bahamas, but we have to take responsibility for our own health which means prevention is a far better option than expecting to be made well when we are sick. There isn’t always a magic pill or a cure – that’s the hard truth. There is no question that underlying health issues put more people at risk for surviving COVID19. There will eventually be a vaccine for this particular virus but do not use that as an excuse not to take measures to improve any health problems you may have, starting now – because there will always be another ailment to deal with. Be ready.
In the larger perspective, we need to change our world so that the future will be better than the past.Now is exactly the right time to think creatively, colour outside the lines of your imagination and come up with fresh ideas on what your new normal could be. Innovation – creating new businesses and new ways of doing business will be the way forward. Past methods are no longer sustainable, the evidence is staring back at us. We have experienced first hand that a one- trick pony, i.e. tourism, cannot sustain this small country when disaster strikes, be it a hurricane or a virus. We need industry, we need to produce tangibles: textiles, clothes, pharmaceuticals, produce, anything you can think of that we can export for a profit.
Producing much of our own food would be a huge step forward making us more self-reliant. Resilience and adaptability are the secret ingredients for a new and successful normal. Let’s go for it!