If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that nothing is certain. If we have learned anything, it is that we cannot take things, even trivial ones, for granted. If nothing else, this year has forced us to adapt. To re-evaluate our lives and what is important and ask questions like: What is essential, what is normal? At times it has not been easy. The process has been far from perfect, there have been countless snags along the way, and differences in opinion have divided us. Nonetheless, we have made the necessary adjustments. We have altered our livelihood, in some instances so minutely that we barely consider the differences, and in other ways, drastically enough that the contrast is like night and day. But this adaptation has been crucial as it has allowed us to cling to whatever shred of normality we still possess and hold onto it for dear life. Adaptation has altered our mindset to formulate a plan of attack to grin and bear the current predicament and head for the end of the tunnel, and it is exactly what will prevent us from succumbing to hysteria, fear, depression, and whatever deadly concoction that makes inside of us. Adaptation not only prevents this, but it conjures up hope, hope that if we persevere and stay strong down his road for long enough, we will, in fact, come out on the other side.
And so, we have done just that, granted to varying degrees (but I won’t get into that). We have taken to Zoom and FaceTime like never before, for social and academic purposes, and even doctor’s appointments and professional meetings. For some, entertainment has provided a virtual escape, a way to step away from reality and focus attention in other directions. For others, it has been the outdoors, rekindling a deeper connection with nature and God’s beautiful creation. Many have used the time to truly reconsider the notion of normal and essential, spending more time on simple things, like family, knowledge, and home. For others, it has given them the necessary time to step back and evaluate things like friendships and their purpose in life. Some have put their life on hold, opting to stay home and work. Some had plans that seem like they were devised a lifetime ago, like graduations, weddings, and parties, dreams of attending camps, taking trips, or currently being on the other side of the world, a thought more distant than any of their possible travel destinations. But these sacrifices are all part of adjusting.
For some, these adjustments have brought us here, to the Redeemer campus. To a new chapter in our lives and an opportunity to scroll new ink on the blank pages of our stories. Further adaptation has been crucial here, as we hope to meet new people and take part in social activities and get a glimpse of the university life we have always heard about. The porch has become a social haven where introductions are made and bonds are formed over simple conversations, and enthusiasts prepare to brave the fast approaching winter with space heaters, thermal jackets, and hot chocolate. Discussions and meals have migrated outside, and those participating in dorm dinners have become accustomed to balancing a plate on their lap. Students have embraced the extra room on their desks and persevered through technical difficulties. With few establishments open, a long walk with friends has become commonplace.
And our reward for these adjustments? Making the most out of an unfavourable situation. But nonetheless, we await the day when this is no longer viewed as necessary. We anticipate the day that normal finally returns and our efforts are compensated because in our hearts and in our minds, no amount of adaptation is ever enough. No matter how many times we repeat an action, we cannot engrave it in ourselves as something normal. No matter how common the brush of a mask’s fabric is on our face, we still know it’s there, which makes it out
of place. Despite the most intriguing conversation over a meal in Refresh we cannot help but notice the glint of the sun in the glass that separates us from our peer. In the moments we are running late, or going through the motions of old, the ‘new normal’ suddenly seems surreal. When we run out the door with a minute to spare before class, only to turn around a few steps later because in our haste our mask has been forgotten. When we lean to the side in class to casually ask for a note that we neglected to write, only to realize the closest person is two metres away and that would require a voice far too loud to fly under the radar. When we are enjoying the company of others in the fresh air, free of plexiglass or warning signs, and for a blissful moment restrictions cease to exist, and we shift over to show a friend something of interest on our phone, or lean in together for a selfie, only to be told by a voice to space out. It’s these moments of unconscious instinctual behaviour that make one thing apparent: adaptations and alterations are seriously different than conversion and change. Society has made the proper adaptations to function and continue on, and whether it be out of fear for our safety or others, the implementation of government regulations, or on a more personal level, the worry of being sent home, as individuals we have done just that, and in doing so, adapting has allowed us to piece together some semblance of a normal life.
But despite the heavy cloud covering of protocols, rules, and current standards of ‘norms’, the old world still shines through like a beacon over everything we do. In spite of our exterior that has been conditioned to these ‘norms’, the people we are inside still remain within us. And in brief moments, when the world seems like it hasn’t changed, and we feel things are right again, we let them resonate and dictate our decisions. The moments we let down our guard and step off the thin ice created by excessive rules and punishments, and just live, live like we always have in the past. And that’s what can be said about adaptation; that it’s an adaptation because it’s a deviation from what is usual. It’s an adaptation because although we know it’s worth for ourselves and society, we are also conscious of the fact that things are not as they once were or as they are supposed to be. It is this fact that makes us long for what has been lost, crave it so desperately, and hope to reach out and grab every last sliver; because no matter how many times we are told, how much the world evolves, or how long this continues, adaptation is adaptation; and it will never feel normal.